Couple could face prison after breaching restraining order

A couple involved in a historic dispute with their next-door neighbours could be jailed after being convicted of breaching a restraining order.

Desmond Hughes, 70, and Claire Anderson, 54, defied the order banning them from contacting Nick Hancock, his wife Linda and their daughter Talia, 22.

Newport Crown Court heard the incidents took place last year in Began Road, Old St Mellons, Cardiff, where they live.

Hughes and Anderson were subjects of an indefinite restraining order imposed by Cardiff Magistrates' Court in July 2013 after being convicted of harassing the Hancock family.

The terms of the order banned the defendants from contacting Mr and Mrs Hancock and their daughter directly or indirectly.

They were also prohibited from conducting video surveillance of the Hancocks' home or taking photographs of the family or their house.

Mr and Mrs Hancock, who moved into their home in 2011, have spoken of their frustration at living next door to the defendants, saying they had been subjects of complaints to the local council about fly tipping, their trampoline and a garden shed.

Mrs Hancock described living next door to the defendants as "frightening" and told the court: "I have gone through this for five years. We just want to be left alone to live our lives."

Her husband added: "We do try to avoid coming to court. We don't want to be here. I am at my wits' end with the situation. They have taken no notice of that restraining order since the day we had it."

Following a three-day trial, the jury took just two hours to convict Hughes of two charges of acting in breach of a restraining order. He was acquitted of two further charges.

Anderson was found guilty of a single charge of acting in breach of a restraining order.

During the trial, the court heard that Hughes and Anderson shouted at Mr Hancock from their rear garden as he mowed his lawn.

An "aggressive and angry" Hughes told him: "You can move that f****** trampoline", while his partner added: "You can move that stupid shed as well."

Anderson then rudely stuck her middle finger up at her neighbour, which Mr Hancock photographed with his mobile phone.

The pair denied shouting at Mr Hancock and insisted what he had seen was a dirty and wet purple-coloured gardening glove on top of a stake, which Anderson had hung out to dry in the hot weather.

After Mr and Mrs Hancock made a complaint to the police, officers seized Hughes's camera which contained three pictures of his neighbours' home.

Hughes denied making the photographs, saying they had been taken by his elderly widowed neighbour and his Slovakian gardener at the behest of a chartered building control surveyor.

Hughes has been previously convicted in 2014 of three charges of breaching the restraining order.

Judge Daniel Williams adjourned sentencing and said he "absolutely disagreed" with the assertion by Hughes's barrister, Paul Hewitt, that the case did not cross the custody threshold.

"It seems the male defendant has a full-time job being as irritating and troublesome as possible to his neighbours," he said.

"I am adjourning sentence for the preparation of a pre-sentence report. All sentencing options remain open and the fact I am adjourning sentence is no indication of the sentence you will receive."

The hearing was adjourned until March 2 and Hughes and Anderson were released on bail.

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