£33,000 of damage after vengeful rampage
A former estate agent has been jailed after trying to exact revenge on a competitor who had complained about his advertising practices. Martin Hobbs, 44, broke into a complex of flats and a restaurant belonging to the husband of his competitor, and caused over £33,000 of damage in a vengeful rampage.
Hobbs, of Cawsand, Cornwall, was sentenced at Truro Crown on Friday after previously pleading guilty to trespass and criminal damage. The court heard how shortly before midnight on February 17, Hobbs broke into the Bay Apartments in Cawsand, carrying a torch and rubber gloves.
Prosecuting, Philip Lee said: “Work wasn’t fully complete. Work was still being done to the restaurant and not all the apartments had been sold. Apartment eight was unsold, and the whole building was unoccupied. It was nearly midnight when CCTV footage showed the defendant entering the building through a small window covered by wooden panelling. He moved around the building and tried to obscure the cameras with latex gloves, but he was clearly visible and recognisable.”
Hobbs left the building at 12.30am, and at 7.30am a foreman arrived to find a large flood in the building. Hobbs had broken tap fittings, jammed the overflow, put plugs into sinks and left taps running. An estimated 7,500 litres of water escaped, causing over £33,000 of damage. The restaurant could not be opened on schedule and staff who had been hired had to be let go.
The court heard that the offence had been committed against a background of bad feeling between Hobbs and the building owner’s wife, an estate agent. In 2017, Hobbs had been convicted of harassing her and a restraining order was imposed.
Hobbs was also convicted last summer for false and misleading advertising, including claiming to have sold two homes that were still for sale, and advertising two others where he was not the instructed agent.
On Friday, Hobbs cried in the dock as his defence barrister told the court that was “clinging on by his fingernails financially and to his family”. Judge Simon Carr said Hobb’s offences were more than misguided grievance. He told him: “You were a successful businessman working as estate agent, but as became apparent you were doing so unlawfully as you were gaining an unfair advantage over competitors by the underhand practices you were using. Some competitors complained and you were prosecuted for those offences. But what you chose to do was to seek to blame others for what was your error.”
Hobbs was jailed for 12 months and will serve a further 12 months on licence on release. He ran MPH Estate Agents in Millbrook, Cornwall, and was prosecuted last August by Cornwall Trading Standards after advertising properties on Rightmove.
Relationships between competing estate agents in the Taunton area are, by and large, cordial. There may be the occasional upset over the erection of For Sale boards and winning and losing clients but none, to date, have ever resorted to smashing up their competitors properties in the middle of the night!