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?


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.



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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor