Friday 27 April 2018

Elderly farmer ordered to pay up for being a nuisance to neighbour

Police were called after two neighbours became locked in a dispute over grazing sheep
Police were called after two neighbours became locked in a dispute over grazing sheep

Police summoned reinforcements after a farmer nearing 90 and a neighbour nearly half his age became embroiled in a spring morning spat over where a flock of sheep could graze, a court heard.

Two officers initially arrived at Wells Farm, Cradley, Herefordshire, and arrested 88-year-old Dennis Johnson and his 49-year-old neighbour Richard Williams, a judge in Birmingham was told.

They then called for back-up and about 30 minutes later another eight officers turned up in four "fast response vehicles", Judge David Grant heard.

Meanwhile, the sheep had got through a hole in a fence and wandered off, the judge was told.

Detail of the saga - in March 2013 - has emerged in a ruling by the judge following a civil court trial centred on a dispute over a boundary.

Mr Williams, now 52, claimed that Mr Johnson, now 91, had wrongly released sheep onto his land at Wells Farm early one morning.

He said there had been "unpleasant exchanges" and Mr Johnson had warned "I could get violent".

And Mr Williams said his wife Swarni, now 44, had "videoed the incident" on an iPhone.

Mr Johnson had denied harassing either Mr Williams or his wife and had told Judge Grant: "I am 90 years old, and Mr Williams is probably half my age and about twice my size."

Judge Grant, who had analysed the dispute at a trial in the specialist Technology & Construction Court in Birmingham, said footage taken by Mrs Williams showed that "none of the three persons present" was "behaving in a violent or aggressive manner".

And he said neither Mr Williams nor Mr Johnson had been charged with any criminal offence.

The judge said the incident featured in a number of complaints Mr Williams had made about Mr Johnson's behaviour.

He said Mr Johnson's conduct could at no stage have been classified as "harassment".

But he said there had been "instances" where Mr Johnson had been a "nuisance".

And concluded that Mr Williams was entitled to a total of £500 "general damages for nuisance".

The judge said he had considered a number of issues - an underlying issue was a boundary dispute.

"The (two men) are neighbours in Cradley in Herefordshire," said Judge Grant. "The adjoining properties are in rural or farming countryside close to the Malvern Hills."

He added: "Sadly the parties have fallen out."

Mr Williams had outlined detail of the sheep spat in March 2013 in a witness statement, said Judge Grant.

"At about 7.20am I found Dennis moving metal gates across the track," Mr Williams had explained.

"He told me he owns the whole area and that we were illegally trespassing on his land.

"He said 'stop it or I could get violent'."

Mr Williams added: "Swarni videoed the incident."

And he said his wife had called police.

"Two arrived at about 8.15 am," added Mr Williams.

"Dennis wanted to move his sheep onto the field. The police suggested that I should allow him to do this, and that I would be arrested if I did not. I declined and was arrested. Dennis was also arrested.

"At some stage the police must have called for reinforcements, as at about 8.50am four fast response vehicles arrived with a further eight policemen.

"While I was under arrest about 150 sheep that Dennis was proposing to put on to Wells Farm got through a hole Dennis had created in the boundary fence."

Mr Williams went on: "After Dennis and I and the police had left, Swarni with the help of neighbours had to round up the sheep."

Press Association

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