Norfolk

Kennel owner ordered to pay £93k over barking dogs complaint

Sharon and Russell Tidnam
Image caption Sharon Tidnam and her husband Russell say they cannot afford to pay the legal costs

The owner of a kennel business has been ordered to pay £93,000 in legal costs after a barrister neighbour took her to court complaining about barking dogs.

Sharon Tidnam was ordered by a court to reduce noise at Low Farm in Topcroft, Norfolk, in July 2018 but was found guilty in June of breaching the order.

As well as the legal bill, she was ordered to pay Matthew McNiff £3,000 in compensation for moving costs.

Outside court, she described the sentence as "horrendous".

District judge Malcolm Dodds told Great Yarmouth Magistrates' Court: "This is a very sad case involving four extremely sad people."

He said the case should never have come to court, that Mrs Tidnam had buried her head in the sand and the whole matter could have been resolved amicably months ago.

Image caption A nuisance order was issued in July 2018, which the owner was found to have breached

Her defence questioned the cost of Mr McNiff's bill arguing it was high because he had employed a "Rolls Royce" team.

But the judge said Mr McNiff was entitled to the legal representation he chose adding the couple could use profits from their business and draw equity from their house to pay the costs.

Mrs Tidnam and her husband Russell now have three months to find nearly £100,000, plus pay their own legal bills.

She said they had spent £130,000 of their pensions fighting the private prosecutions brought by Mr McNiff, who lives 750m away from the kennels.

Image caption Supporters and customers of the kennel's owners held placards outside the court

Mr McNiff said that barking dogs disturbed their peace and quiet, including in the early hours of the mornings.

As part of the court case, South Norfolk Council made some recordings but did not find evidence of a noise nuisance.

"All the readings and everything were on our side," said Mr Tidnam.

The couple has since installed acoustic prevention measures to their buildings.

Outside court, his wife added: "I don't feel like I've done anything wrong. I haven't got that money, I don't have it."

Image caption The kennels at Low Farm., Topcroft are three fields away from Matthew McNiff's home

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