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Stately home owner cleared of criminal damage after court rules he legitimately removed trees and shrubs from tenant’s garden

PUBLISHED: 17:59 13 December 2017 | UPDATED: 17:59 13 December 2017

Roger Gawn was found not guilty of criminal damage after removing plants, trees and shrubs belonging to his tenant. Photo : Steve Adams

Roger Gawn was found not guilty of criminal damage after removing plants, trees and shrubs belonging to his tenant. Photo : Steve Adams

Copyright Archant Norfolk 2015

A stately home owner who removed plants, trees and shrubs from the garden of his 80-year-old tenant was entitled to do so, a court has heard.

Roger Gawn, 70, owner of Melton Constable Hall, was found not guilty of criminal damage to the value of over £3,500 when he appeared in King’s Lynn Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday, December 13.

The court heard how Mr Gawn had removed trees, shrubs and plants belonging to his tenant Robert Adams, who has been living in Coach House in Melton Constable for 46 years.

Giving evidence in court, Mr Gawn said the potting shed in the garden was close to collapsing and needed to be renovated.

He said he dug out the surrounding trees and shrubs using a mini digger, with the intention to replant them in an appropriate place.

Mr Gawn added that he had seen Japanese knotweed growing in that area and that, if left untreated, it could cause more damage to other plants and the shed.

His solicitor, Simon Nicholls, told the court that Japanese knotweed is a “pernicious” plant that can cause a lot of damage.

Mr Gawn added: “It takes a minimum of five years to get rid of it. I was really worried about it.

“I didn’t damage it deliberately. It is gardening at the end of the day.”

When asked why he had not notified the tenant before carrying out the works, Mr Gawn said: “On this occasion I had to deal with a real problem and I had to get on with it.”

Earlier in the trial, Mr Adams gave evidence in court stating that he had not known about the Japanese knotweed until after Mr Gawn had removed the trees and shrubs from his garden.

He told the court his garden was left looking like a “bomb site” and that he had not been notified by Mr Gawn about the work to be carried out there.

After hearing all of the evidence, chairman of the bench Nigel Stringer said the magistrates found Mr Gawn not guilty of criminal damage.

He said: “We found Mr Gawn acted in a reasonable manner by removing trees and shrubs to be replanted and he was entitled to do so.

“There was no criminal intent and we find it unfortunate the tenant was inconvenienced by the work done.”

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