A COUPLE were subjected to such an intimidating tirade of homophobic abuse that they dreaded stepping outside their front door, a court heard.

Fireworks were hurled at Carol Cashmore and Nina Meffen's house and into their garden and youths regularly gathered outside to shout anti-gay insults.

The catalogue of abuse took place last year, starting with a vicious attack in July in which a 20-year-old man and two teenage girls armed themselves with wooden chair legs and rained blows on the two women until they were barely conscious.

Lydia Jayne Lake, a former neighbour of Miss Cashmore and Miss Meffen, was handed a community punishment order and given a curfew two months ago for her part in that attack.

Now 18-year-old Lake is back before the courts facing further charges of harassment for a catalogue of abuse against her former neighbours, who live in Emer Close, North Baddesley.

New Forest Magistrates' Court heard that Lake and another 15-year-old girl, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, instigated much of the verbal abuse and intimidation that happened between September and November last year.

Miss Cashmore and Miss Meffen have lived in Emer Close for five years. Lake, now of John Street in Southampton, lived in the same close until recently.

Miss Cashmore, 42, told the court the two girls had hung around outside the couple's garden fence and shouted homophobic abuse. On two occasions, fireworks were thrown into their garden, one of which struck a bedroom window.

Lake, 18, is alleged to have been involved in two of the incidents and the other defendant in all eight.

Miss Cashmore said: "We were feeling persecuted and harassed. It's like they are invading your home constantly - like we were under siege.

"We could not find peace in our own home, could not be part of the community like we used to be, could not go to the pub and were nervous to go out."

Miss Meffen, 36, told the court: "We felt very intimidated and worried. They were right outside our house most of the time."

The couple's friend Andrew Coxall witnessed the youths causing trouble when he went for dinner at their house last November.

He said: "There was a group of three or four of them right outside Carol and Nina's house. They stared at me as I drove past. I felt quite intimidated because they were menacing stares."

Mr Coxall said Miss Cashmore had to shut the windows because the group was shouting abuse, which lasted throughout the time he was there.

Both defendants deny the charges.