Gosport housing tenant 'in fear for his life' after drugs gang take over his flat in cuckooing
A SOCIAL housing tenant ‘in fear for his life’ when his flat was taken over by drug dealers nearly lost his home.
A gang targeted the man, who The News is not naming, at his one-bed home in Solebay Way, Gosport, exploiting his mental health vulnerability and getting him hooked on opioids, court papers say.
Beleaguered neighbours last year reported a cannabis smell, repeated visitors to the flat and once seeing a woman with a ‘crack pipe’.
Violent arguments also broke out in the flat, with a woman regularly hurling abuse from the flat's balcony - and calling a neighbour 'a whore and a slut'.
All the while the man, who now has support to come off opioids, was the victim of cuckooing by a drug gang - with police asking magistrates to partially close the flat.
Separate court action by Vivid Housing was brought in a bid to take possession as the housing association said he had failed to stick to his tenancy terms.
But Vivid and a judge agreed he should have a chance after the gang who ‘had overpowered him and who were using his flat’ moved on.
A lawyer for the man said he was in hospital when much of the disturbances happened and he ‘now lives quietly’ with any past problems linked to the cuckooing by the drug gang.
The closure order in August last year was a ‘turning point’ as it allowed him to ‘deal with the drug gang responsible for his (cuckooing) and exploitation of his property and vulnerability’.
Barrister Jonathan Ward added: ‘The defendant was in fear for his life at the hands of those (cuckooing) him and had to do as they directed.
‘Since the partial closure order he has been able to regain control.’
Judge Michael Dobson made a possession order forcing the man to leave his home - but suspended this giving him a final chance.
He must comply with his tenancy agreement about nuisance and anti-social behaviour, not to have any drugs at home, bother his neighbours or have visitors stay overnight without telling Vivid first.
Why Vivid claimed there was anti-social behaviour
Possession court papers, filed by Vivid, claim a neighbour who went to ask the man to turn down loud music between March 16-17 last year was met by a woman who had a ‘crack pipe’ in her hand.
Three days later police were at the flat, there was a cannabis smell and an allegation of drug dealing from the property.
On the day lockdown was announced, March 23, Vivid was told a drugged-up man sleeping in a communal corridor claimed to be being looked after by the man.
On the same day the housing provider was told visitors to the flat were leaving foil and used needles in the bin shed, and another neighbour overheard people in the flat talking about shoplifting to fund buying drugs.
Then in May a neighbour said they had seen drug deals outside the block, and he had been searched by police.
In June it was reported he rigged the entrance door locks so visitors could come and go, and many people were visiting the flat - some were climbing over balconies to get in.
On June 26 a visitor got aggressive when not allowed in.
Vivid’s response after the court case
Jonathan Cowie, chief operating officer at Vivid said he could not comment on individual cases – but said his organisation’s top priority is keeping ‘customers safe in their homes and ensuring their overall wellbeing’.
He said cuckooing cases can be ‘very complex’ and Vivid works with police and community safety teams.
He said: ‘We support victims of cuckooing by providing the necessary help and interventions to end the abuse and make sure they have access to the help they need, as well as taking action to benefit local residents.
‘This includes, wellbeing and mental health support, providing additional security to our customer’s property, tenancy support, referrals to specialist support agencies such as substance misuse services, specialist (anti-social behaviour) case worker at Victim Support, and if there is a very high risk to the victim, we’ll consider a move to a different property by working with local authority housing teams.
‘We also work with our customers to help them manage visitor behaviour. We use tools such as Acceptable Behaviour Agreements, banning letters and injunctions to help empower the victim to say no to the perpetrators, and partial closure orders, where only the customer and named individuals are allowed in the property.’
When it comes to taking tenants to court, Vivid said it has no ‘one size fits all’ approach and does not have certain thresholds – with court action a ‘very last resort’.
Mr Cowie said: ‘We want our customers to thrive in their homes and offer a wide range of support services to help them maintain their tenancies.’
He added: ‘We only take legal action in cases where our customers have failed to engage with us and we have exhausted all methods of communication, including regular visits by the Neighbourhood Officer and Tenancy Support team, multiple arrangements to clear arrears have failed, and we’ve met all the Pre-action Protocol requirements.
‘In these situations, we will provide verbal and written warnings of legal actions before we start proceedings.’