Court: Pair found guilty of squatting residential flat above Romford Market’s historic Lamb Inn
Havering magistrates on Tuesday found two men guilty of squatting in the residential flat above Romford’s historic Lamb Inn - in what is believed to be the borough’s first conviction under the new law.
Speaking before the bench read out its verdict, the court clerk said: “The offence is a new offence, which we are dealing with for the first time today.”
The court heard how Mate Gyori, 22, and his co-defendant Thomas Bateman, 19, had entered the flat as trespassers and lived or intended to live there. They were arrested on Monday, September 10 after police apprehended them at the pub.
Bateman, of no fixed address, did not answer to bail and a warrant has been issued for his arrest.
Gyori, also of no fixed address, said in evidence he had been staying in a small commercial room in the pub rather than the private three-bedroom flat.
“I was never intending to live upstairs,” he said.
Under the anti-squatting law, which at the time was 10 days old, staying in a commercial area of the pub would not have been illegal.
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Delivering the verdict, chairman Susan Johnson told the court: “Mr Gyori’s account isn’t credible. It’s evident the residential flat was being lived in and there was no evidence of anyone living in the commercial area.”
The pair had been arrested on Friday, September 7 for squatting in the Lamb and bailed. Mrs Johnson said the offence was aggravated by the fact Gyori had returned immediately after his initial arrest, and that there was “considerable damage”.
Former licensee Jackie Howard told the court she had been alerted to the squatters’ presence by contractors who had been there to measure the pub for new, secure doors following its closure two weeks previously.
Ms Howard said after banging on the front door, which was glued shut, she had seen two men in the pub’s upstairs bedroom window. The men had then left the building, approached her and told her they had the right to squat in it. A sign referring to “squatters’ rights” was displayed in the pub window.
Ms Howard told the court she had then inspected the flat, finding recently cooked pasta and packs of bacon in the kitchen. Floorboards had been pulled up and used to cover windows and the filling of a sofa had been pulled out.
She added the damage had cost her the pub’s deposit. Gyori denied knowledge of the food found upstairs.
Gyori and Bateman will be sentenced at Barkingside Magistrates’ Court on November 26. Gyori was released on bail on the conditions that he doesn’t enter Havering and that he reports twice weekly to a Hendon police station.
The Lamb remains boarded up.