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As any dog lover can testify, it is sometimes the animal, not the owner, who sets the pace when it comes to walkies.
Yet a legal dispute between warring neighbours has resulted in an order stipulating that one party faces jail if she dawdles unduly as she walks her dogs across the other party’s land.
Farmer Linda Jefferies, 61, was issued with the order after claims that she was using a public right of way to snoop on Pauline Robb, 52, whose land it crosses.
But Mrs Jefferies, who is looking at a £150 000 legal bill after unsuccessfully taking her case to the Court of Appeal in London, claims the order effectively bans her from walking her two dogs, in case they stop for a call of nature.
The dispute dates back to 2005 when Mrs Robb and her husband Trevor, 55, a full-time farmer, started renting land in West Hanningfield, Essex, where they have barns and an office.
They said their neighbour immediately started taking photos and filming them as they went about their business - although they still have no idea why.
In 2009, Mrs Jefferies, who rears rare breed sheep, unsuccessfully applied for an injunction, claiming her access to the track had been restricted.
This was followed by a four-day hearing in May last year, in which Mrs Jefferies claimed the Robbs had narrowed the route from 12ft to 8ft, potentially restricting access to farm vehicles. However, a surveyor found the track was 13ft wide at its narrowest point and the Robbs lodged a counter-claim that Mrs Jefferies was subjecting them to “persistent surveillance”.
The couple, who live in a semi in Chelmsford, were granted an injunction after describing how they were having to put up with “intensive photography, spying and eavesdropping”. The order stipulated that Mrs Jefferies must “move along at a reasonable speed” on the path - or face a maximum six-month jail term and £5 000 fine.
The order also banned Mrs Jefferies from taking photographs or footage on the 400-yard track.
The farmer was so incensed by the decision that she took it to the Court of Appeal last week.
But Lord Justice Sullivan, who was sitting with Lady Justice Arden and Sir Nicholas Wall, turned down the application, saying: “If you have previously not been passing along at a reasonable speed and the reason is that you are snooping on your neighbours, then what is wrong with this order?”
Mrs Jefferies was also ordered to pay both sides’ costs. Together with an order to pay both parties’ costs from the earlier hearing, her total bill is believed to be around £150 000.
Mrs Jefferies said after the ruling: “I await confirmation of a diagnosis of Farmer’s Lung [a respiratory illness], so the speed that I walk my dogs... will no doubt slacken in future and I risk the prospect of being guilty of an offence and may be sent to prison.”
Mrs Robb, an accountant, described herself as “over the moon” - but questioned why the appeal had been allowed, saying Mrs Jefferies had agreed to the wording of the injunction at the previous hearing.
And the tussle appeared far from over last night with Mrs Jefferies accused of breaching the injunction.
“I am taking legal advice because she came down the path with her video camera at 11am,” Mr Robbs told the Mail. - Daily Mail