A NEIGHBOURHOOD Watch treasurer has been given a restraining order after a bitter dispute with his next door neighbours.
Paul Phillips, of Nightjar Close in Poole, denied harassing neighbour Karen Copleston after claiming that Mrs Copleston and her husband had built a gate on land owned by the defendant and his wife.
The 67-year-old, a former Poole council employee, was captured on a motion-sensor wildlife camera owned by the Coplestons waving and smiling, fiddling with a lock on the gate. He was also captured placing a plastic bag on his fence - believed to be in a bid to trigger the camera more often and so wear the camera battery out - then smiling at the camera and waving at the plastic bag.
However, he said he had not at any time harassed Mrs Copleston.
And on Friday, the case against Mr Phillips - brought by the police - was dismissed, although a three-year restraining order was imposed on the 67-year-old nonetheless - a legal decision taken under the Protection from Harassment Act.
On the day of a planned trial at Bournemouth Magistrates' Court, prosecutor Timothy Sullivan said proceedings arose out of a "long-running acrimonious dispute between neighbours".
"Relations broke down, the prosecution says, as a result of the defendant's anti-social behaviour," Mr Sullivan said.
"The victim said she felt like a prisoner in her own home."
He added: "The positioning of a wheelie bin and CCTV cameras installed [were a factor]."
The court heard that the row began over an easement between the two properties, over which Mr Phillips claims the Coplestons "have no rights whatsoever".
Despite this, it is claimed, the Coplestons installed a gate and a camera at the "mouth of the easement", which the defendant said was an "invasion" of his rights.
Speaking after the case, Mr Phillips said: "Myself and my wife are now in the process of selling our home because of this dispute.
"It has been horrific for us. I'm delighted at this result - I couldn't stand another day worrying, 'What's going to happen next?'."
But the Coplestons said their lives had been made miserable by Mr Phillips.
The couple said the gate at the centre of the dispute had existed at its first location since they bought the property in 1987.
After taking advice from police, they said they had taken it upon themselves to move the gate back to a location just outside their own back garden, where it provides access only onto their property.
But despite this action, Mr Phillips continued to complain, standing outside the gate early in the morning and late at night, they said.
The couple also claim that he installed CCTV cameras on his property on which he would watch them on a monitor in his bedroom.
Speaking at their home on Friday, Mrs Copleston said: "All I want to know is why?
"Why did he start this? Why did this happen to us? I don't understand why and that's what's very hard for me."
Mr Copleston said: "It started off with something petty and it just got bigger and bigger.
"Luckily, our little wildlife camera picked up enough that we could take this to court. I don't use computers much myself, so it was always Karen by herself when she saw the footage of him at the gate. It's been frightening and very stressful for her and it's had a real effect on her health."