Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Neighbour cautioned for pruning next door's honeysuckle and not returning the clippings

It is a fast-growing plant better known for leading to the odd neighbourly quarrel than to a criminal record. But Stephen West was astonished to find himself on the wrong side of the law after he pruned a honeysuckle overhanging from next door and threw away the cuttings. The 54-year-old electrician received a police caution - and a criminal record - after a Police Community Support Officer came to question him about the ‘theft’ when his neighbour complained.

He was told it was perfectly legal to snip the parts of plant on his side of the boundary wall behind his flat in Bridlington, East Yorkshire, but that he had broken the law by disposing of them in his bin instead of returning them to the owner. The PCSO then told him he faced prosecution unless he accepted a caution. Mr West - who was also told he would have to give fingerprints - reluctantly signed the documentation and now has a criminal record for the first time in his life.

He said he trimmed the plant in August and received an initial visit from the PCSO a month later. He said: ‘When it grows over the wall I trim it back. I didn’t know I was doing anything wrong and told the officer that.’ The officer returned on October 9 to tell him he would receive a caution ‘in lieu of prosecution’. Under civil law, Mr West should have returned the cuttings or asked permission to dispose of them.

He said he agreed to the caution ‘because I’ve got better things to do with my time than take on the law’. Mr West, a bachelor who has lived above a hairdresser’s salon for 25 years, said: ‘The caution is for not returning the pruned branches to the lawful owner. I want people to realise the absurdity of the law, the waste of police time and the stupidity of my neighbour.’

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