Neighbours at war: man assaults 71-year-old

A Queenstown man was yesterday found guilty by Judge Michael Turner in the Queenstown District Court of assaulting his neighbour in July last year, in one of several alleged incidents between the neighbours at war.

Alistair Hey (53) denied assaulting Geoffrey Hamilton (71) by punching and kicking him on July 21 at Hensman Rd.

Following an all-day hearing, Judge Turner found there was insufficient evidence with regard to the alleged punch, but found Hey guilty of kicking Mr Hamilton on his left knee.

Judge Turner said the neighbours lived in a ''state of acrimony'' with complaints being made to police before and after the July 21 incident.

About 3pm that day, Mr Hamilton was walking along a private right-of-way which provides access to four properties, including Hey's, carrying a gardening hoe and a bag of fertiliser.

He became aware of Hey driving his Subaru out of the drive. It was alleged the pair had a verbal altercation before Hey drove off.

Mr Hamilton told the court he was shaken, having lost his balance and become entangled in shrubbery, and returned to his property.

Hey stopped his vehicle and discovered damage to it, which he believed had been caused by Mr Hamilton's hoe.

He returned to Mr Hamilton's home and confronted him about the damage.

''Mr Hamilton says the defendant ... came at him.

''Mr Hamilton raised the hoe to ... about shoulder height. The defendant grabbed the hoe and the two men tussled over it.

''The defendant was able to manoeuvre him around.

''Mr Hamilton said the defendant kicked him ... connecting with Mr Hamilton's left leg just above the knee.''

Hey then kicked a parked BMW, which belonged to Mr Hamilton's son. The incident was witnessed by neighbours.

The defendant then drove off.

Hey yesterday admitted a charge of intentional damage. Judge Turner said he was satisfied Hey kicked Mr Hamilton and was the aggressor.

However, he suggested the parties might attend counselling to work out their issues.

''What is abundantly clear to me ... is that there is bad blood between you and the Hamiltons.

''It's also clear ... the Hamiltons are prepared to make claims against you or your family members, at least one of which was [without] foundation.

''That has got to stop.

''The use of the criminal justice system is not the way to [resolve] issues with neighbours.''

''The police have got better things to do than try and resolve neighbourhood disputes.''

On the assault charge, Hey was convicted and his sentence deferred for six months. He was ordered to pay $130 court costs and $75 in witness expenses.

For intentional damage, he was convicted and ordered to pay $839 reparation within 21 days.

He was convicted and discharged on a charge of fighting with Mr Hamilton in public at Hensman Rd on October 30.

A charge of harassing Geoffrey and Alison Hamilton with intent to cause them to fear for their safety at Hensman Rd on November 30, laid under the Harassment Act 1997, was remanded to January 27 for a case review.

Bail conditions for Hey were not to engage in conduct which would constitute harassment, which included watching, loitering near or preventing access to or from the Hamiltons' address, and not to follow them, stop them or accost them.