A LANDOWNER who put up barbed wire to stop people walking on her lawn has landed herself in trouble after the council said it was a public area.
Frances Payne, 56, was slapped with a criminal behaviour order earlier this year after a row broke out when she accused walkers of straying onto her land.
She blocked the path with razor wire, chains and "keep out" notices and even hurled a branch at two women who tried to get through the gate in Evesham, Worcestershire.
But Payne, who faces fresh charges of breaching a Criminal Behaviour Order, insists she has done nothing wrong and is being subjected to bullying by the authorities who side with her abusers.
The 56-year-old lives alone in her childhood home Hampton Mill and claims to have been left suffering depression and fear by the social media campaign waged against her.
Mrs Payne says she can’t understand why the police ignore her complaints of intimidation and criminal damage while "scrolling Facebook" for evidence to use against her.
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Her misery began during the first Covid lockdown when the whole country was told they were allowed just one walk a day by way of relief.
At that point, she had tenants living in the farmhouse that sits at the end of a lane with a public footpath running down the drive and past the property.
But she said they could not cope with up to 2,000 people a day using the path and then spreading out across the garden and even walking into the house unannounced.
She said: "Many of those using the footpath had no idea of their obligations when walking in the countryside.
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"They did not stick to the path and treated the property and its outbuildings as their own.
"The tenants could not cope and left so I moved back in and while many people use the footpath properly, others come down brandishing their mobile phones and looking for a reaction from me that they can put on Facebook."
Mrs Payne claims that with permission from the local council, she temporarily closed the footpath to carry out road surface repairs and then locked it again after her gate was vandalised leaving her flock of sheep able to escape.
She said: "When I closed the path, with permission I hasten to add, some of the locals took to social media and bullying me became a form of entertainment for them.
"They called me all sorts of names, said it wasn’t my land and when it reopened and I asked them to stick to the footpath I got a lot of abuse back.
"When it was reopened, I was a target and people would arrive brandishing their mobile phones looking for stuff to put on social media."
This culminated in her being hauled before the courts, accused of blocking the right of way and allowing her dog, a Mastiff-Boxer cross called Goose, to kill a cat.
Mrs Payne was ordered to pay the £3,800 vet bill incurred by the incident as well as £100 in compensation to two ramblers who claimed she had abused them.
She was further ordered to pay £1,000 in prosecution costs and £22 victim surcharge.
"I don’t accept it," she said. "I actually intervened to save the cat which had attacked my dog and when I left the scene the cat was fine.
"I did not get a fair trial because I had Covid and they tried me in my absence. I didn’t get a chance to defend myself."
Since the conviction and the imposition of a five year Criminal Behaviour Order in February of this year, Mrs Payne has tried to challenge the verdict by judicial review and been refused.
'I CAN'T WIN'
The Order prevents her from being "abusive or aggressive" to anyone using the footpath, but she says this just gives her tormentors an open goal to shoot at.
Mrs Payne said: "People come down in winter with bikes churning up the ground, they come with telescopic lenses to peer into my home.
"I have had a woman take her two little children into a totally unsafe pig sty and leave all their litter in there.
"Others risk their children’s lives by the water and if I react they send their husbands down here to threaten me and put it on Facebook. Then the police get involved.
"I have been warned for allowing my dog to defecate on my own land, I have been warned about the dog being off the lead on my own land. I can’t win."
Mrs Payne said the footpath had run past the millhouse without incident for decades but two new housing estates had been built in recent years and that had changed everything.
"My Mum and Dad bought this place because of its beauty and in spite of the footpath but there was never any confrontation. People behaved with respect.
"It is a haven for nature. I have badger sets, there are mink, otters, kingfishers and herons but people don’t care. I have found people poking the badger sets and if I tell them off they film me."
She continued: "Nowadays some people have no idea of what they are allowed to do in the countryside.
"They do not stick to the footpath, they go everywhere and my fences have been repeatedly vandalised without a thought for their function of keeping my sheep safe.
"My car has been spat on, I have been called every name under the sun. When I complain to the police they do nothing."
Payne is aggrieved that when she complains to the police nothing is done despite the alleged abuse she has received.
She continued: "My car has been spat on, I have been called every name under the sun .
"When I complain to the police they do nothing but when someone complains about me they act. I am woman living on her own and a very easy target.
"I reckon they have spent over a million pounds of tax payer’s money in persecuting me and I don’t think they’ll be satisfied until I am sent to prison."
Mrs Payne, who has one grown up daughter, had thought of turning her home into a pub but adds, "some of the local people have behaved so badly, I could no longer do it."
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She added: "They want to drive me out but it is my home and I love it and I will not let them win."
The latest charges against her – breaching the CBO; using threatening, abusive, insulting words, and behaviour to cause harassment alarm or distress and three charges of assault by beating, will be heard before magistrates in Kidderminster on November 7.
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