Couple take a stand in battle of the boundary: Village cricketers stumped by neighbour. Charles Oulton reports

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The Independent Online
AMONG the many blokeish contributions to the Jordans Cricket Club brochure for 1991-1992 is a list of 10 reasons for belonging to the club.

As well as the obvious (the desire to drink large amounts of alcohol, escaping from the family at weekends) is the following: 'An excuse to legally brutalise other human beings'.

The author meant fellow cricketers, of course, but a couple who live in the Buckinghamshire village have taken it literally.

Those alleged to be committing acts of brutality are the 22 cricketers who play on the village green each summer. The 'brutalised' are David and Rosa-Marie Lacey, who bought a house looking on to the green five years ago, and who have spent each summer since, so they say, under a hail of cricket balls, narrowly escaping injury on a number of occasions.

Yesterday, the dispute reached the solemn surroundings of a county court in Slough. There, a judge is being asked to decide whether the Laceys have the right to lead a peaceful life in their home and garden, undisturbed by hard balls descending on their property, or whether they only have themselves to blame for buying a house next to a cricket green where their tranquility was bound to be interrupted.

The outcome will be eagerly awaited by other passive cricketers who live beside boundaries throughout Britain.

Mr Lacey, 46, a design engineer, quantified the danger from the witness box, claiming that more than 60 balls had landed in his garden since he bought the property. On three occasions, he said, he had almost been knocked out by balls hit from the square 55 yards from his house. 'My principal fear is having to live in anticipation that an injury might occur,' he said.

'My common-sense view is that responsible people would not do such a thing. I would not play a game knowing that it would endanger other people's safety.'

The court heard that Mr Lacey eventually refused to let cricketers retrieve balls from his garden. In June last year, he turned away one player who came to his drive, only to be met 25 minutes later by a deputation of eight players asking for the return of the ball. Mr Lacey sent them away. He told the court that the club had tried to intimidate him.

The case has come to court because the club and Mr Lacey cannot agree a solution. Mr Lacey wants the cricketers to erect a 25ft-high fence to protect his home, while the club insists a 6ft fence would be sufficient. The club also points to the impracticality of erecting the fence before every game.

Simon Williams QC, representing Mr Lacey, said yesterday: 'Perhaps the players should not spend quite as much time in the pub before the game. It is not a great deal of effort to put nets up before they start.'

(Photographs omitted)