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Jailed at People’s Expense – Evicted to Make a Man Homeless Bankers, Spivs and Speculators have Financial Judicial Protection Not the People

Man who torched dream home after row with building society is jailed
Firefighters found Charles Chestnut strumming a guitar and cooking on a barbecue next to the burning building.
Steven Morris
Monday 10 April 2017 14.03 
A man who set fire to his dream rural retreat after a bitter dispute with a building society was found strumming a guitar and cooking on a barbecue next to the burning building by firefighters who arrived to help.
Charles Chestnut, 55, who was jailed for five years for arson on Monday, had hung a sign on the farmhouse gate before starting the fire, warning: “Danger keep out.
Private property undergoing complete renovation.”
Chestnut bought the four-bedroomed farmhouse, set in almost five acres of land near Whitland, Carmarthenshire, hoping for a taste of the good life but became embroiled in a dispute with the Yorkshire Building Society and court action was launched.
Prosecutor Tom Scapens told Swansea crown court that on 19 September Chestnut had been due in court but instead set fire to the £250,000 property, razing the farmhouse and a barn.
Scapens said: “Police and firemen arrived at Pontyrhodyn farm to find Chestnut enjoying a barbecue and strumming a guitar.”
The court was told that in fact Chestnut was no longer the legal owner of Pontyrhodyn because he had stopped making payments. A county court had granted possession to the building society in 2014.
Scapens said: “Two years of further legal hearings followed because Chestnut refused to leave the property entirely and eventually he occupied a caravan in the grounds.”
Police found two petrol cans in Chestnut’s car. He told officers: “See that building, I built it. I didn’t build it right so the best way to get rid of it is to burn it down.”
Chestnut, who moved to west Wales from Rochdale, Lancashire, refused to cooperate in the court case but he was found guilty of arson.
When asked by the judge, Geraint Walters, if he had any submissions to make, Chestnut, who represented himself, said: “I would like to go free please.”
Jailing him, the judge said: “It seems to me that it’s no coincidence that you decided to destroy this property on 19 September because you may remember you got another appointment that day which you failed to keep. Instead of attending court you decided to burn down the property.
“This is a case of high culpability on the basis that you were in a campaign against the building society over a number of years, showing your determination not to be beaten by them.
“The reality is this was their property not yours. You played cat and mouse with them for years. Then you decided to have the last laugh, or so you thought, by burning it to the ground. The offence was plainly deliberate. It was pre-planned.”
The farm included stone barns, a coach house, cow shed, gardens and a large pond.
After the case, a Yorkshire Building Society spokesperson said: “We have a specialist team of colleagues who work with customers in financial difficulties to help find the most positive resolution available. There are a number of options and solutions available for customers who, like Mr Chestnut, find themselves in arrears, and repossession would only ever be a very last resort.
“We advise customers who are facing financial difficulties to contact us at the earliest opportunity so we can work with them to resolve the situation positively.”

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