Dad attacked with hammer by Sunderland neighbour in long running boundary row

A dad was attacked with a hammer when a long running boundary row with his neighbour erupted in violence and shocking homophobic abuse.

Thursday, 21st July 2016, 1:53 pm
Updated Thursday, 21st July 2016, 2:59 pm
Crown Court

Paul Fowler had a history of falling out with the family next door about a fence between their two houses, which he started to dismantle after downing a bottle of whiskey while mourning the death of his dog.

Newcastle Crown Court heard when the couple, who are in their sixties, came out of the their home to see what was happening, Fowler started throwing panels from the fence into their garden.

The 49-year-old, then hurled a "tirade of foul language" at the couple, before picking up a hammer.

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The court heard it was when the husband stepped forward to protect his wife from any blow, he was hit in the head with the weapon and instantly had blood pouring down his face from a wound.

When the couple's 23-year-old son came out of the house to check on his parents, he was met with a barrage of outrageous homophobic abuse from Fowler.

Fowler admitted unlawful wounding, public order offences and common assault on an off-duty policeman who lived cross the road and came over to help.

Mr Recorder William Lowe QC told him: "The way you behaved is, I hope, something you regret.

"You, clearly having been away from drink for a while, chose to buy a bottle of whiskey, upset at the loss of your dog.

"You then behaved in a disgraceful, criminal fashion towards your neighbours."

The judge sentenced Fowler to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, with supervision requirements.

Fowler is now the subject of a restraining order which bans any further contact with the victims.

Prosecutor Julie Clemitson told the court Fowler lived at his former family home in Deepdene Road, Seaburn, which was separated from his neighbour's house by a boundary fence.

Miss Clemitson said: "There have been ongoing difficulties and tensions for many years.

"The tensions did focus, largely, upon that boundary, it would seem."

The court heard there was a history of calls to the police, often about Fowler's drunken behaviour.

It was on January 5 last year the family were at home when they were disturbed by banging outside.

Miss Clemitson said: "She went outside first, having looking out of the window.

"She saw he appeared to be trying to break down the fence.

The court heard she was met with shouting and swearing and was soon joined outside by her husband.

"The situation then escalated, it was apparent Mr Fowler was picking up pieces of the fence panels and trying to throw them over the fence, into their garden. "

The court heard while continuing to attack the fence, Fowler picked up an old hammer from his garden.

Miss Clemitson said: "The husband was concerned for his wife and pushed her out of the way.

"As he did so, a part or all of the hammer made contact with his head."

The court heard the hammer, which was rusty, snapped in the attack.

He needed stitches and staples to the head wound and suffered blurred vision.

It was after the attack the couple's son came outside and was met with vile homophobic abuse from Fowler.

Neighbours, including the off-duty policeman, then stepped in to restrain Fowler until the emergency services arrived.

The man said he felt "sick" thinking about what happened.

His wife said she was thankful for the protection of her husband but was left "disgusted and upset".

The couple's son said the abuse he suffered was "sickening".

The court heard Fowler has been living in bail hostels since the attack and the family have felt "lighter and happier" as a result.

Jamie Adams, defending, said: "He is now compelled not to go back to live there ever again, at what was his family home.

"It is extensive punishment for him."

The court heard Fowler has a long term drink problem and his health has suffered as a result.

He had drank a bottle of whiskey on the day he launched the attack because he had been upset about the death of his dog.