Dad jailed and handed £475k invoice in bitter row with neighbours over backyard fence | UK | News | EUROtoday

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Fence in question

The fence on the centre of the blistering row (Image: Champion)

A dad-of-five was jailed, handed a £475,000 court docket invoice and has now been stripped of his household dwelling after considered one of Britain’s most disastrous neighbours’ disputes – sparked by the place of a backyard fence. Mark Coates, 56, and spouse Louise, 52, have fought a protracted battle with their neighbours Brian Greenwood, 69, and Janice Turner, 65, after transferring in subsequent door within the countryside close to Hastings in 2015.

The row arose out of a disagreement over the place of a fence and possession of a monitor beside their properties, however spilled right into a “bitter” neighbours’ dispute, a court docket heard.

Each claimed the opposite had arrange “surveillance cameras” to watch the others, whereas Mr Coates, who’s a full-time carer for his disabled son, was accused of swearing at his neighbours and throwing stones at their bed room window.

The two {couples} had been warned after they first reached court docket in 2020 that the dispute might finish in monetary damage for considered one of them and now, 4 years later, having misplaced the case, Mr Coates and his studying assistant spouse face simply that.

With Mr Coates having already spent almost seven weeks in jail over the row and with the couple having been handed court docket payments totalling round £475,000, they’ve now been advised they need to promote their household dwelling.

READ MORE: Dad’s £20k invoice after going into neighbour’s backyard to get son’s ball again

High Court decide, Master James Brightwell, mentioned a pressured sale of the property – regarded as value about £420,000 – was the one manner that the debt can be paid.

But Mr Coates advised the decide that he doubted whether or not the home would promote for that quantity, including: “I don’t know who would want to live next to them anyway.”

The two units of neighbours reside facet by facet in semi-detached homes in Eatenden Lane, a quiet highway subsequent to woodland in Robertsbridge, close to Hastings, within the East Sussex countryside.

But the agricultural peace was shattered after they started rowing over the boundary between their gardens and between the Coates’ backyard and an entry monitor purchased by their neighbours behind it.

Mrs Turner objected to the taking down of a fence and erection of a brick wall, which she claimed encroached on her property. But what was a row over a small strip of land descended into chaos, with allegations made on each side of assorted types of unneighbourly behaviour.

In October 2020, throughout an early listening to within the dispute, the {couples} have been warned by High Court decide, Mr Justice Morgan, that persisting within the row might end in monetary damage for one or each units of neighbours.

Describing it as a “very bitter, aggressive violent dispute,” he mentioned: “Boundary disputes are unfortunate because they spring from bad feeling between neighbours.

Mark Coates Lisa Coates

Mark and Louise Coates are now being forced to sell their home (Image: Champion)

Janice Turner

Janice Turner, 65, won the case against the couple (Image: Champion)

“Worse nonetheless, these proceedings aren’t low-cost if legal professionals are concerned. It is just not unknown for instances of this sort to outcome within the chapter of 1 or each side. That is why boundary dispute litigation is usually mentioned to be very very unlucky.”

But despite the warning, the case continued and ended up before Judge Sarah Venn at Hastings County Court, who in September 2022 found against Mr and Mrs Coates on the row over the position of the boundary. The matter did not even end there, with Mr Coates hauled back to court in October 2023 and accused of “juvenile behaviour” by his neighbours, in breach of the terms of an injunction made by Judge Venn to try to defuse the row.

He had damaged his neighbours’ property by throwing stones at a bedroom window and used abusive language, swearing at them, Judge Venn ultimately found. The judge was shown video which she said showed Mr Coates approaching Mrs Turner, “visibly indignant” and making “abusive feedback and engaged in bodily threatening behaviour.”

She also found that comments made by Mr Coates in court amounted to a “menace” to his neighbours or their property. He was jailed for 252 days for contempt of court, reduced after 47 days behind bars to allow his immediate release at the Court of Appeal in December last year.

The sentence was reduced after the appeal judges overturned the finding by Judge Venn that Mr Coates’ in-court comments were a threat.

But with interest, the couple were still left facing compensation and legal bills totalling about £475,000 for the disastrous fence dispute.

Earlier this month the case went back to court, as Mr Greenwood and Mrs Turner applied for an order for sale of the Coates’ house so that the bills can be paid. Mr and Mrs Coates, representing themselves, fought the application, arguing that they still have cases running in other courts which might see the boundary row continue.

Brian Greenwood

Brian Greenwood has been in a long-standing dispute with his neighbours (Image: Champion News)

They complained that the case was unfair, with them having to fight it alone without legal assistance in face of their neighbours’ expensive team of lawyers.

“We aren’t going to cease preventing this matter, even when it is eight or 10 years down the road,” Mr Coates told the judge, Master Brightwell. “We have not obtained cash. We are representing ourselves as a result of we’ve not obtained any cash. The solely asset we’ve is the property. It’s our home for our disabled son and ourselves.”

Describing their plight as an “absolute scandal,” Mrs Coates insisted that – despite the rulings against them – the case was “not one-sided”.

“The influence on my kids and my life has been horrendous,” she said. “We have been discriminated towards due to our monetary standing and lack of authorized assist.”

But, for their neighbours, barrister Clare Anslow said Mr and Mrs Coates clearly did not accept that the sums were rightly owing.

“Realistically, the defendants, even when they did produce other means to pay, aren’t going to voluntarily make these funds or attempt to come to any settlement,” she said. “The defendants are the authors of their very own misfortune. Had they taken extra applicable actions and never acted in the way in which they’d, this whole place might not have arisen.”

Ruling that the house – thought by Mr Greenwood and Mrs Turner to be worth about £420,000 – should be sold, the judge said there was “no affordable prospect” of the debt being repaid otherwise.

“I believe the psychological and bodily well being of all of the events to this litigation has been adversely affected by its protracted nature and the course it has taken,” he said. Speaking afterwards, Mr Coates talked of the devastating impact of the dispute on his family.

“I went to jail for seven weeks and I’d by no means been to jail earlier than,” he said. “If I mentioned I went to jail over a boundary dispute, no one would imagine me.

“Everyone has been really affected. I’m going to be homeless. My son is going to be homeless. We’ve got to rehouse a dog. I’ve just had grief after grief. I dont know how we are holding it together.”