Couple try to get neighbour sectioned in garden row

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We all know that arguments with neighbours can get out of hand, but things reached a whole new level in a row over a garden in Westerham, Kent. A couple have been found guilty of harassing their neighbour in an effort to add a 12 inch strip to their garden.

They went to some shocking lengths, so is this the oddest neighbourly row over land?

The case

Betty Bayliss lived next door to 69-year old deaf carer Sandra Saxton. When Betty went into care in 2008, her home fell to her son Peter, a 62-year-old retired banker, and his wife Kim, a 53-year-old artist.

Saxton had a right of way across a 12 inch strip of their garden, but they wanted to increase the size of their garden, and stop her from exercising her right of way, to make it easier for them to sell their property.

The neighbours went to court over the issue in 2009, and after the court sided with Saxton, the couple went to extraordinary lengths to drive the pensioner off their land.

According to the Evening Standard, the court heard there was a physical confrontation between Peter Bayliss and Saxton as she tried to use her right of way in 2009, during which she suffered whiplash.

The Daily Mail reported that the couple then wrote a series of letters to social services, falsely claiming that Saxton had attacked Peter Bayliss, and should be sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

The judge said their actions were 'troubling and sinister', adding: "The purpose of the letters were to get Mrs Saxton sectioned, to get her removed from her home so she could no longer exercise her right of way and maintain her boundary fence, leaving the way open for the Baylisses to sell, free of any adverse rights."

On another occasion the couple glued the gate shut, and after the neighbours rowed about it, they falsely reported her to police for assault. According to the Express, the judge said: "The campaign combined physical obstruction and assault with direct and indirect mental manipulation and abuse designed to destabilise Mrs Saxton and turn her neighbours against her."

He ruled that they should pay the costs of the case - an estimated £300,000. They must also pay Saxton £25,000 damages for harassment, £1,750 for nuisance, and £10,000 exemplary damages. Mr Bayliss must also pay £2,000 for assault.

Neighbours at war

It's a horrible case, but it's far from the only row between neighbours that has spiraled out of control.

In November last year we reported the case of neighbours in Tilehurst near Reading who had spent 20 years and £100,000 fighting over ownership of a strip of land, four inches wide.

Earlier, a dispute in Broxbourne Common in Hertfordshire erupted because planners had used a thick pen to mark out a boundary, and the neighbours disagreed over who owned the land under the pen. The area was a metre wide, and the legal row cost £400,000.

Meanwhile, in Cheltenham there was a case in 2009, when neighbours argued over a six metre square of land. Their combined bill reached £150,000 - far in excess of the value of the land.

And it's not just the neighbours you have to worry about. Last month we reported on the council that spent £14,000 trying to force a couple to replace a fence - which had a gate leading into a public park. Despite the fact that the couple had a right of way written in the deeds of their house, the council even built a fence to block the gate, and spent thousands on legal fees before backing down.

10 consumer rights you should know
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Couple try to get neighbour sectioned in garden row

The law states that any goods you buy from a UK retailer should be of satisfactory quality, as described, fit for purpose and last a reasonable amount of time.

This applies even if you buy items in a sale or with a discount voucher. You may have to insist on these rights being respected, though.

Useful phrases to use when you want to show you mean business include, "according to the Sale of Goods Act 1979" and, if it's a service, "according to the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982".

Some shops will allow you to exchange goods without a receipt, but they can refuse to should they wish.

If the goods are faulty, however, another proof of purchase such as a bank statement should work just as well.

If you attempt to return goods within four weeks of the purchase, your chances of getting a full refund are much higher as you can argue that you have not "accepted" them.

After this point, you can only really expect an exchange, repair or part-refund.

The updated Consumer Credit Act states that card companies are jointly and severally liable for credit card purchases of between £100 and £60,260 (whether or not you paid just a deposit or the whole amount on your card).

Anyone spending between these amounts on their credit card is therefore protected if the retailer or service provider goes bust, their online shopping never arrives or the items in question are faulty or not as described.

Start by writing to the agency asking it to either remove or change the entry that you think is wrong. It will investigate the matter and find out whether you have been the victim of ID theft or a bank's mistake.

Within 28 days from receipt of your letter the agency should tell you how the bank has responded. If the bank agrees to change the entry, they will authorise the agency to update their records. They should also send updates to any other credit reference agencies they use.

You can also contact your lender directly to query a mistake. If the lender agrees to the discrepancy, ask them to confirm this in writing on their letterhead and send a copy to the agency, asking them to update your file.

The FOS settles disputes between financial companies such as banks and consumers.

If a financial organisation rejects a complaint you make about its services, you can therefore escalate that complaint to the FOS - as long as you have given the company in question at least eight weeks to respond.

The FOS will then investigate the case, and could force the company to offer you compensation should it see fit.

Bailiffs are allowed to take some of your belongings to sell on to cover certain debts, including unpaid Council Tax and parking fines.

They can, for example, take so-called luxury items such as TVs or games consoles. However, they cannot take essentials such as fridges or clothes.

What's more, they can only generally enter your home to take your stuff if you leave a door or window open or invite them in.

You are therefore within your rights to refuse them access and to ask for related documents such as proof of their identity. If they try to force their way in, you can also call the police to stop them.

Private sector debt collectors do not have the same powers as bailiffs, whatever they tell you.

They cannot, for example, enter your home and take your possessions in lieu of payment.

In fact, they can only write, phone, or visit your home to talk to you about paying back the debt. As with bailiffs, you can also call the police if you feel physically threatened.

Thanks to the Distance Selling Regulations, you actually have more rights buying online or by phone than on the High Street.

You can, for example, send most goods back within a week, for a full refund (including outward delivery costs), even if there's no fault.

You will usually need to pay for the return delivery, though. The seller must then refund you within 30 days.

We enter into contracts all the time, whether it be to join a gym, switch energy supplier or take out a loan.

In most cases, once you've signed a contract, you are legally bound by it. In some situations, however, you have the right to cancel it within a certain timeframe.

Credit agreements, for example, can be cancelled within 14 days. And online retailers must tell you about your cancellation rights for any contract made up to stand up legally.


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