Pensioner tells jury putting a shrub in front of neighbour's window is her 'democratic right'

PUBLISHED: 11:47 06 August 2019 | UPDATED: 11:47 06 August 2019

Archant

A pensioner who is accused of breaking a restraining order by growing a large shrub in front of her neighbour's window told a jury it was her democratic right.

Mary de Jong is on trial for growing a plant in front of her neighbour's kitchen window and aiming a CCTV at their back door.

She was previously convicted of harassing the alleged victim in October 2017, before later being acquitted.

A restraining order was made by Exeter Magistrates' Court which prevented her blocking the window or filming his house with a CCTV camera.

She appealed and the Crown Prosecution Service, in consultation with the victim, did not contest the case, but on condition that the restraining order remained in place.

De Jong, aged 68, of White Street, Topsham, denies breaking the restraining order between October 2017 and June 2018.

The jury at Exeter Crown Court on Tuesday (August 6) has heard that the 'idyllic' peace has been broken by a three-year vendetta by De Jong against her neighbour.

The ill feeling started when De Jong was involved in a separate dispute with another neighbour over ownership and rights of way.

The victim told the jury that although the plant was cut back, a stump was left which prevents him opening the window fully.

A camera on a shed by the gate at the back entrance to the courtyard still points at his home.

De Jong told the jury she is still complying with the order and the camera is in exactly the same place as it was when she won her appeal in March last year.

She denied that the plant prevents her neighbour opening his window or obscures his light and said she had even arranged for friends to trim it back when she was away on holiday in France.

De Jong explained that the shrub is not a pot plant and says she grew it from a cutting without realising how large it would get.

She said: "I was given it as a little sprig.

"I did not know it was going to grow that big.

"It has got beautiful pink flowers.

"I had no intention of harassing my neighbours.

"I want to live peacefully, very much so.

"I am entitled to a garden.

"I am entitled to ornaments in my garden.

"I thought that was the law in a democratic country.

"I used the plant to block the window in the past, but not since October 2017."

De Jong said the camera on her shed only filmed the back of her home and was there to cover another CCTV unit which monitored the gate.

Under cross examination by prosecution barrister Lee Bremridge, she denied it was unreasonable to stop her neighbour using his back door.

She said: "He doesn't need his back door, he has got a front door."

De Jong alleged her neighbour had been spying on her comings and goings by hiding in the dark behind a wall in his kitchen and looking out into her courtyard.

She said she allowed the plant to grow to block his view.

She also denied 'playing games' with the victim by putting a plastic dragonfly and solar lamp on the plant directly outside the kitchen window.

De Jong said: "I believe in democracy and righteousness.

"I have lights and an ornament. It is part of my garden. I am entitled to live in my own place. I don't have to ask if I can put a plant here or a plant there.

"I am just living my life. I am not intimidated by my neighbours. They have been trying to intimidate me. Am I allowed to live at all?

"We live in a democracy, I decide what I put in my garden. I don't have to go to court to decide what I put in my garden. By law, I am entitled to grow a plant. It is my land. I haven't obstructed his window since the order was made."

The trial continues

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