Dilemmas: How can I stop this man behaving badly?

When Annabel's apparently nice neighbour invaded her garden, and tore down branches and ivy, they agreed he'd consult her in future. Four years later he's done the same, and cut down a tree. Police will prosecute if she wants; a solicitor says she could claim damages. She doesn't want a row. What should she do next?

VIRGINIA'S ADVICE

Occasionally in the papers you read of two grim-faced old neighbours who are arguing over two inches of boundary. After hundreds of court appearances they are still at loggerheads. One may have done a bit of tree chopping; the other may have thrown cuttings over the wall. Invariably they have, tragically, both spent thousands and thousands of pounds on lawyers.

Does Annabel want to end up like this? No. But what does she want? That is the crucial question. She can never get her tree replaced or the branches returned, however much she asks for in damages. She can restore the ivy, which might cost, what, a hundred pounds? So if she goes the solicitor's route, she may be involved in an expensive law suit all for the sake of a hundred quid. I'd say she'd be mad to go down that avenue.

Does she want revenge and punishment? Of course she does, at the moment. She'd probably like to raze this guy's house to the ground. But that's an emotional reaction. Will getting the police to prosecute him for criminal damage result in her feeling better or worse, in the long-term? Practically, it will probably result in nothing more than a small fine. But once she's set the prosecution in action there's no turning back. And it will certainly put this man's back up.

And what kind of man is this anyway? A Jekyll and Hyde, it sounds. He is a man who is apparently reasonable and friendly, and yet can invade her garden and cut down a tree. What makes him turn? Perhaps he might be a drinker. Perhaps he is having a nervous breakdown. Perhaps for some odd reason he feels that Annabel is persecuting him. Whatever, a man who can cut down a living tree in someone else's garden on the spur of the moment is a frightening man. It is wrong to practice appeasement, but perhaps if she goes the police route, Annabel will find herself worrying that he'll invade her house next, wielding an axe. Or throw Paraquat over her wall. Or kill her cat or dog and leave its carcass on the wall. Or poison her fishpond. She's had four years of peace and quiet. Revenge and punishment will get her nowhere.

I'd suggest this: that she writes to this man asking for an apology and an assurance that he'll never touch her trees or plants without consulting her and never come into her garden again. I would also put that she's sent a copy both to the police and her solicitor. By doing this she's making only the slightest of veiled threats that she will take further action if he doesn't comply. If she gets the apology, fine. If not, I would build my fence a little higher, and leave it, even though it makes me choke just to write it.

Disputes between neighbours can take over your life. These days, if you want to sell a house, you have to declare whether there are any disputes going on. If the trouble hasn't been resolved when you want to sell, the price can go down. I probably sound like Neville Chamberlain, but remember, Annabel's neighbour has not invaded Poland. It's not worth the hassle.

READERS' SUGGESTIONS

I know how he feels

While in no way condoning the action of the neighbour in actually entering his neighbour's garden, I have a fellow feeling and wonder whether sheer frustration caused him to take this action.

I suffer from neighbour's ivy hanging over part of the party fence, also pushing through the slats of the fence. Trees and large bushes near the end at one corner hang over my garden and affect the growth of my plants. We have cut back our side where we can, but the growth goes on.

MARJORIE HINDS

Havant, Hants

Use law for protection

Since plants and branches are defenceless against eco-terrorists they need a helping hand. I would not sit back and allow this neighbour to have it all his own way. I think Annabel needs to make a stand, since it is the neighbour who is trespassing and damaging "her property". What is the proper course of action through which to achieve justice? I feel it is fitting that she resorts to law in order to protect her garden.

NICHOLAS E GOUGH

Swindon, Wiltshire

Stand up to this bully

You need assistance from your friends, your solicitor and the police, who should be encouraged to prosecute if they are willing to do so. If you show forgiveness and understanding to this menace again it will not be long before he trespasses on your property again and his attacks will become more daring. He may have the temerity to interfere with the boundary fence, confident that you will be loath to take any action against him. Never give in to a bully.

CATHERINE NORRIS

Wymondham, Norwich

Go to mediation

On the face of it, Annabel's neighbour is totally unreasonable yet she is right to be wary of taking legal action. Going to law is rarely the answer to neighbour problems. My experience as a community mediator makes me feel it's possible that Annabel's neighbour may, for reasons we don't know, consider her as unreasonable as she considers him. If Annabel could enlist the help of her local Mediation Service, she could get together with him on neutral territory and sort out a solution. Mediation UK (0117- 904-6661) has details of local services.

CHRIS CARLING

Cambridge

Give him what for!

Having a rant is time well spent. Why is it our fault if someone else is a complete half-wit? You can't beat a good row. A shout and scream refreshes the parts that politeness doesn't know exists.

DANIEL SMITH

Lutterworth

Next Week's Dilemma

Dear Virginia,

When we married two years ago, I was frank with my husband about the state of my finances. I told him how much savings I had, etc, but he's always dodged telling me about his, he seems embarrassed. He's loving and generous, but 63 and rather upper-crust, while I'm working class. Is this a class thing, and how can I get him to tell me? I need to know how to manage in the future.

Yours sincerely, June

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
The American stand-up Tig Notaro, who performed topless this week

Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars

Arts and Entertainment

TVNetflix gets cryptic

Arts and Entertainment
Claudia Winkleman is having another week off Strictly to care for her daughter
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Children in Need is the BBC's UK charity. Since 1980 it has raised over £600 million to change the lives of disabled children and young people in the UK

TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his winning novel

Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
    Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

    Look what's mushrooming now!

    Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
    Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

    Oeuf quake

    Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
    Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

    Terry Venables column

    Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
    Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin