What happens when neighbour disputes are allowed to get out of hand?
The Court of Appeal in London recently considered sanctions for contempt of court in a case of misplaced wheelie bins.
In September 2021, the claimant got an injunction from the County Court in Portsmouth against her next-door neighbours, the defendant, which required the removal of “the obstructing plants, wheelie bins, rubbish and foliage” on her right of way over their shared driveway.
The defendant didn’t comply, prompting the claimant to make an application for committal to prison. The claimant’s solicitor exhibited correspondence from the defendant which he claimed was intended to intimidate and threaten.
The judge said of the defendant’s correspondences that:
They are very long, repetitive and misguided.
The concluding paragraph provided a flavour:
Now you swell up like road kill on the side of the road. Get mad. I don’t give a FLYING G@$$. My sole and complete focus is to EXPOSE YOU and YOUR BUSINESS ASSOCIATES for the VERMIN YOU ARE.
The defendant did not attend the hearing nor provide formal medical evidence to the court. On hearing the evidence, the judge was satisfied to the criminal standard that the defendant was in contempt of court.
Sentencing was, however, adjourned to allow the defendant to make representations. The defendant failed to attend the adjourned hearing whilst continuing to send correspondence in a similar vein to the claimant’s solicitor.
A sentence of six months custody was imposed. The Defendant appealed to the Court of Appeal.
The conduct of the appellant in relation to the proceedings was appalling, and her continuous stream of abusive communications had the effect of gravely inflaming the situation. However, I have come to the conclusion that his approach to the sanction hearing was flawed and that his order cannot stand.per Edis LJ at 
A sentence of three months was imposed, suspended for a period of twelve months on the condition that the defendant complies with the original order of the County Court.
On the various correspondences from the defendant, the Court of Appeal directed that those referring the judiciary should be referred to the Government Legal Department to direct whether a further injunction should be sought.
The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.Mark 12:31