Shepherd 'used flock to intimidate neighbours'

A "maverick" shepherd who deployed his wayward sheep to intimidate his neighbours received a suspended prison sentence today for breaching an Asbo which banned the flock from the village.

Jeremy Awdry, 60, was deprived of his ancient right to graze sheep in Bream, in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, after they were reported straying into gardens and damaging fences.

The 500-strong flock was "used as a means of intimidating or causing difficulty for people he had reason to fall out with", prosecutor Brendon Moorhouse told Gloucester Crown Court.

Awdry, who lives just outside the zone subjected to the order, previously pleaded guilty to five counts of breaching the five-year Asbo between January and July 2008.

Judge William Hart sentenced Awdry to 16 weeks in prison, suspended for 18 months, and imposed a curfew order between the hours of 10pm and 4.30am for the next two months.

Awdry is a "sheep badger" - someone who has the right by birth to graze sheep anywhere in the Forest.

For 500 years Forest of Dean-born commoners have been able to let their livestock graze freely, but in recent times the district and parish councils have received complaints relating to sheep mess, property damaged and the animals becoming a highway hazard.

Before he pleaded guilty Awdry was due to stand trial on 21 counts of breaching the order, made after more than 40 complaints were submitted to Gloucestershire police.

Explaining the different scenarios which led to Awdry receiving the Asbo, Mr Moorhouse told the court he had been in dispute with several villagers for nearly a decade.

He said: "There were situations where sheep were driven and put in places where they would cause trouble for people. Sheep were found lying outside houses dead with their name written in red on them. These sort of matters led to the Asbo being made."

Two of the breaches Awdry admitted related to an interim order imposed in January 2008, and the subsequent three breaches related to the formal order made in March.

Mr Moorhouse said all the breaches involved roaming sheep being spotted outside residents' properties, grazing and bleating.

The order prohibited Awdry from threatening, or engaging in any conduct likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to residents of Bream and Forest of Dean District Council staff.

It also banned him from intimidating or communicating with certain named individuals and prevented him from allowing sheep under his ownership or control to enter a 'designated settlement area'.

Defending, Giles Nelson said Awdry, a milkman by trade, plans to retire at the end of the month.

He said: "There are a number of people in the community who have a lot of admiration for him. He is a forceful character, a strong character, he speaks his mind and some people have difficulty with that. But many people respect him.

"There's no suggestion he has been in any way threatening or violent in the course of the allegations we are concerned with today.

"The concept of a sheep being used as a means to intimidate people in one view is laughable. In the five incidents we are concerned with there's no evidence that people were intimidated by the sheep."

Mr Nelson said his client had "suffered a great deal" in his own mind.

"He has found the comings and going to court stressful. He is not in the best health."

Sentencing Awdry, Judge Hart quoted a reference from Awdry's friend, Judith Kershaw.

"It may well be that Judith Kershaw's reference to you as a maverick, but with another side to the whole story, hits the nail on the head," he said.

He went on: "For many years a significant number of residents in your community claim your conduct has made their lives a misery, and it may well be their complaints are justified.

"A rural community needs people to be considerate to each other to make it work, it needs a degree of give and take. In your community that has been lacking."

Judge Hart said rural communities had changed in the last 50 years and were now comprised of "many people from many backgrounds with many views".

"The fact of the matter is unless you learn a lesson from these proceedings, there will be more and more trouble and you're going to have to mend your ways," he said.

Other "ancient rights" in the Forest of Dean include the right of small farmers to graze their pigs on local acorns in the autumn months.

Anyone born within the Hundred of St Briavels, an historic administrative area of the Forest, and who has worked in a mine for a year and a day, may open up a personal plot and call himself a Freeminer.

News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Babysitter Katie and Paul have terse words in the park
tvReview: The strength of the writing keeps viewers glued to their seats even when they are confronted with the hard-hitting scenes
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Sport
England’s opening goalscorer Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain battles with Scotland’s Charlie Mulgrew
FootballEngland must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Life and Style
Make-up artists prepare contestants for last year’s Miss World, held in Budapest
fashion
Sport
Wigan Athletic’s back-of-the shirt sponsor Premier Range has pulled out due to Malky Mackay’s arrival
Football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines