Neighbours’ dispute leads to £32,080 award of damages

Claims in false imprisonment, slander and harassment succeed

The High Court has awarded £32,080 to a man who had been subjected to a campaign of harassment by his neighbour, which included the making of slanderous comments and a false report of a sex crime to the police.

The claimant and the defendant were neighbours who were on bad terms, disagreeing as to the usage of a piece of common land near their properties. In January 2013, the defendant, Mrs Sharon Hamilton, reported to the police that she had seen the claimant, Mr Anton Barkhuysen, taking part in a criminal sex act.  As a result he was arrested and detained at a police station.  In the months that followed, she also made other defamatory allegations against him to two other individuals.

The claimant brought a claim in respect of these allegations, and also in respect of other incidents during which, he said, the defendant had approached and abused him verbally.

The defendant denied that her police report was false.  She also denied that she had made defamatory statements about the claimant to other people, and that she had abused the claimant to his face.

Following a trial at the Exeter District Registry, Mr Justice Warby found that the defendant’s report to the police had been a “false, entirely unfounded, and malicious accusation”, and that it had caused the claimant’s arrest and detention.  Following the damages guidance in Thompson v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis [1998] QB 498, he awarded the claimant £11, 000 in respect of false imprisonment.  He dismissed an alternative claim for malicious prosecution on the basis that there had been no judicial involvement in the claimant’s detention.

The Court also found the claims in slander and harassment to be made out, and awarded the claimant £7,000 and £6,000 respectively in respect of slanders uttered to two different individuals; a further sum of £8,000 in respect of the campaign of harassment; and £80 in special damages.

The costs of the claim are to be decided at a later date.

5RB’s Alex Marzec acted for the claimant.

A full 5RB case report will follow shortly.