Trial veers drastically off script for Stevenage comedy writer who worked with Jimmy Carr and on cult TV show Brass Eye

Paul Garner. Credit: YouTube

Paul Garner. Credit: YouTube - Credit: Archant

A comedy scriptwriter who has poked fun at the establishment for years has fallen foul of the law for illegally ordering the destruction of a historic Stevenage building.

The Forge in Hertford Road which was knocked down in October 2013.

The Forge in Hertford Road which was knocked down in October 2013. - Credit: Archant

Paul Garner was found guilty at Stevenage Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday of ordering the demolition of a Grade-II listed building, known as the Forge, at his home in Hertford Road in October 2013.

The 46-year-old has worked on the infamous satirical show Brass Eye, The 11 O’Clock Show and has written extensively for comedian Jimmy Carr.

He was given planning permission by Stevenage Borough Council to connect his house with the Forge and renovate it in July 2013.

In court Garner claimed he had always wanted to keep the building which dates back to at least the 17th century but had left the practicality of the works to architect Mark Grainger and builder Jeff Finch.

The Old Smithy - Hugh Madgin

The Old Smithy - Hugh Madgin - Credit: Archant

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He said: “I am a scriptwriter. I am the least practical person you will ever meet.

“I employed experts with years of experience to do the work on a recommendation and I trusted them to carry out the job.

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“The whole purpose of the works was to preserve the Forge.

“We spent two years getting consent and it’s ludicrous to say I am going to go rogue and knock it down without permission.”

Garner’s wife Katie, a musician who is the daughter of Chas Hodges from Chas & Dave, supported his claim and said: “We are creative people, my husband and I, so we do not really understand what had happened.

“We left the work to the builders and got on with our lives.”

This account was rejected by magistrates who found that Garner had deliberately instructed Mr Finch to take the building down.

Mr Finch, who pleaded guilty to illegally destroying a listed building last year, said he thought it had been de-listed because Garner had told him to remove it.

Garner has worked extensively with Four Lions director and Brass Eye creator Chris Morris, notably on his BBC 1 radio show where Garner would visit Heathrow Airport and get a foreign sounding name, which was really a rude message, announced over the Tannoy.

He also featured in an episode of The 11 O’Clock Show called Miscarriages Of Justice where he played a reporter who gets members of the public to pretend to be people wrongly convicted of crimes.

The programme poked fun at Britain’s judicial system.

He will be sentenced at the court next month.

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