Thursday, 26 March 2009

Lady Lesley cleared of trespass in squatter protest

Sep 23 2008 WalesOnline

A woman who claimed squatters rights in the home of a former police chief in a desperate bid to highlight a dispute with a tenant was cleared today of trespass.

Lady Lesley Cooper, 48, of Bancfosfelen, near Carmarthen, west Wales, toured the for-sale bungalow as a prospective buyer as a way of gaining entry.

The property, in the nearby village of Meinciau, was put on the market by Terrence Grange, former chief Constable of Dyfed Powys Police, last autumn.

Mr Grange, 59, retired with immediate effect last November amid claims, later proved, he had misused police computers and paid for private meals with his force credit card.

Lady Cooper toured the vacant bungalow back in April, then blocked up the front door when the estate agent stepped outside.

Carrying drink and sandwiches to last three days she told him through the letter box she was claiming squatters’ rights and to call the police.

A two day trial at Carmarthen Magistrates’ Court heard that with her at the time was daughter Kyra, 26, and her daughter’s 11-day-old baby.

Dyfed Powys police officers were called to the home of their former boss after the estate agent failed to regain entry, injuring his arm in the process.

After a two hour stand-off an armed police response unit smashed down the rear patio doors, despite the fact senior officers had a full set of keys for the home.

Lady Cooper and her daughter were charged with trespass and criminal damage to an internal wall at the property.

Kyra Cooper was also charged with assault on the estate agent, whose arm was injured in the front door as he tried to get back inside.

Magistrates cleared both mother and daughter of all charges today at the end of the two day trial.

They concluded that Lady Cooper’s decision to book an appointment to see the house in the name of her sister indicated she had never intended to buy it.

But they also acknowledged that when asked to leave by police the officers had not been acting with the direct authority of Mr Grange.

They also accepted that Ms Cooper had not known what her mother intended to do when she entered the property.

During the trial Mr Grange gave evidence and was later questioned by Lady Cooper, who represented herself, and accused of being a freemason, which he denied.

Lady Cooper told the court she had been forced to take desperate action to highlight a long-running dispute she had with a tenant at her farm.

She claimed she had repeatedly reported what she regarded as race hate incidents to the police but that Mr Grange saw them as civil court matters.

A tearful Lady Cooper, speaking after the verdict today, accused the police of trying to discredit her.

“I was forced into taking the action I did because that was the only way the truth could come out,” Lady Cooper said.

“I feel as though they have deliberately set out to assassinate my character.

“I feel only relief now that people are listening to me at last and that the truth has come out.”

She added: “If I had it all to do again I would take more sandwiches.”

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