Heiress banned from home for harassing neighbours

Robert Verkaik
Saturday 09 November 2002 01:00

An heiress of the Pilkington glass-making family was banned from her home for five years yesterday after being found guilty of waging a harassment campaign against her neighbours.

Lady Julia Pilkington, 37, who was said to have terrorised people living in her cul-de-sac in Southsea, Hampshire, with foul language and midnight phone calls and made their lives a misery by playing loud music, was also sentenced to 180 hours community service.

Sentencing Pilkington at Fareham magistrates' court, District Judge John Woollard said: "On your part there has been a breathtaking and unwarranted arrogance in the way you deal with other people, and the way in which you respond to your neighbours has had a serious and obviously distressing effect upon them."

The judge said she had narrowly escaped a prison sentence and ordered her to stay away from her neighbours and her £250,000 seaside home until 2007.

Last month, Pilkington – a granddaughter of the late Harry Pilkington, who was chairman of the St Helens-based glass company and a former director of the Bank of England – was convicted of four charges of harassment.

The judge told her yesterday that her denial of the allegations – which included outraging a neighbour with public sex acts in her garden spa bath – flew in the face of clear evidence of her guilt.

Pilkington was also ordered to pay £7,000 towards the court costs, which she was told she could pay from the proceeds of the sale of her Southsea home. The court heard that she was trying to sell the house, which is mortgaged for £148,000. She has since bought another apartment in the town out of her savings, and is living on the £2,000 per month paid to her from her family trust fund.

The heiress, who left school as a rebellious 16-year-old rather than try to follow the family tradition of going to Cambridge, told police she was the victim of her neighbours' jealousy.

At an earlier hearing, a woman who lived next door to Pilkington, Sheena Mitchell, told the court that she had had a clear view of Pilkington and an older man cavorting naked and indulging in a variety of sex acts in her outdoor jacuzzi.

When Mrs Mitchell subsequently confronted Pilkington, she said the defendant replied: "Don't you ever have sex, you silly whore?" Pilkington later claimed that she and the man had only been kissing.

Mrs Mitchell denied the two had fallen out because Pilkington had rejected a lesbian advance from her. Their dispute had begun when Mrs Mitchell refused to sign a petition seeking readmission for Pilkington to a marina bar from which she had been barred.

The court was told that Pilkington intimidated the Mitchells by tailgating their car in her yellow Mercedes, referring to Mrs Mitchell as a "fat slag", making phone calls – during which she remained silent – and hiring two men to sit in a van outside the Mitchells' house and stare in. The Mitchells moved house when they overheard Pilkington and a group of women friends discussing petrol bombs. Pilkington was also accused of leaving her television and stereo on at full volume, on one occasion for nine hours, to annoy Barbara Webster, another neighbour.

Pilkington's counsel, Adrian Fleming, said: "Permanent exclusion from one's home is a draconian punishment, although the defendant is said to have brought it upon herself."

James Kellam, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: "The case concerned prolonged, very unpleasant conduct by Mrs Pilkington towards her neighbours. They were regularly insulted and belittled by her, and she regularly caused noise and disturbance which significantly interfered with their entitlement to live their lives in peace."

As she left the court, Pilkington said: "I will be appealing. Everyone knows I will."