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Bullying Neighbours Must Pay the Cost

PLEASE NOTE: Information in this article is correct at the time of publication, please contact DFA Law for current advice on older articles.

Disputes between neighbours are sadly common and can ruin lives – although a little legal advice at an early stage can often swiftly resolve matters. In one striking case, an elderly man who harassed, hectored and abused adjoining landowners was left facing compensation and legal bills totalling more than £500,000.

The pensioner had purported to annex part of one neighbour’s land and had at one point made a trumped-up complaint to police that resulted in the neighbour’s arrest and detention for several hours. Another neighbour, whose right of way he had sought to obstruct, had been threatened with a hay bale impaled on a tractor spike.

After both neighbours took legal action, a judge found that the man and his wife had attempted to bully them into adjusting the boundaries of their land to suit the couple’s own wishes without any attempt at consultation or negotiation. They were ordered to pay one neighbour £8,000 in damages and the other £2,500. They were also ordered to pay the legal costs of the case.

In challenging the judge’s ruling before the Court of Appeal, the man argued that he had been too ill to play a fair part in the proceedings. He had previously suffered from bladder cancer and had experienced alarming symptoms shortly before the case was heard. He underwent an exploratory operation on the first day of the hearing and it was submitted that the proceedings should have been adjourned, rather than continuing in his absence.

The Court accepted that there had been an irregularity in the judge’s approach to the adjournment application. In rejecting the appeal, however, it was wholly unpersuaded that the man or his wife had suffered any injustice. The couple were also ordered to pay their neighbours’ £43,000 costs of the appeal.

Says Paul Currie, “Disputes over land boundaries can easily spiral out of control unless prompt action is taken to defuse the situation and reach a negotiated settlement.”

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