A New Malden pensioner faces being Kingston’s oldest ASBO holder after her dogs’ barking drove neighbours to despair.
Widow Jill O’Flaherty, 66, was found guilty of breaching a noise order at Kingston Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, February 5, and the council now hopes to issue her with an Antisocial Behaviour Order (ASBO) next month.
If granted, it is believed to be the first noise-related ASBO ever issued in London and one of only a few in the UK.
After complaints from several neighbours, environmental health officers installed recording equipment to capture evidence between July 8 and 23 last year.
She was fined by magistrates for breaking the noise order in April 2008 but the problem continued.
In a three minute clip played to the court, the dogs were heard barking 68 times, with levels hitting up to 75 decibels.
Her two large dogs Dodger – an Anatolian Shepherd - and Angie – a Central Asian Shepherd, were barking in the garden of her detached house in Alric Avenue for hours at a time, neighbours said.
Giving evidence, semi-retired medical professor David Allison said he first reported the dog barking in 2003 and it disturbed his work and ability to enjoy painting and gardening.
He added: “I can safely say this nuisance has destroyed my retirement.”
Next door neighbour Sonhae Lee, a professional writer, told magistrates how the noise forced her to move out temporarily in 2007.
Another neighbour Nigel Palmer, who had the recording equipment installed in his home office, said it distracted him from his work and prevented his family from using their own garden, for fear that it would provoke the dogs.
In defence, Mrs O ‘Flaherty claimed the noise complaints arose after disputes with her neighbours on other matters, including the building of dog kennels in her garden.
She disputed the evidence of 68 barks in three minutes, saying: “If any dog did that it would physically collapse on the floor.”
She added: “The police and RSPCA would be round to my house within a few hours if it had been that bad.”
Defence solicitor Daniel Jones said “It is a matter of natural misfortune that Mrs O’Flaherty happens to be living next to the witnesses involved.
“She’s not living next to a family with screaming children who might not notice the noise. She is living next to people who are particularly sensitive to noise, people who have a quiet life.”
Mrs O’Flaherty will be sentenced on March 9, when council officers will press for an ASBO to be issued.
Speaking afterwards, Ted Forsyth, head of environmental health at Kingston Council, said his team took action because Mrs O’Flaherty had failed to admit the nuisance she was causing.
He added: “People tend to associate ASBOs with hoodies and teenagers but this case demonstrates that they can be used to tackle other forms of antisocial behaviour.”