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Judge clears developer

A JUDGE has thrown out nine fraud charges against a holiday park director accused of miss-selling luxury £190,000 holiday homes - after ruling the jury could not safely convict on memories of what was said years later.
It means a Keyingham couple’s retirement dreams of tranquility remain in tatters as East Riding Council still presses for eviction of all those at Lakeminster Park, Beverley.
After a 10-week trial a Hull Crown Court, Judge Simon Watson, QC, ordered the dismissal of nine of the 10 criminal fraud charges against Lakeminster developer William Flannigan. He was accused of miss-selling lodge homes by making false representations that the site had full planning permission for permanent sole residence 365-days a year.
Judge Watson, QC, said the accuracy of what Mr Flannigan had said was critical to the case against him and the absence of any notes or documentation of his conversation meant no jury could safely conclude what he had said - required for a criminal prosecution.
Steven and Janet Ryan sold their £160,000 house at Cabry Drive, Station Road, Keyingham to buy a £150,000 home at Lakeminster Park, Beverley in January 2010.
The Ryans joined a line of more than 10 other couples buying homes at the site who quickly faced the threat of eviction as they were deemed not to be using it as a holiday home.
Judger Watson, QC, said in his 30-page ruling the prosecution case was that Stephen and Janet Ryan bought a home at Lakeminster after asking Mr Flannigan if they could live there all year round and he said ‘Yes’ and the homes had 12 months occupancy.
Judge Watson continued: “They were part exchanging their home and were told by a solicitor ‘It was like buying a boat or a caravan’.
“They were asked to sign the licence agreement on the day they moved in.
They did so, but only because of the assurances they received from the defendant that everything would be sorted. “We took him at his word.”
Judge Watson, QC, said Mr Ryan refused defence suggestions that he had signed a document which showed conclusively that he had prior knowledge of the holiday conditions. He said Mr Ryan said he would not have purchased the home if he had known of them.
Judge Watson said: “Of critical importance in my view, is the fact that before the council took enforcement action which they did in May 2011 no purchaser - not a single one - had taken any steps to complain about having been miss-sold their home on Lakeminster Park until after the enforcement proceedings has begun.

Judge Watson, QC, continued: “Yet each one had been given a copy of the licence agreement, no more than weeks, after moving in. Each of them said in chorus from the witness box that they had been ‘surprised,’ ‘shocked,’ ‘horrified,’ or ‘devastated,’ when they received their copy of the licence. Yet not one of them took any positive steps to remedy the situation.”
Judge Watson, QC, said there was scope for collusion between residents. He said: “Their claims for damages may depend upon proving the defendant misrepresented the true situation to them. The scope for distortion of what was said– even unintentional or subliminal is obvious.

There is a possibility of collusion.”
Mr Flannigan did not even have to enter the witness box to defend himself. In a written defence statement to the court his case was each of the buyers did in fact know of the holiday provision of what was said to them. He said the nature of the permitted occupancy was not false and was entirely in keeping with the planning permission granted by East Riding Council. D
ismissing the action Judge Watson, QC, concluded: “In my view, in the absence of any contemporaneous note or documentation whatsoever, no jury properly directed could conclude with the required degree of certainty that the defendant said what he is alleged to have said.
“This entire prosecution rests on the recollection, months or years later, of what was said by the defendant to the purchasers.
The possibility that their recollections of what was actually said are, for whatever reason, inaccurate is inescapable.”
Speaking afterwards, Mr Flannigan said: “I am relieved and delighted by the outcome.
“I am grateful for the support of my family and some of the remaining residents at Lakeminster Park who have stuck by me.”
The Crown agreed not to proceed with a further charge of fraud and offered no evidence. A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service said: “This case has been considered throughout in line with the principle set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors, and subject to ongoing review.
“We considered there was sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and the matter was put before the court. The judge has made his ruling and we respect his decision.”
A spokesman for East Riding Council said: “The judge’s ruling does not affect our position. There are still a number of people at Lakeminster and the eviction enforcement action against them continues.”

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