I have a house in ENgland. A year or so ago my neighbor's son cut down the high, mature hedge between our 2 properties. When I moved into the house 25 years ago my neighbor insisted it was my hedge. This has been understood the entire time, with my neighbor on a number of occasions saying he wished the hedge wasn't there so he could have a view of the meadow on the other side of my garden. He also complained about 2 trees in my garden, one of which he had illegally 'topped' between the time I bought the house and moved in, and to try to meet his wishes to an extent, I agreed that he could 'top' the tree nearest our 2 houses. His son responded by cutting the tree completely down. Then a couple of months ago, out of the blue, when I was in Japan, where I work, his son entered my garden and cut down the remaining tree. A branch crashed on top of my garden shed, causing considerable damage.
I had been good friends with my neighbor and I agonized about what to do. Both he and his wife are elderly and have serious illnesses (as, indeed, so do I). I waited in vain for an apology, but one only came after I threatened legal proceedings. There was an admission that he had cut down the tree and damaged the shed, but the son then claimed that he had received permission from the guy staying in my house while doing repair work. My neighbor had my phone number and my daughter's number, and if he was telling the truth and he had a genuine belief that I wanted the tree down he could easily have checked.
As my neighbor and I had discussed the matter of the tree and I had consistently made it clear that I needed my privacy for my writing and wanted the trees and hedge to remain, there can be no doubt that he acted on a misunderstanding. The lie is further uncovered when, shortly before i returned from Japan (where I am now) my neighbor said to the guy staying in my house that he was worried about what my reaction to the cutting down of the tree would be. If he had been certain that I wanted the tree down, he would not have been worried.
Since then my neighbor and his son have made several claims about the trees and the hedge, the latest being that the hedge is really my neighbor's (they looked at the ancient marking between the 2 gardens). What I would like to know is what is the legal status of the hedge? If the hedge is slightly on his side, does it belong to him? Or does the fact that he told me 25 years ago that it was my hedge and to my knowledge never cut any part of it (even his own side - his garden was a mess), and it was accepted by both parties that it was my hedge and I should (and did), look after it, give me a claim to it? I have solely looked after the hedge for 25 years on my neighbor's assertion it was mine. If it turns out that the hedge was actually on his side of the boundary line, what is my legal position?
If it had truly been my neighbor's hedge, he would not have needed my permission to cut the hedge down but could have cut it down at any time over the past 25 years.
My neighbor's son - who has a record of cutting down an old lady's new hedge after being paid by a neighbor to do so - now claims that he has a witness statement by another neighbor that she overheard the guy staying in my house give permission to my neighbor's son to cut the tree down. The guy steadfastly denies this. Of course, he was in no position to give permission for anything related to my house. Only I can do that. I have little doubt that my neighbor and his son took advantage of my absence and my friendship and my knowledge of their illness to destroy my property, knowing full well it takes a hundred years or more for a tree to grow, and maybe half that for a hedge to gain that degree of maturity. It is an old trick - cut down the tree and argue about who was right or wrong afterwards, knowing that the worst that would happen to him would be a niggardly fine and the tree and hedge cannot be put back. I am 66 years old and don't have time to wait for a new tree to grow. Also, I live on an island and there are no firms offering transplants of mature trees.
I have demanded compensation of 5000 GBP. My neighbor's son has offered 500 GBP. What is my legal position, please?