Convicted after cutting down clematis

Secateurs

Spring will soon be upon us and the green fingered amongst us will be looking forward to getting into the garden to carry out some long awaited maintenance in preparation for the year ahead.

Before doing so, I would implore gardeners to heed the warning that can be taken from a recent case of horticultural sabotage that took place last year. The case involved two neighbours aged 81 and 86 who were found guilty of criminal damage after cutting down their neighbour’s cherished clematis bush.

Although it is rare that such disputes are dealt with in the criminal Court, gardeners should be aware of the potential implications of their actions with regards any plants or structures that originate from their neighbour’s property.

Property owners have a common law right to cut back anything, such as tree branches, that overhang the boundary and into their garden. You must not however, trim any more than is required to remove the branches that encroach. Furthermore, and in a peculiar quirk of the law, the branches that are trimmed are still deemed to be the property of your neighbour and their permission should be sought before you dispose of the offcuts. Equally, you should seek their permission before throwing them onto your neighbour’s property.

In the case of the secateur-wielding pensioners above, the Court deemed that, beyond reasonable doubt, they intended to destroy the clematis bush. As a result they were found guilty of committing criminal damage and ordered to pay damages to the owner.

Before getting into hot water like those in this extreme example, I would always recommend that you talk to your neighbours about any work you wish to carry out to plants belonging to them. If your neighbours are obstructive to your reasonable requests, there may be legal remedies worth exploring.

Our Dispute Resolution team is here to help you with any questions you may have.

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