COMMENT by Sebastian O’Kelly
Two days ago when the barrister Alexander Bastin successfully asked the judge at Wandsworth County Court to throw me out of his court – citing the Human Rights Act – the whole sorry saga of Dennis Jackson and Plantation Wharf reached a new low-point … although not one without an element of dark humour.
Bastin, representing the freeholder of Plantation Wharf, Cube Real Estate, has defeated Jackson at every turn to the point where the latter was facing homelessness and destitution. The hearing – with only two days to go before Jackson’s £800,000 flat could have been lost forever – was to request the lifting of the forfeit order granted on January 30.
So when Bastin suggested that the Human Rights Act was grounds for ejecting the “press”, to use his term, one can only assume he was cracking some sort of lawyerly joke. The only human rights at issue were those of Jackson himself, by whose invitation I, and Martin Boyd, my colleague at the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership, had come to the court.
Jackson, 73, who was not legally represented, and a barrister for the Prudential, his mortgage lender, told the judge that they had no objection to our attending. But Bastin insisted and the judge – apologetically – ordered us out.
As a result, a closed court was convened to decide whether to take from Jackson every significant asset that he has, without the public having any right to be present.
Only in leasehold would such a thing be possible, one is tempted to conclude.
Having taken one bad decision – it should never be a minor matter to throw the public out of a court – Deputy District Judge Colquohoun sensibly lifted the forfeiture order returning the lease to Jackson as the Prudential agreed to pay off his outstanding debts.
These are £76,086.20, and are wholly accounted for in legal costs. Jackson paid off the original disputed £7,548 service charges years ago.
Enormous though the legal costs are, the lawyers have appealed to the Upper Tribunal (Land Chamber) for more.
Jackson is desperately trying to sell his flat, where he has lived for 16 years, and what he walks away with is the open question.
At this point, it is worth re-capping on what has been going on at Plantation Wharf, a complex on the river at Battersea of 160 flats and 94 commercial premises that was built 18 years ago.
The neighbours include John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, who bought a £935,000 leasehold house in January, and Nigella Lawson, who has her TV studio kitchen there.