Published: Fri 1 February, 2019
A 79-year-old pensioner has been jailed for 28 days after failing to heed countless warnings about her campaign of hate against a neighbour.
After ignoring a ‘last chance’ offering from the county court in 2018, Kathleen Neal, of Park Lane, Castle Donington, was summoned back to Nottingham County Court on Monday 28 January accused of nine new breaches of an injunction against her, all committed against her next door neighbour.
Neal has been taken to court by North West Leicestershire District Council (NWLDC), supported by Leicestershire Police, for breaching the injunction on three occasions since 2016 for persistently harassing neighbour Susan Brookes, often spraying weed killer, and pouring urine through a fence onto the plants next door.
Recent CCTV footage also showed Neal, having removed a fence panel, pushing over plant pots and attempting to block the CCTV camera.
An initial injunction placed on Neal in 2016 failed to persuade her to change her behaviour. This was followed by financial penalties, including a £3,500 fine issued in August 2017, along with the threat of jail for any future offences. In February 2018, a final warning in court saw an eight-month suspended sentence handed down, with Neal promising she had now ‘learned her lesson’.
The Judge took a dim view of her latest offences, following through with the threat of jail. Neal, who did not attend court, was sentenced to 28 days in prison in her absence. A warrant was issued and Neal handed herself into court on Friday 1 February.
His Honour Judge Godsmark QC found that seven out of the nine breaches presented by NWLDC had been proven beyond all reasonable doubt.
Neal was sentenced to 28 days in prison for the most serious breach of spraying weed killer over the fence. She was also given 14 days for the other breaches – to run concurrently with the 28 days.
The Judge gave a lengthy judgment, stating that he ‘was left with the overwhelming impression that Mrs Neal is not taking the injunction seriously’ and that, while the last thing that the court wanted to do was send an elderly woman to prison, there was little else left to do.
The judge also warned that the court would have little choice but to impose the full suspended eight-month prison sentence should further breaches occur. Neal was ordered to pay the council’s legal costs of £4,323.
Neal has made national headlines in the past when a court heard how she tormented her neighbours by harassing them, trespassing on their property, and deliberately lighting smoky bonfires in her garden, as well as her trademark weedkiller-spraying tactics.
The catalogue of anti-social behaviour included a campaign of silent phone calls made from an unregistered ‘pay as you go’ mobile phone that had been ongoing for a number of years.
The punishments have been steadily increasing in severity as her court appearances mount.
Susan Brookes, the victim of Neal’s crimes, said: “Since Mrs Neal received her eight-month suspended sentence she has again relentlessly targeted our garden with weed killer, causing criminal damage and using provocative behaviour throughout 2018. No one wants to see an elderly lady go to prison but Mrs Neal has shown no remorse for her actions and only complete disregard and contempt for the court ruling.
“My husband and I therefore now hope that the shock and shame of serving a short sentence in prison will finally change her ways.
“We must thank NWLDC for their support throughout along with the local police beat team who, under Inspector Richard Jackson, helped to bring Mrs Neal to justice, and of course our own family who have been a massive support throughout.”
Councillor Trevor Pendleton, Chair of Safer North West Leicestershire Partnership said: “Neal has embarked on a campaign of intimidation and criminal damage against her neighbours and clearly did not listen to previous punishments and warnings made in court.
“We are committed to supporting the victim of this behaviour and this meant taking Neal back to court for her latest offences. Jail is a last resort but in this case nothing else has worked, including the countless warnings and fines.
“We hope that this short prison sentence will make Neal realise the seriousness of her crimes and bring an end to this matter. We’re pleased with the court’s decision and thank the police for their hard work alongside NWLDC’s community safety and legal teams for bringing about this successful prosecution.”
Inspector Richard Jackson from North West Leicestershire neighbourhood policing area said: “No-one should live in fear of their neighbour and unfortunately Neal has repeatedly refused to put a stop to her campaign of harassment and abide by the injunction.
“This left no other option but to go back to court as part of the legal process and as a very last resort. It is our hope that this sentence will finally put a stop to the behaviour which has blighted one family’s lives for some considerable time.”