Bafta-nominated TV director who was driven from his £1.2m Hackney home by Annie Lennox-producer neighbour’s flytipping and ‘extremely loud music’ wins £273k payout
- TV man Misha Manson-Smith and producer Mark Arthurworrey were neighbours
- But living near each other sparked a five-year war that ended in the High Court
- Mr Manson-Smith was awarded £273,000 for being ‘driven from his home’
- He said Mr Arthurworrey played music too loud and poured water in ceiling
- Mr Arthurworrey denied wrongdoing but was not allowed to defend case
- He has already indicated he does attend to appeal against the judgement
When BAFTA nominated TV director Misha Manson-Smith became neighbours with eighties music hitmaker Mark Arthurworrey in trendy Hackney, it could have led to a pioneering collaboration of sound and vision.
But instead of a creative team-up, living near each other only sparked a six-year residential war – resulting in an expensive legal battle that has ended in the High Court.
This week Mr Manson-Smith was awarded £273,000 in damages after he was ‘driven from his home’ by a harassment campaign by musican Mr Arthurworrey.
The music producer, who has made tracks for stars including Annie Lennox and Aswad, was accused of pouring water through the ceiling of his flat so that it flowed through the lighting and electrics, as well as repeated flytipping in the garden and playing of ‘extremely loud’ music.
His ordeal led to Mr Manson-Smith developing an ‘anxiety disorder’ and ultimately being forced with his young family to leave the £1.2million Victorian flat in Dalston, Hackney, east London.
Together with his writer wife Alex, he sued for harassment at the High Court and has now been awarded damages totaling £273,475 from Mr Arthurworrey, 68, who will also have to foot his £32,000 lawyers’ bills.
Ruling this week, Judge Mathew Gullick QC said a harassment conviction and restraining order in 2017 had not stopped Mr Arthurworrey from continuing his harassment of Mr and Mrs Manson-Smith.
‘I regard as particularly serious the further incidents of deliberate flooding that occurred in June 2019, after the imposition of that restraining order and immediately prior to the claimants being forced out,’ he said.
Mr Manson-Smith was awarded £273,000 for being ‘driven from his home’ by his neighbour
Mr Arthurworrey denied wrongdoing but was not allowed to defend case in the High Court
At a hearing last year, lawyers for the couple said their troubles began in 2014 when they bought a flat in a converted house in Forest Road, of which Mr Arthurworrey owns the freehold and ‘controls’ the other two flats in the building.
Their barrister Jamal Demachkie said that ‘initial obstructive behaviour’ on the part of Mr Arthurworrey, including an incident when ‘the gas was turned off,’ led to an earlier court clash between the neighbours over management of the building.
Mr Demachkie said Mr Arthurworrey went on to subject Mr and Mrs Manson-Smith, 45, to ‘acts of nuisance and harassment for a significant period of time including clashes over use of garden gate, fly-tipping, noise nuisance and refusal of access’.
‘Mr Arthurworrey dumped a large volume of rubbish into Flat A’s garden, including a mattress….he admits dropping it but says ‘this is my garden’,’ the barrister added.
‘My clients do own the front garden and have the right to use the back garden.
‘Even if Mr Arthurworrey did own the front garden it would still constitute a harassment to dump rubbish and detritus into it, causing a nuisance and blocking the passageway.
‘That’s not all. There’s the noise nuisance, the blocking of the access to the back garden…this is ultimately six years of harassment directed at Mr Manson-Smith and his family.’
The barrister told the judge that following ‘particularly pernicious harassment’ the couple had obtained a restraining order over their neighbour in March 2017, but that his conduct continued.
Mrs Manson-Smith, who lived there with her husband, is a freelance copywriter and journalist
Mr Manson-Smith’s family had to leave the £1.2million Victorian flat in Dalston, Hackney
On consecutive days in June 2019, their flat had been flooded from above, on the second occasion Mr Arthurworrey having ‘tipped water through the floor’ and into the lighting and electrics below, leaving them without power, the court was told.
Ultimately, they moved out in August 2019 and have since let the flat out, while renting another home of their own elsewhere.
Although he denied doing anything wrong – claiming he owned the front garden and could do what he wanted with it – Mr Arthurworrey was debarred from defending the claim against him.
And in December, Judge Hugh Southey QC gave summary judgment in favour of Mr and Mrs Manson-Smith, with damages to be assessed, after finding there was ‘no material that would allow a court to reject the claimants’ evidence.’
This week awarding £273,475 in damages, Judge Gullick said the harassment had taken place over a period of ‘many years’ and stemmed from Mr Arthurworrey’s belief that plans attached to the Manson-Smiths’ lease of the flat incorrectly included the front garden in the title of their flat.
‘Even a criminal conviction for harassment, a period of imprisonment and the imposition of a restraining order have not been sufficient to dissuade the defendant from continuing his harassment of the claimants and from continuing to deny their rights granted under the lease,’ he said.
He continued: ‘It has comprised incidents of what can be described in the main as vandalism and obstruction of the claimants’ property rights rather than direct personal confrontation of the claimants, physical violence or the threat of such violence, the sending of malicious communications or stalking.
‘Nonetheless, in my judgment, it is a serious and lengthy course of harassment and one which has driven Mr Manson-Smith and his family from their home.
‘The incidents in which water has come into Flat A must have been particularly unpleasant and distressing for Mr Manson-Smith, and especially so given the effects on his children.
‘The defendant’s conduct over many years, and notwithstanding the efforts made by the claimants and the courts to curb his behaviour, is serious.
‘It has resulted in Mr Manson-Smith being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and being prescribed medication, as well as placing a considerable degree of strain upon Mr Manson-Smith, who has been forced to undertake work away from home in order to make ends meet and to spend a considerable amount of time dealing with the consequences of the defendant’s conduct, rather than with his young children.’
The judge awarded damages to cover the cost of repairs and of moving house, as well as to compensate them for the reduction in the value of their flat caused by Mr Arthurworrey’s conduct.
Mr Manson-Smith has worked with stars including Sacha Baron Cohen, David Hasselhoff and Michael Sheen and has been nominated for BAFTAs three times, as well as winning the Rose D’Or for Comedy Series, the Primetime Emmy Award for Exceptional Merit in Non-Fiction Filmmaking and the British Comedy Award for Best New Comedy.
Mrs Manson-Smith is a freelance copywriter and journalist.
Their neighbour, Mr Arthurworrey, had a successful 25-year career as a record producer, working on both sides of the Atlantic.
He lived in Hollywood, working with Ray Parker Jnr of Ghostbusters fame, and Earth, Wind and Fire.
He also produced The Associates, Billy McKensie and Annie Lennox, The Love Affair, William Bell, The Mighty Sparrow and Aswad.
The court heard he intends to appeal against the findings against him.
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