Judicial lunacy seems to be quite common-place in the UK these days thatit is hardly surprising any longer.
A dog lover in England could face jail if deemed to be giving her pedigree pets their “walkies” too slowly following a judge’s verdict on a bitter neighbours dispute.
Farmer Linda Jefferies, 61, rears rare breed sheep in Essex and is also the devoted owner of a Hungarian Komonder and a Bouvier de Flandres, called “Vampire”.
She has for years been embroiled in a “needle match” over a right of way running to one of her fields across the land of her neighbour, smallholder, Pauline Robb, 54.
The animosity between them, which a court heard means they “cannot live with each other”, erupted last year when the women sued one another.
That resulted in Mrs Jefferies being handed an injunction under the Protection from Harrassment Act after a judge found she had been using the path for “snooping” on Mrs Robb and her husband.
The order stipulates that Mrs Jefferies must “move along at a reasonable speed” when using the disputed path – or face a maximum penalty of a £5,000 fine or six months’ imprisonment.
Mrs Jefferies fought that injunction in the Appeal Court, complaining that it effectively bans her from walking her beloved dogs for fear that they might feel the call of nature of otherwise “dawdle” on the path, landing her in jail.
Mrs Jefferies, of West Hanningford, Chelmsford, who says she is “having her dog-walking activities unfairly scrutinised”, initially sued Mrs Robb, accusing her of interfering with a right of way running across her land.
But Judge Patrick Maloney QC last year dismissed Mrs Jefferies’ case and instead upheld Mrs Robb’s plea that her neighbour had been conducting “a campaign of unlawful harassment” through “persistent surveillance”.
After hearing Mrs Robb’s evidence that the older woman had used the path to subject her and her husband to “intensive photography, spying and eavesdropping”, the judge imposed an injunction, banning Mrs Jefferies from filming or taking photographs on her neighbours’ land.
The injunction also stipulated that she must “move along at a reasonable speed” when using the right of way.
However, at the Appeal Court, Kevin Leigh, for Mrs Jefferies, defended her right to walk her animals down the path at any speed she likes.
He told Sir Nicholas Wall, Lady Justice Arden and Lord Justice Sullivan: “She is entitled to use it to walk her dogs or any other pet. Animals by their nature may not always oblige their owners with the efficiency with which they accompany them on their perambulations. As someone devoted to her animals, both her dogs and her animals about the farm, Mrs Jefferies does not want to find herself liable for breaching a court order.
“The order opens Mrs Jefferies to having her dog-walking activities unfairly scrutinised, opening her to possible serious sanctions,” the barrister added.
Demanding deletion of the words “at a reasonable speed” from the injunction, Mr Leigh said such a vague expression was fertile ground for yet further dispute.
Telling the judges that Mrs Robb should be able to put up with her neighbour’s dog walking, slow or otherwise, he added: “Irritations, annoyances, even a measure of upset, arise at times in everybody’s day-to-day dealings with other people. There is clearly some sort of needle match taking place still…the parties still can’t live with each other in terms of going up and down the pathway to this field.”
Lord Justice Sullivan, however, ruled that the injunction must remain in place unchanged.