Q: New neighbours moved in next door before the covid pandemic began. During lockdown they built a monstrous ‘pavilion’ in their garden and turned an open lean-to into a two-storey garage without planning permission. I reported them to the council because they were a law unto themselves, and their constructions were out of keeping with the neighbourhood. Since then, they have continuously harassed me. I had screws left across my drive entrance that punctured my tyres, they lied about me to neighbours, stalked me, and made abusive threats. The police say it is a civil matter because I have not been physically assaulted and have no witnesses. What can I do?
A: Harassment can be both a criminal offence and a civil action and you have quoted several examples of what is recognised as harassment. It sounds as if your neighbours are determined to make your life a misery.
If you have experienced at least two incidents by the same person or group of persons, then under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, they could be prosecuted in the criminal courts. You would however need evidence to prove what you are saying they have done.
As a victim of harassment, you can take action in the civil courts against them. A criminal conviction would help any civil court case. The civil court can make an order or injunction that the person(s) harassing you must end specified behaviour towards you. If they do not stop after an injunction against them, then that is contempt of court and they could be arrested. If you have suffered financial or emotional loss from the harassment, for example, replacing your tyre, or feeling anxious or distressed, you can ask the court for some compensation.
Any escalation will not improve relationships so you may wish to consider a mediated resolution. Also, disputes with neighbours need to be disclosed on a sale of property. So before taking court action you should seek legal advice.
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