A couple who have lived in a £600,000 beachside home for 26 years have been banned from LOOKING into their new neighbour’s property after falling out over building work.
Marketing expert Nigel Jacklin, 55, and wife Sheila were shocked to be issued with a ‘community protection warning’ after being accused of harassing their neighbours.
The couple have been warned by police they face prosecution if they are “perceived by any person to be looking into any neighbour’s property”.
They have also been banned from walking directly to the beach past their neighbour’s home because it now forms part of an ‘exclusion zone’ imposed on them.
The Jacklins live in a five-bedroom, detached home just yards from a beach in the quiet seaside hamlet of Norman’s Bay, near Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex.
Five years ago clinical psychologist Dr Stephane Duckett and partner Norinne Betjemann bought a 120-year-old, disused glass glazing workshop opposite their house.
The couple, from London, then set about converting it into a £400,000 weekend holiday home.
Mr and Mrs Jacklin made a series of complaints about their new neighbours to the authorities, including allegations about noisy builders, verbal abuse and light pollution.
However the Jacklins were then “investigated” by the Rother District Council and given a ‘community protection warning letter’.
They have also been banned from entering an “exclusion zone” around the property owned by Dr Duckett and Ms Betjemann.
Father-of-two Nigel has branded the punitive action “ridiculous” and says they will fight the decision all the way.
Mr Jacklin said: “The police failed to investigate our side of the story.
“They treated us like criminals even though we had reported problems with Dr Duckett and Ms Betjemann for five years.
“We live by the beach because we like to go to the sea; this action prevents us from enjoying the beautiful location we live in.”
He added: “The notice is preventing us from doing something that we’ve done for 26 years and caused no harm.
“If we walk through the village we have to keep our heads hung low. We can’t walk to and from the beach or through the village without fear of being prosecuted.”
The parents would often walk past their neighbours’ property to access the beach.
Over the years, the pair say they have spent countless hours playing in the sand with their kids, walking their two dashchunds or just enjoying the view.
Nigel said: “We would just go and look at the stars.”
They would sit on a log – allegedly put there by the Environment Agency – near to the beach-side house.
However, Nigel claims their new neighbours objected to their presence after buying the property.
He said: “We used to sit on a log on the beach at the back of their property. They would see us, come out of their kitchen and film us.
“Sometimes they would wave at us to get our attention.”
Nigel added: “They’ve never spoken to us about the issue of where we go or approached us saying they don’t like what we do.”
After years of the dispute, Mr and Mrs Jacklin were invited by Sussex Police to attend a formal interview in December 2017.
Designer Sheila said: “I was asked, ‘Why do you loiter on the beach?’. I couldn’t believe it. I told them not to use that word.”
Nigel said: “We’re partly fighting for our right to do nothing. When you go to the beach, you often do nothing.”
He claimed the neighbours had never spoken to them in a “civilised way”.
The pair finally received the warning letter, signed by Inspector Russell from Sussex Police, on January 25, 2018.
The letter read: “Rother District Council has investigated complaints received and is satisfied that your conduct in Normans Bay, East Sussex, is having a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality and that this conduct is unreasonable.
“Your conduct is having the effect of harassing neighbours within the Normans Bay area.”
It warned them that if they continued, the council would issue them with a Community Protection Notice (CPN), an offence under section 48 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.
Introduced in 2015, CPNs were designed to tackle anti-social behaviour affecting a community’s quality of life.
It was one of several powers that replaced Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs).
Designed to be easier to impose, CPN warning letters can be issued without providing evidence of the alleged behaviour, and without going to a magistrate.
Breaching a CPN can lead to a fine, and repeated failures to comply can lead to prison.
The Jacklins’ letter included a list of things they had to “immediately stop” doing, including using “foul language” in public, contacting Mr Duckett and Ms Betjemann by any means, or entering a specified “zone” around their house.
It also said they must not “be perceived by any person to be looking into any neighbour’s property from outside their property e.g. from the beach, roadside”.
Shortly after receiving the letter, Nigel said a fence opposite their home giving access to beach was closed off and the log was moved.
He said: “Now we take chairs. These people have no right to stop us doing what we’ve been doing.”
After allegedly exhausting the complaints procedure, Mr Jacklin’s solicitors informed Sussex Police earlier this month that they would challenge the warning letter via a judicial review.
Nigel said: “We feel exhausted. The police have spent weeks on this; it’s a complete waste of resources.
“They’re attempting to restrict our behaviour all the time.”
Josie Appleton is the director of Manifesto Club, which campaigns against the use of CPNs.
She said: “I’ve seen a lot of ridiculous CPNs, but this ban on ‘being perceived to be looking’ at your neighbours is perhaps the most Orwellian.
“When the police can criminalise looking, we know we have a big problem.”
Figures obtained by the group under Freedom of Information laws show there were 1220 prosecutions for breaching a CPN in the year up to October 2017, a 42 per cent rise on the previous 12 months.
Josie added: “The trouble is that CPNs allow officials to impose legal restrictions without having to show any evidence, and without you having a right to a defence.
“When important legal checks are removed, reasonableness goes out the window – as it has in this case.”
A Rother District Council spokesman said: “Community Protection Notices (CPNs) are aimed at preventing unreasonable behaviour that is having a negative impact on residents’ quality of life.
“Before a notice can be issued a warning letter is sent to the individual in question advising them that their unreasonable behaviour must cease otherwise a CPN will be issued.
“In this case, Sussex Police issued a warning letter on behalf of the council in an attempt to resolve a long-standing neighbourhood dispute.
“A CPN would only be served if there was further evidence of anti-social behaviour.”
Mr Duckett and Ms Betjemann declined to comment.
Sussex Police also said they were unable to comment on the case.
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