Holly Tree neighbour dispute
Steve Wengraf, litigation partner at Rutherfords LLP represented the interests of a retired GP who lives in Solihull. Our client was accused by his next-door neighbour of cutting down and destroying a holly tree which, allegedly, belonged to a neighbour. Disputes between neighbours are not unusual and we advise on this issue frequently. However, this case was unusual because the neighbour issued criminal proceedings against our client in the Magistrates Court alleging ‘criminal damage’ and ‘theft’ of the tree. A conviction would have meant a criminal record for our client who is of good character.
Our client defended the proceedings rigorously with the assistance of expert surveying evidence and expert arboricultural evidence to assist his position. It was our client’s case that the tree did not belong to the neighbour and that the tree had not been destroyed. The matter was resolved successfully at a 1-day Trial on the 24th November when the claim was dismissed in its entirety with an order that our client apply to recover his legal and expert costs of defending the claim from central funds.
As a firm our litigation department are familiar with issues concerning boundaries which can cause significant concern to owners, particularly in a residential setting. However, these issues are normally resolved by way of Party Wall Act Orders, mediated settlements (ADR) or, at worst, civil court proceedings. The use of the criminal courts is unusual.
The case was reported in the national papers in the circumstances that it was so unusual