Woman charged with harassment over claim she parked too close to her neighbour’s BMW is cleared in court
A woman accused of deliberately parking her car too close to her neighbour’s vehicle has been cleared of harassment.
Deborah Dowd, 56, was accused of deliberately reversing her Skoda Fabia so that it was ‘bumper to bumper’ with Russell O’Leary’s BMW in Chelmsley Wood, a suburb of Solihull, West Midlands.
Mr O’Leary complained Ms Dowd had parked this way on three separate occasions to cause him ‘annoyance’.
A trial held at Coventry Magistrates’ Court on Friday, July 8, heard there was ‘bad blood’ between the two Solihull families which caused the defendant to carry out a ‘subtle war of attrition’.
While it was accepted that Ms Dowd had reversed ‘very close to if not making contact’ with the BMW, District Judge John Bristow said he was unable to conclude that she had done so intentionally.
Deborah Dowd, 56, was accused of deliberately reversing her Skoda Fabia so that it was ‘bumper to bumper’ with Russell O’Leary’s BMW in Chelmsley Wood, a suburb of Solihull, West Midlands
He found her not guilty of a single charge of harassment. Both the defendant and the complainant said the parking row was part of a ‘bigger picture’.
Prosecutor Mike Conlon said: ‘There is some bad blood between the defendant and Russell O’Leary. The two families essentially.
‘This was a subtle war of attrition this defendant conducted against the complainant and his former partner and it’s inevitable she knew it would cause them both, annoyance, harassment alarm and distress.’
Mr O’Leary said his former partner is the mother of his three children and that she lives on the street. He said he left his grey BMW parked there for her to use – as well as his black Audi parked in front of it.
He told the court he was unable to remove his daughter’s pram and supplies from the boot of the BMW if Ms Dowd’s Skoda was parked too close to the rear of it.
He described his relationship with the defendant as ‘not very good’ and said he had installed CCTV at the property due to ‘ongoing issues with her family’.
While it was accepted that Ms Dowd had reversed ‘very close to if not making contact’ with the BMW in Chelmsley Wood, District Judge John Bristow said he was unable to conclude she had done so intentionally
Mr O’Leary claimed Ms Dowd had caused ‘multiple scuffs and paint marks’ to his BMW which would cost hundreds of pounds to rectify.
Asked how he felt about the saga he added: ‘Quite annoyed. Obviously this is part of a bigger picture. At the time I was going through a lot of stress and anxiety. It was just constant. It was every few days.’
Mr O’Leary also claimed Ms Dowd used family members to park on the other side of him to ‘box us in’. However he accepted he left his BMW partially in front of her home and that he had also parked it close to her vehicle.
He said: ‘I have parked it kind of close but not as close as she parked to me. It was in frustration towards the ongoing issues at the time. Neither the police or the council were doing anything. Deborah had a total disregard for the safety of myself or my property.’
Ms Dowd, who no longer lives on the street, insisted she had a ‘limited’ space to park her Skoda in between the BMW and a white van on the other side which left her feeling ‘boxed in’ herself.
She said: ‘All I have done – I’m not trying to hit anybody’s car, to my knowledge I didn’t hit anyone – I was just trying to park outside where I live.’
Ms Dowd, who no longer lives on the street, insisted she had a ‘limited’ space to park her Skoda in between the BMW and a white van on the other side which left her feeling ‘boxed in’ herself
Ms Dowd argued Mr O’Leary had room to park fully in front of his former partner’s home but added ‘they never do’. Asked by her solicitor about ‘difficulty’ between the families, she stated she had also made harassment complaints to the police and ‘housing’ as well as approached the Citizens Advice Bureau.
The court was shown mobile phone footage of the Skoda parking on the three occasions although the portrait perspective did not capture how much space there was on the opposite side to the BMW.
Judge Bristow concluded there was ‘not a good relationship’ between the parties. He said: ‘I can’t know what happened on these dates because I wasn’t there and was not a witness. I can only make my decisions based on the evidence that’s presented.
‘I’m not sure that on the dates in question Ms Dowd’s purpose, in reversing her vehicle, was to harass Mr O’Leary. Mr O’Leary may reasonably believe that to be her purpose but I cannot be sure based on the evidence that was what Ms Dowd intended.
‘For all of those reasons I’m not sure you are guilty of this offence. I return a not guilty verdict and dismiss the charge.’
He also declined a prosecution request for a restraining order between Ms Dowd and Mr O’Leary.