Keep hitting sixes, judge tells village cricket team: Charles Oulton reports on a neighbour's failed attempt to stop the flow of boundaries into his grounds

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN'S village cricketers breathed a sigh of relief yesterday when a judge ruled that the occasional threat to neighbours from balls hit for six was not sufficient reason for stopping play.

In a case at Slough County Court, Judge Nigel Hague decided in favour of the cricketers of Jordans, an idyllic village in Buckinghamshire. They had been sued by David Lacey, a design engineer living in a house beyond backward square leg from the pitch on the village green.

The judge said the subject touched the lives and stirred the emotions of many people. The cricketers, he said, were responsible and acting with good sense while Mr Lacey, who claimed 60 balls landed in his garden in five years, was prone to exaggeration.

He rejected the case for an injunction put forward by Mr Lacey and his wife Rosa-Marie, who wanted the cricketers to erect two 25ft nets in front of their home, or to stop playing cricket on the green. Instead, the cricketers, who temporarily moved play to a college ground, will soon be back on the green where they have been playing cricket since the 1930s.

Awarding costs to the cricket club - the club's alone are between pounds 8,000 and pounds 10,000 - the judge said an injunction would be 'highly damaging, not only to members of the cricket club, but to the interests of the village as a whole'.

The judge said the fact that cricket balls sometimes fly into the grounds of nearby houses did not mean that the playing of cricket was an actionable nuisance, and the risk of serious injury or damage was minimal.

Advising other villagers to take note of his findings when considering a similar action, the judge gave Mr Lacey leave to appeal, adding that he should not take it as an encouragement to do so.

After the case, Mr Lacey said he would consider an appeal. He said he would not be leaving the village 'because we won't be able to afford to after this'.

Shaking hands with some of the cricketers as he left court, Mr Lacey said: 'We bear no grudge against the cricketers. We were just concerned for our safety. I am a motorcyclist and have plenty of crash helmets at home so perhaps my wife and I will have to wear those helmets in future.'

The cricketers were delighted with the decision, but said the case should never have reached the courts. 'The cricket will now return to its rightful place,' the club chairman, Steve Parker, said. 'It's like an LBW decision being turned down. You just get back to the business in hand.'

Mr Lacey, had told the court he and his wife lived in fear of being hit, even when they were inside the house. The judge suggested that the couple should use their back garden or go away for the afternoon when cricket was played.

He said the Laceys had known cricket was played on the green when they bought their house, and said the club should not be asked to erect nets.

(Photograph omitted)