Tom Crawford eviction: House 'occupation' charges dropped

Eviction at Carlton
Image caption Police supported bailiffs when Tom Crawford was evicted from his home in Carlton

The trial of a group of people accused of breaking into and occupying the home of an evicted man has collapsed.

Following a long-running dispute over mortgage payments, 64-year-old Tom Crawford was evicted from his house in Nottingham in July.

Seven people including Mr Crawford's son were accused of breaking into the property in the weeks that followed.

But their trial, which began last week, was halted because of inconsistencies in evidence from key witnesses.

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Mr Crawford's son Craig reacted to the acquittal on his Facebook page.

He posted: "Well well well!!!! Not guilty. Four of us representing ourselves.... Awarded costs! Winners!!!! ‪#‎neverbackdown‬".

Image caption A large group of people blocked the first attempt to evict Mr Crawford

His father, from Carlton, had disputed claims he owed Bradford & Bingley £43,000 in mortgage payments.

He said he had paid off the endowment mortgage he took out in 1988, and that the terms were changed without his knowledge.

In January 2015, more than 250 people blocked an attempt to evict him and his wife Sue from their home in Fearn Chase.

But he ultimately lost the case, and was evicted in July.

Following the eviction, fencing was erected around the house, with guards and dogs patrolling 24 hours a day.

'Evidence differed'

During the trial, Leicester Crown Court heard that a group of protestors smashed their way into the bungalow and sealed themselves in the roof space.

The court was also told that one security guard, who was protecting the house, had red paint sprayed in his face.

The seven people were on trial for conspiracy to commit criminal damage as well as conspiring to commit aggravated trespass.

However, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: "During the course of the trial, the evidence given by key witnesses differed substantially from the version of events described in their statements.

"Following a review, the CPS decided that there was no longer a realistic prospect of a conviction, so ended proceedings by offering no evidence."

Craig Crawford, 31, of Nottingham, Martin Atkin, 42, of Long Eaton, Mark Hawkins, 52, of Nottingham, Mark Haining, 51, of Nottingham, Henry Kellie, 48, of Market Harborough, Elizabeth Shier, 41, of Nottingham, and James Bradley, 42, of Wigan, had all denied the charges.

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