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
Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • 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.

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders