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Magistrate cuts rent arrears payment after ex-senator fails to pay

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Curtis Richardson, former senator (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

An elderly woman nearly broke down in court as she described how she has felt “held hostage” for two years by a former senator who owes her huge rent arrears.

Margaret Harvey, who is in her seventies, described a Magistrates’ Court decision to temporarily reduce former tenant Curtis Richardson’s monthly repayments from $325 a month to $250 a month as “rough justice”.

Mr Richardson resigned as a PLP senator after the Supreme Court heard in January that he owed Mrs Harvey more than $19,000 in rent since he was served a notice to quit her property in March 2020.

He refused to leave the property until the following year while offering only sporadic payments, even though he was made a senator by David Burt, the Premier, in October, 2020.

Mr Burt appointed Mr Richardson to the Upper House despite a number of warnings about the mounting debt situation being relayed to the Premier by the Harvey family prior to the appointment.

As the case returned to court, Mrs Harvey fought back tears as she told Magistrate Auralee Cassidy: “Mr Richardson was working, working as a senator for the Premier, he was driving taxis, he made us several promises.”

Referring to the debt, Mrs Harvey added: “And he held us hostage for two years - we suffered in silence.

“He said ‘don’t take me to court, I’ll pay you, I’ll pay you $500 a month. He promised us all that. He had no intention of paying. He threatened to take my husband to court.”

Mr Richardson denied the claims, stating: “It’s not true.”

Mrs Harvey told the court: “He’s still got two children in private school.”

Mr Richardson replied that his children should be left out of the matter.

At the last court hearing in February, the arrears were put at more than $19,000, but Mr Richardson now states the debt is $16,537.

The Harvey family dispute this figure and are lodging an appeal to the Supreme Court regarding a security deposit on the property.

Mr Richardson asked for a reduction in his required payments to Mrs Harvey to $200 a month, as he had other creditors and claimed he would need to be earning $10,200 a month to satisfy them all.

Referring to his payments to Mrs Harvey, he said: “I want to look at something more realistic - $325 is a stretch right now.”

He said there had been a marked downturn in the taxi business, but he hoped for a pick-up as summer approached.

Mr Richardson told the court he wanted to make “headway” on his debts and that one of them had been written off and another transferred to another party.

Mrs Harvey’s daughter, Margot Harvey said her parents were elderly and Mr Richardson’s proposals would mean the debt not being paid off for up to 19 years.

Dr Harvey said: “The other people Mr Richardson owes money to will have to get what is left.”

At the previous hearing, Mr Richardson was warned that if he did not pay $325 a month from March 31, he would face jail the next time he appeared in court.

At the latest hearing the court was told that since then he had paid three sums of $400, $200, and $106.

Ms Cassidy ordered Mr Richardson to provide an outstanding amount of $344 for April and May repayments by next Monday.

David Burt, the Premier (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

She ruled that from June 1, he must pay $250 per month, and that the situation would be reviewed in late July when she wanted the sum to increase to $350 a month as Mr Richardson expected his summer earnings to increase.

After the hearing, Mrs Harvey told The Royal Gazette: “It’s rough justice.”

But she added: “Magistrate Cassidy is very fair and she is trying her best in this very difficult situation with Mr. Richardson.“

In February, it was revealed in court that at that time Mr Richardson had debts of $539,492, including $97,000 on his taxi/taxi permit.

During that hearing to discuss his means and financial situation, Mr Richardson did not say who owned the taxi he drives.

Questions were raised at that hearing by the Harvey family over whether Mr Burt, or a member of his family, may have owned the taxi.

Pressed on the matter after that hearing, Mr Richardson told The Royal Gazette: said: “I won’t say who owns the taxi at all.”

The Harvey family say Mr Richardson was given notice to quit their property in March 2020 because of complaints about noise and it was only at that point he stopped paying the $2,500 monthly rent, instead making small one-off payments and having Financial Assistance pay $1,163 a month for September, October and November 2020.

It emerged in court that Mr Richardson was paid his first senatorial salary of $1,597 on October 31, 2020.

Mrs Harvey told the court that Mr Richardson, who earned $30,000 a year as a senator, should pay the Financial Assistance money back.

Mr Richardson had been renting a home costing $2,850 a month since he finally vacated the Harvey property in February, 2021.