Returning/not returning trimmings to neighbour

Re: Returning/not returning trimmings to neighbour

Postby MacadamB53 » Tue Nov 17, 2015 11:00 pm

Hi Morgan,

It is just a ridiculous urban myth...

dont think so mate - see Mills vs Brooker 1919:

http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~skell ... se_mb.html

Kind regards, Mac
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Re: Returning/not returning trimmings to neighbour

Postby ukmicky » Wed Nov 18, 2015 3:34 am

I notice there is no mention that I can find about having to offer the hedge/branch trimmings back to the tree owner .


Why would they need to . Their are probably many things that didn't mention , some are probably so obvious that they felt there was no need.

My point is, clearly there is nothing in law that says that you have to offer cuttings back


Here comes the obvious thing they didn't need to mention . Its called the Theft act.

Common Law also comes second to statute Law. Common Law can allow you to trim a branch that is causing a nuisance by growing over your land but common law cannot override statute law and allow you to permanently deprive the owner of his property.

The theft act also says .

A person cannot steal land or things forming part of land and severed from it by him , except when he is not in possession of the land and appropriates anything forming part of the land by severing it or causing it to be severed.If a tree is growing from a neighbours land it is forming part of that land.

Their is an exception however where things are growing wild , which would not cover most gardens. The Law says you cant be charged with theft if you pick flowers ,fruit or foliage if it comes from a plant growing wild ,provided you don't sell what you pick and keep it for yourself.

Local bylaws however can override the wild thing.
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Re: Returning/not returning trimmings to neighbour

Postby Morgan Sweet » Wed Nov 18, 2015 9:46 am

MacadamB53 wrote:Hi Morgan,

It is just a ridiculous urban myth...

dont think so mate - see Mills vs Brooker 1919:

http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~skell ... se_mb.html

Kind regards, Mac


I fully accept your example in 1919 Mac and thank you for that. In the case that you cite it is clear that the defendant benefitted from the apples due to him selling them therefore they had value that should rightfully remain with the owner; but I believe it would be very difficult to sue for tree cuttings that have not been sold and not offered back. How would you prove that the tree trimmer has benefitted from the cuttings? Where does it say in the judgement that the defendant should offer the branches back? It just states that he should not benefit from them. Are there any recent judgements where a hedge owner has successfully sued a neighbour for not offering the cuttings back? It would be interesting to learn what value the judgement placed on the cuttings. I notice in some of my old contracts (late 1960s) with the then GPO that I must remove all tree cuttings due to the fact that they may be poisonous to stock if left behind, there is no mention of seeking out the owner of the nuisance trees. Technically it may constitute theft but this theft is happening every day in the hedge cutting season and I just have no knowledge in my long experience of anyone being sued for not offering cuttings back. Surely there must be a recent case where someone sued a neighbour for trimming an overgrowing leylandi and not offering the cuttings back, I would be interested to learn how they got on. I'm just interested how the law would be interpreted now i.e. nuisance v theft.
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Re: Returning/not returning trimmings to neighbour

Postby Morgan Sweet » Wed Nov 18, 2015 12:33 pm

I agree with you ukmicky it is technically theft if you appropriate the cuttings, my point is that you are not breaking any law by not offering the cuttings back. It is up to the deprived hedge owner to instigate actions of theft to recover his cuttings and I would be very interested in any case (other that one many years ago) where anyone was successful in a theft case of hedge cuttings etc.
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Re: Returning/not returning trimmings to neighbour

Postby MacadamB53 » Wed Nov 18, 2015 3:01 pm

Hi MS,

there is nothing in law that says that you have to offer cuttings back...
I agree... ...it is technically theft...


you have subtley shifted the emphasis of your point from "it's not the law" to "it might be the law, but nobody bothers if the arisings are of no value".

It is up to the deprived hedge owner to instigate actions of theft to recover his cuttings.

that is how it whether it's arisings or a wallet or pretty much anything - and those being deprived of something worthless or of almost no value might decide not to instigate actions.

if your sons came and cut back the outside of my hedge under instruction from my neighbour and took away the arisings I would win in court if I bothered to take action (I wouldn't take action btw).

Kind regards, Mac
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Re: Returning/not returning trimmings to neighbour

Postby despair » Wed Nov 18, 2015 3:09 pm

A much bigger problem is those who believe its ok just to throw back or dump the arisings from any twig ,branch or leaf that strays across the boundary without asking the neighbour or facing the fact they are guilty of littering
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Re: Returning/not returning trimmings to neighbour

Postby arborlad » Wed Nov 18, 2015 3:13 pm

MacadamB53 wrote:
if your sons came and cut back the outside of my hedge under instruction from my neighbour and took away the arisings I would win in court if I bothered to take action (I wouldn't take action btw).

Kind regards, Mac


:lol: :lol:
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Re: Returning/not returning trimmings to neighbour

Postby MacadamB53 » Wed Nov 18, 2015 6:01 pm

Hi arborlad,

a first - I usually get :roll: from you. :D

Warm regards, Mac
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Re: Returning/not returning trimmings to neighbour

Postby Morgan Sweet » Wed Nov 18, 2015 7:45 pm

Hi Mac

I have not shifted anything, it remains my belief that there is no where in law to say that you have to 'offer cuttings back'. One could only get prosecuted for theft of the cuttings not for not offering them back. Therefore theft would have to be proven not the fact that someone did not offer the cuttings back. It is again my question, has there been a recent successful claim for theft of hedge cuttings? May I assume that you are unable to find a recent case? Regarding your hypothetical case, since your hedge will be flail cut, you would be most welcome to all the shredded pieces (nothing will be removed from site) and I consider it more likely that my sons' counter claim for nuisance caused by your overhanging branches has more chance of success.
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Re: Returning/not returning trimmings to neighbour

Postby Collaborate » Wed Nov 18, 2015 9:20 pm

Morgan Sweet wrote:Hi Mac

I have not shifted anything, it remains my belief that there is no where in law to say that you have to 'offer cuttings back'. One could only get prosecuted for theft of the cuttings not for not offering them back. Therefore theft would have to be proven not the fact that someone did not offer the cuttings back. It is again my question, has there been a recent successful claim for theft of hedge cuttings? May I assume that you are unable to find a recent case? Regarding your hypothetical case, since your hedge will be flail cut, you would be most welcome to all the shredded pieces (nothing will be removed from site) and I consider it more likely that my sons' counter claim for nuisance caused by your overhanging branches has more chance of success.


I have entered an alternative dimension, where reality is skewed.

So, lets assume A takes something belonging to B.

If A offers to return the thing to B, that is not theft. There is no intention permanently to deprive.

If A does not offer to return them, that is technically theft. However it is a defence to a charge of theft that the defendant reasonably believed that B would have agreed to the thing being taken.

Crikey, talk about splitting hairs...
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Re: Returning/not returning trimmings to neighbour

Postby Morgan Sweet » Wed Nov 18, 2015 11:41 pm

Hello Collaborate

No one is denying it is technically theft. All I have said is that I am not aware of anyone in recent times being prosecuted for not offering or returning the cuttings back. Do you know of any such case? It is a very common occurrence to trim neighbouring hedges. May I suggest the problem for the hedge/tree owner is that he will have to prove that he has suffered a loss due to the hedge trimming not being returned to him. If someone trims your hedge and does not return the cuttings to you then by all means see how far you get in suing for their value or reporting the occurrence as theft to the Police.

I'll leave it at that unless someone can cite a recent case.
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Re: Returning/not returning trimmings to neighbour

Postby ukmicky » Thu Nov 19, 2015 1:47 am

Morgan Sweet wrote:Hello Collaborate

No one is denying it is technically theft. All I have said is that I am not aware of anyone in recent times being prosecuted for not offering or returning the cuttings back. Do you know of any such case? It is a very common occurrence to trim neighbouring hedges. May I suggest the problem for the hedge/tree owner is that he will have to prove that he has suffered a loss due to the hedge trimming not being returned to him. If someone trims your hedge and does not return the cuttings to you then by all means see how far you get in suing for their value or reporting the occurrence as theft to the Police.

I'll leave it at that unless someone can cite a recent case.
You can leave it like that if you want but your beliefs are wrong.

It is not technically theft, it is theft. Just because no one has any information showing that someone has bothered pursuing someone for theft does not prevent it from being a criminal act.

Simple theft is normally dealt with in magistrates courts so there are no cases to site, its not like a case in a crown court .

Its your neighbours property and the common law right to abate a nuisance gives you no right to retain your neighbours property once you have abated the nuisance.If a complaint was made to the police they would have to investigate because the theft act 1968 says . A person cannot steal land or things forming part of land and severed from it by him , except when he is not in possession of the land and appropriates anything forming part of the land by severing it or causing it to be severed.

What then would happen would depend on the police . Some may give a simple caution ,others may go that step further and charge.

As far as loss go ,you do not have to show a financial loss of any sort . All that is that is required legally to show a loss is that you have become parted from something you once had.
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Re: Returning/not returning trimmings to neighbour

Postby arborlad » Thu Nov 19, 2015 9:24 am

ukmicky wrote:What then would happen would depend on the police . Some may give a simple caution ,others may go that step further and charge.

As far as loss go ,you do not have to show a financial loss of any sort . All that is that is required legally to show a loss is that you have become parted from something you once had.



We seem to have lost touch with reality here. Consider the number of wholly owned hedges in this country, consider the number of shared hedges in this country then consider the number of hedges whose ownership is contentious or unknown, all of which are cut 3-4-5 times a year, does anyone seriously consider that something like this is worthy of any sort of Police response: 'if your sons came and cut back the outside of my hedge under instruction from my neighbour and took away the arisings I would win in court if I bothered to take action (I wouldn't take action btw).'

Despair would argue that the hedge owner should be charged the cost of cutting and disposal of the arisings.
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Re: Returning/not returning trimmings to neighbour

Postby arborlad » Thu Nov 19, 2015 11:34 am

nothingtodowithme wrote:
MacadamB53 wrote:Hi arborlad,

a first - I usually get :roll: from you. :D

Warm regards, Mac





Call it an accolade for brown nosing. :shock:



You can call it what you will, but the post does have something in its favour - it's on-topic and not a bookshop advert.
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Re: Returning/not returning trimmings to neighbour

Postby Alan Harris » Thu Nov 19, 2015 1:55 pm

Dear All

The returm or not of hedge trimmings is usually a part of a long running dispute about boundaries. The cutter of the hedge does so knowingly and has to decide what to do with the cuttings. If there is an intention not to return the cuttings (or to not consult the neighbouring hedge owner about their wishes) then that seems to me to be theft.

I dealt with a case where the ownership of a hedge was at dispute. The hedge was not cut back and the client house was suffering from subsidence related to moisture demand from the hedge. The client lost his cool and decided to trim the errant hedge. The neighbour called the police and my client spent the night in the cells and was charged with criminal damage. The client was a prominent local personality but that had no effect on the way in which the police treated him.

The value of the loss to the hedge owner is rarely relevant to the dispute and the principle of whether the act of one of the party was theft or criminal damage comes into focus. When legal minds are applied to such circumstances the intent of the parties becomes all too clear. If you you do not return or offer to return, hedge cuttings and fallen fruit etc then you take risks which you may regret.

best regards


Alan Harris
Alan is a consulting engineer specialising in subsidence, tree roots, soils and party wall surveying.
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