Excuse me – coughing row lands neighbours in court

Anyone who has suffered from a chronic cough knows just how troublesome it can be.

But for one couple in an upmarket Yorkshire Dales village, their neighbour’s ailment proved too much to bear.

And the saga took on a more serious tone after the pensioner’s non-stop coughing landed him in the dock, as the neighbours’ feud ended up before magistrates.

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Martin Chadwick was accused by guest house owner Steven Hall of constant harassment over three months last year when he was alleged to have coughed loudly behind a fence whenever Mr Hall or his wife Sally left their house.

Mr Chadwick, 68, who had been issued with a harassment warning by police to stop bothering the couple, was also said to peer over the garden wall, laugh manically at his neighbours and pull faces at them from his front window.

He was said to have frightened the Halls’ dog by clapping, to have thrown apples into their shared drive and to have made bowing gestures towards them, the court heard.

Mr Hall told the court he struggled to sleep and had nightmares as a result of Mr Chadwick’s behaviour, while Mrs Hall said she felt uncomfortable going out in the garden.

On the advice of a police officer the couple logged their neighbour’s behaviour, fitted closed circuit TV cameras at their award-winning bed and breakfast and installed a microphone in Chadwick’s wall to gather evidence.

But their efforts were in vain after magistrates in Skipton cleared Mr Chadwick of the harassment charge.

They found his behaviour juvenile at times but not unreasonable and said there had been a history of events between the neighbours, resulting in the complete breakdown of their relationship.

They added that medical evidence had confirmed that Mr Chadwick suffered from a chronic cough for which he had been treated for some time.

During the two-day trial last week, the court heard that the Halls shared a driveway in the village of Carleton with Mr Chadwick and a third neighbour, Robert Kayley.

Chadwick and Mr Kayley had lived in their bungalows for more than 20 years while the Halls had moved into Ivy Cottage Farm, six years ago and opened up Poppy Cottage Guest House next door.

All three neighbours had at first got on but had then fallen out over their shared access.

In 2008 Mr Hall had put up a fence on the driveway but it had been removed after an ambulance had struggled to reach Mr Kayley’s wife, who had suffered a bad fall.

He had also changed the opening of a shared farm gate to make it easier for guests’ car parking.

The court was shown video footage of Mr Chadwick coming out of his house at the same time as the Halls went into their garden to feed their chickens or to carry out tasks, such as mowing the lawn or putting out washing. He was heard coughing, bobbing up and down on the other side of the boundary wall between the two gardens and apparently laughing.

Mr Hall, 49, told the court: “In summer 2010 Mr Chadwick’s behaviour towards us changed and became very unusual. He would stand in his window in full view of us and bow. He would clap and pretend he was filming us. He would also stand in the window and hold up pieces of paper.

“He would come out every morning at around 7am to 9am the same time I left the house to feed our chickens. He would come out and cough, like he was letting us know he was there. He would cough manically every time I went outside. He would stand in the back garden behind bushes watching us when we were doing things in our garden.”

But the court was told that Mr Chadwick was innocently pottering in his garden and routinely got up early to fetch his newspaper, go into his garage or fill up the birds’ water.

Defending Mr Chadwick, John Mewies claimed it had been a malicious prosecution against his client and asked why he would deliberately cough when it hurt him to do so

“If the Halls wanted to live in splendid isolation, they could have lived somewhere else,” he added.

Verdict may not settle clash

It MAY be that yesterday’s court case has not drawn a line under the saga.

The prosecution had requested a restraining order against Martin Chadwick but magistrates refused to grant one and gave Mr Chadwick leave to have his legal costs paid for out of central funds.

Steven Hall and his wife Sally have said they are contemplating further legal action.

Speaking after the court case the couple also said they felt badly let down by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and were launching an official complaint.

They said they put their faith in the system and “had been betrayed.”

“We would urge anyone involved in anything similar not to rely on the CPS and to take independent advice as well,” they said.