When Brian and Dot got married, she was a widow of over fifty and he was eighteen years younger than her. For some reason their neighbours in Birmingham regarded this as a crime. As soon as Brian came on the scene, people made their surprise and disapproval felt. They gossiped, they snooped, they dropped nasty remarks. Dot was disabled even then and in a wheelchair, and Brian has since become disabled but this never led their neighbours to offer them any help or support. On the contrary, Brian and Dot found that they were regarded with hostility and disgust.
When they went out together, people sneered at them, even spat at them in the street and called them "perverts". They were ridiculed hurtfully in their own hearing. It went on and on.
There was a next-door neighbour who held a spare key in case Dot ever lost hers. She started snooping. Brian would notice that after they had been out somewhere, things in the house had been moved. Doors that he left shut were now open, and doors that had been left open were shut. When they next went out together, he set a trap, leaving sealed letters inside drawers and when they got back to the house, he found that somebody had opened the drawers and opened the letters. It was their snooping neighbour, who spread gossip about all sorts of things. "They sleep in the same bed...." she told people. Well that was hardly surprising since they were married! But in her eyes apparently they shouldn't be doing that. Some people may have assumed when Brian came on the scene that he was Dot's son, but they only had to ask.
They confronted the neighbour and eventually had the locks changed, but she found another way to plague them. She would deliberately bang on the partition wall at night, for hours, disturbing Brian and Dot and preventing them from sleeping. Acts of vandalism started. Believe it or not, local people came along and broke their mobility-car. This happened more than once and so did damage to the house. Another neighbour took to parking his car right across their exit preventing Brian from getting the mobility-car or Dot's wheelchair out.
Brian is a gentle, timid man who now uses two walking sticks and he did not want to get into any more confrontations. so he consulted a solicitor who advised him to take photographs next time this happened. He did so and even took some video footage that included the wheelchair, proving that there was not enough space to get it out. Then he took the wheelchair back inside. Shortly afterwards he was amazed to get a call from the police. The neighbour had gone to them and brought charges of criminal damage to his car, and Brian was prosecuted. Of course the police should have looked at the evidence and never brought charges, but they did and it seems that the neighbour had some influence with them. He claimed that his car had been dented and scratched deliberately by Brian using the wheelchair as a weapon! Brian wanted to show his photographs and video in court, proving that he had done no damage, but despite having a lawyer, his evidence was not looked at. The lawyer just behaved as if he was working for the other side. Brian was convicted for criminal damage.
On another occasion when Brian was in the garden with his step-daughter, the neighbour verbally abused them and climbed up on the wall, causing part of it to fall down. He then claimed that Brian had injured him, using his walking-stick as a weapon. He took this charge to the police, and once again, he was believed, while Brian was not. Brian was charged with harassment and assault, and despite the fact that the neighbour was fit and able, Brian was convicted. The court just took his word against Brian's.
Brian has made many approaches to the Criminal Cases Review Council in the hope of an appeal that will finally clear his name and get rid of this unjust criminal record. They have refused to re-open any of his cases and provided him with no help at all. He has complained to the Police Commissioner and he has written to his MP John Spellar, but neither of these complaints have resulted in any positive help or tangible improvement. He has even written to the Ministry of Justice and still got nowhere. A lawyer told him that if he could only put down £20,000 on account he might be able to get the cases re-opened. Of course Brian hasn't got even a tenth of that money and after his experience of lawyers and how useful they were, he wouldn't bet on it making any difference.
After suffering this sort of misery for twenty years, Brian and Dot are now hoping to sell their home and move into a retirement flat where they will get some on-site care. But even if they move away, it will not change the fact that Brian has an completely unfair criminal record and none of this should have been allowed to happen.
Lenten Meditations: Tuesday 28 March
2 hours ago