MOVING into a detached house in a leafy Hampshire village they thought they had finally found their dream home.
Ben Westen and his partner Nicola hoped it would be a place where their three young children would grow up, while it would also be home to his seriously ill and elderly mother.
But within days of moving in, the family were on the receiving end of a six-month campaign of abuse by their neighbours who they say made their lives “a living hell”.
Southampton Magistrates’ Court heard on Monday how the Westen family and the Moss family live in detached homes in Botley Road, Horton Heath, but share a driveway and have no hedges separating their front gardens.
Mr Westen told how a dispute over how much of the driveway belongs to them had, over time, turned to harassment from the Moss family.
‘Reign of terror’
He told how their reign of terror included:
- Dumping rubbish in their garden
- Blocking their shared driveway
- Shouting abusive comments
- Allowing their dog to defecate in their garden
- Playing excessively loud music
Mr Westen told the Daily Echo: “It was a six-month campaign, nothing more, nothing less.
“We were subjected to a campaign from the very first meeting in August last year.
“It’s been devastating. Three members of our family have been on medication of one sort or other.
“It’s created a damaging environment that’s damaged our family because of the stress we are under – it’s been all encompassing.
“It’s been a constant drip, drip.”
Mr Westen’s mum, Christine, said she had moved to the home because she had wanted a quiet life as she battled a life-threatening illness.
She added: “Our neighbours have made our lives a complete living hell.”
Police were called who investigated a raft of complaints before a dossier of evidence was passed to the Crown Prosecution Service who decided the Moss family should face criminal charges for alleged harassment.
On the left is the Westen’s property Green Pastures with the Moss’s home Felled Oak on the right in Botley Road, Horton Heath.
Dad Michael Moss, 53, and wife Elaine, 52, along with their daughters Lucia, 22, and Roxanne, 26, were taken to court.
The charges related to incidents that happened between August last year and February of this year.
But when the matter went before the courts, district judge Lorraine Morgan decided not to proceed with the charges – deeming that a restraining order placed on the Moss family would be a better way to resolve the matter.
If breached, the Moss family will be arrested and brought back before the courts to face further action.
According to the Sentencing Guidelines Council, that could result in a prison term of a maximum of five years.
Addressing the family in the dock, Judge Morgan said: “You understand if you breach the order you are committing a criminal offence.”
The restraining order bans the Moss family from letting their dog or any animal roam onto the Westen’s side, and obstructing the driveway as marked on a plan lodged with the court.
They are also forbidden from causing loud noise, leaving rubbish on their neighbour’s side and using words or behaviour that harasses, alarms or distresses their neighbours or encourage a third party to do so.
Following the court case, the Moss family declined to comment.