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Eglwysbach Farmers' Dispute.

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Eglwysbach Farmers' Dispute. THE JUDGE AND PUBLIC FOOTPATHS. At the Llanrwst County Court on Friday, Rees Jones, the owner, and Robert Williams, the tenant, of Ffrithlon Farm, E-glwysbiacth, claimed a sum of two guineas as damages and an injunction against Edwin Wynne, Ty'nybryn Farm, from destroying a stile on a footpath through Ffxit-h Fields. There was also a coun- terclaim by the defendant claiming the right to go over the fields, but the plaintiff did not dis- pute this. Mr Twigge Ellis was for the plaintiffs, and Mr R. O. Davies defended. For the plaintiffs it was stated that the stile was at the entrance of a path leading through plainiffs' land, to which the defendant and others had a right of way. Williams had been in the occupation of the farm for eight years. In the first instance the defendant made an application to the Parish Council to have a wicket gate placed on the path, and it was granted, but the gate was placed in a position which was considered more essential by the Parish Council. During" the whole of the eight years defendant ddd not complain of the stile until twelve months ago, when his children be- came of school age. On the 14th of June last, the defendant removed the stile bodily. He was written to by a solicitor, and the stile was re- placed by the plaintiff the same day. The same evening, the defendant again went there and completed demolished the stile, and now it was absolutely useless, Williams stating that he could not make profit on his land, and his ani- mals coald easily trespass. The defendant also damaged twenty-seven yards of the plaintiff's hedge, which formed a boundary of the plain- tiff's yard. Alongisd.de was the public road, and running parallel with it was the defendan's land. The way the defendant interfered with the hedge was to cut away the foundation of it, damaging it in such a way that it would cost from 35s. to 40s. to replace it in proper order. The action was to be heard at the last Court, and since then the defendant had trimmed his own hedge. Williams spoke to the defendant about the demolishing of the stTe, and the latter said that he must have a free passage for his children to go to school, and plaintiff replied that he must also look after the safety of his sheep. Cross- examined by Mr Davies, the plaintiff Williams said he had not heard that roadmen cut his hedge at this particular spot, but they had cut the hedge at one Conner of his field). At one time, four tar-; were placed on the stile by him, but they were only allowed to remain about three days, before the top bar was taken off by somebody Maurice Roberts, the Rural Surveyor, gave evidence of the stile in question being easy to negotiate There were far worse stiles in the parish of Eglwysbach, even than this one. He also gave evidence of the damage done to the bank of the hedges. He denied that any of his workmen did the damage as suggested, because the men never carried out such work without instruction from him. Replying to Mr R. O. Davies, the witness said that one of the plaintiffs was "a member of the Parish Council, and the defendant was not. The Judge Do you suggest that this stile was more than necessary to keep the animals in and out of the field? Mr Davies Yes, I do. I say the plaintiff ob- structed our path. Ervan Jones, Rhiw, chairman of the Parish Council, said he had inspected the damaged fence. To replace the fence with stone would cost from 30s. to 35s. An application was mafle to the Parish Council by the defendant asking for three wicket 'gates. As a result, one was put up, because the Council could not afford to put any more at that time. The Council considered there was more need of a gate in the middle of the field, than, at the place where defendant de- stroyed this stile. He had seen the defendant about the matter, and he asked witness to make a drawing of the rails on the top of the stile. Witfntess had never seen, the rails on the stile, and from the defendant's measurements he made one. Wynne also asked witness to say that he had seen the rails, although, he had never seen them. John Jones, Post Office, Maenan, said he had been using the stile in question for about seven years, and had never found any difficulty in getting over it. They had several worse stiles in Maenan, over which children had to go. Owen Owen, Plas Iwrwg, Maenan, also gave evidence as to the condition of the stile. For the defence, Wynnie was put in the box. He had known this footpath for the last fifty- eight years. He remembered Williams taking the next farm, and at that time there were no rails oa the stile, but immediately Williams took possession, he erected either three or four rails 'on it, and it was, impossible for young children to get over. He complained to plain- tiff, and the latter said he would try and get a wicket gate from the Parish Council. He told Williams that he intended taking two rails off, and he did so, leaving two remaining. He re- m. embeted a visit paid by Mr David Jones, Llanrwst, and the plaintiff to the stile, and the former fell over the dungeon on the other side, and he commenced rubbing his back. (Laughter.) He should like to know what would happen if a child fell over. He denied that he had ever touched the plaintiffs' hedge, except in the poition where he was prevented from turning in the road. Cross-examined, he could not say who had damaged the hedge for twenty-seven yards. No- body saw him (defendant) do it either. (Laugh- ter.) The defendant was questioned at length by the Judge, as to whether there was only two yards of the ba.ik destroyed now, and the de- fendant replied that he only knew of that. The question was put to the defendant on several occasions as to whether he saw the damage, and each time he replied that he only knew of the two yards. The Judge Do you know, or are you trying to deceive me? Defendant: I am not trying to deceive. Again he was asked similar questions, but his replies were not satisfactory, and the Judge left him by saying, Yoa are very stupid, or lying to me." Catherine Wynne, the wife of the defendant, was called, and corroborated, adding that the four rails were placed on the stile when the children commenced to go to school last sum- mer. It was uMedy impossible for the children to negotiate it safely, because of its height, and the deep dungeon on the other side. Croas-examined., she 'denied that there was any step there at all, unless he put up a herring box as a step. (Laughter.) In addressing the Court on behalf of the de- fendlant, Mr R. O. Davies said that undoubted- ly there was some feeling between the parties. He said it was quite clear that the plaintiff had done something more than he was entitled to do, having the interest of the general public to consider. His HO T our, in giving judgment, said he had not the slightest doubt in his own mind that the defendant not only committed the act of unlaw- ful trespass by removing a part of the fence— why in the world he did it, he did not know,' unless it was malice—nor the slightest doubt that he had very improperly removed the stile. The public who had a right of way across farms or fields did not enjoy the way in the same sense that they would with an absolutely uninter- rupted road like a main or district road, where they could drive horses without any interrup- tion, but their right was subject to the old-es- tablished right of the man over whose land they traversed. If a farmer must be compelled in ever case where children were going to school, to out down his stiles until only about twelve inches high, the thing reduced itself to an ab- suidfity. The farmer had a right, as well as the, public, and when the public had a right, to cross agricultural land where cattle or ,sheep grazed, it obviously must be a right subject to the right of the farmer to so make his stiles to protect his own animals, and at the same time giving reasonable access to the public over the fence. It was no obliga- tion upon the farmer to repair the stile, or the Parish Council, and indeed, he questioned very much whether the Parish Council had the right to interfere with this stile. It was a very im- proper action in knocking down the stile and to interfere with the fence. Had the defendant been in different circumstances, he (the Judge) would have given costs against him on Scale C. It was unquestionably a matter of public inter- est, the rights of the public as well as the farmers coming up. The defendant would be punished enough by judgment being given against him for the amount claimed, and judig- .ent on the counterclaim, costs to follow on the scale of two guineas. Defendant should be duly thankful that the costs were not on a higher scale. .c:

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