'Fantasist' and partner avoid jail for harassing neighbours


A "fantasist" and his partner who have been involved in a long-running dispute with their next-door neighbours over a boundary wall have avoided prison.

Desmond Hughes, 70, and his partner Claire Anderson, 55, were convicted of breaching an order banning them from contacting Nick Hancock, his wife Linda and their daughter Talia, 22.

Hughes received a 12-week prison sentence, suspended for two years, and was ordered to carry out 180 hours' unpaid work.

Anderson was given a 12-month community order and told to do 100 hours' unpaid work.

Both were given three months to pay £1,750 costs and victim surcharge by Judge Daniel Williams at Newport Crown Court.

The couple were sentenced at Newport Crown Court (Rod Minchin/PA)
The couple were sentenced at Newport Crown Court (Rod Minchin/PA)

Passing sentence, he said: "The incidents are not the gravest but they do not take place in isolation. I am sure the Hancocks wish they had.

"It is clear that you, Desmond Hughes, are incapable of telling the truth. You are a fantasist and it is not possible to reason with you.

"The court does not know what sort of fate brought you two together but it is clear you support each other in your delusions and lies.

"I am satisfied that you, Desmond Hughes, are a bully and that has been used to ensure your wide-eyed compliance, Claire Anderson."

The judge also criticised Hughes for providing a series of references, including from the Earl of Lytton and Lord Lucas, which he described as "bilge" and "absolute nonsense".

The 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 in a dispute over a boundary wall and building of an extension.

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."

Hughes was convicted of two charges of acting in breach of a restraining order following a three-day trial last month. 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.

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