On 6th May 2015 at Southwark Crown Court, following an 8 day private prosecution, Mr Solaman Pradhan was sentenced to 9 months of imprisonment for two charges: perverting the course of justice and fraud, contrary to the Fraud Act 2006.
This prosecution arose because Mr Pradhan, who owned a property which shared a border with Mr Orenstein’s tenanted property, knocked through a wall, commandeered Mr Orenstein’s rear yard and erected a hookah bar.
Mr Orenstein’s tenant, who had been on holiday, discovered this unlawful use of the yard in March 2011 when he returned to the shop and attempted to exit via the rear fire exit. The tenant then realised that a temporary wall had been built across the yard and access to Mr Orenstein’s rear yard had been blocked off.
When Mr Orenstein tried to claim his land back, Mr Pradhan claimed that he had acquired the title to the back yard by way of adverse possession. Adverse possession is a historic area of land law which allows a person who has had use of a piece of land (owned by someone else) for 12 uninterrupted years the right to claim that land as their own.
Mr Pradhan made an application to the Land Registry and claimed that he had been using the land for 12 years. Mr Pradhan both deliberately lied in this application and, indeed, enticed other people to lie on his behalf. These individuals eventually gave statements to support the prosecution at trial.
Unfortunately, Mr Orenstein had not choice but to commence civil proceedings in order to regain the land and as expected, these proceedings were costly and protracted. However, Mr Orenstein eventually succeeded. In the interim, Mr Pradhan leased Mr Orenstein’s property to a tenant for an increased rent to reflect the rear yard use. More worryingly, in early 2011, Mr Pradhan shamelessly attempted to sell this property (including Mr Orenstein’s yard) for £1.1million; a stark contrast with the previously marketed price (without rear yard) of offers in excess of £500,000.
This was an extremely serious matter not merely because of the attempted fraud and lies told to the court, but because it appears that unsubstantiated claims for adverse possession happen with alarming frequency. The Assistant Registrar at the Land Registry who dealt with this case has advised that claims such as this are made at a rate of 7-8 per week.
Unfortunately, following a police investigation, the CPS declined to prosecute the case. However, Edmonds Marshall McMahon began an investigation which led to some extremely compelling evidence being obtained. In due course, the CPS did confirm that the evidential sufficiency stage and the public interest test of the Code for Crown Prosecutors was met for fraud and perverting the course of justice allegations. The CPS confirmed that it was a ‘serious allegation where false representations were made to the Land Registry and the Civil Court’. They were however satisfied that as Mr Orenstein was competently represented by Edmonds Marshall McMahon, they were happy for the case to continue privately.
In his sentencing HHJ Goymer confirmed that Mr Pradhan had undoubtedly involved his wife in his fraudulent behaviour, and stressed the seriousness of perverting the course of justice. ‘Anything such as getting witnesses to make false statements and representations to the Land Registry undermines the whole system of justice and makes it possible for injustice to be done. It makes no difference if it is civil or criminal. It is a fact of life that the courts have to rely on the fact that people who come before them are prepared to tell the truth.’
Mr Orenstein has confirmed that he has been “delighted with Kate McMahon and her team at Edmonds Marshall McMahon”.