Squatters who took over a house in Stanmer Park have had their day in court.
Brighton County Court heard a claim for possession against persons unknown by Brighton and Hove Estates Conservation Trust, which manages the property on behalf of the city council.
Eleven squatters turned up to defend themselves in an attempt to secure more time to stay in what has been their home for four weeks.
They claimed they had been given permission to stay in the property by the tenants, yet the prosecuting lawyer pointed out that the squatters had not identified the individual they claim had given them permission to stay.
The prosecution called a witness who worked for the Estates Conservation Trust, who said the previous tenancies in the property had come to an end on 10th September and 17th September – before the squatters moved in.
The squatters, furtively conferring with each other and passing notes across the courtroom, asked for the case to be adjourned so that they could attempt to trace the tenant.
They also complained that one member of the group did not speak English and they had not been able to arrange an interpreter.
The prosecution argued this was “a stalling tactic” and the presiding judge agreed that the burden of proof was on the squatters, as was responsibility for arranging interpreting, and there were no grounds for an adjournment.
At one point one of the squatters was rebuked by the judge for interrupting the prosecution lawyer. As the hearing drew to a close, some of the squatters started addressing the judge in French.
They also complained that their rights had not been observed but the judge granted the possession orders requested by the Trust.
The judge rejected a claim for costs because the prosecution had made the claims against ‘persons unknown’ rather than named individuals.
Now that the possession order has been granted, the squatters can legally be evicted by bailiffs.