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Case of Exeter brothers accused of cutting down protected tree is settled after three years

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: April 07, 2014

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A long running case against a pair of brothers accused of cutting down a protected tree has been settled after almost three years.

Brendan De Vere Parnell and his brother Tristan Kelly have been facing trial at Exeter Crown Court for almost three years over the lopping of two beech trees in a communal garden near their home.

The case has been due to be heard by a jury on three different occasions but on each occasion it was adjourned because there was not enough time for it.

Now Exeter City Council have shelved the case after Parnell agreed to be bound over to keep the peace and promised not to send any more menacing letters to planning officials.

Parnell and his brother are the owners of a house in New North Road, Exeter, where they allegedly cut down the two beech trees in 2011.

The trees were subject of a preservation order and the brothers were accused of cutting them down without asking permission from the city council or giving them notice of their intentions.

The brothers have always maintained they had a right to lop the trees because their roots were undermining their home and risked causing subsidence.

The city council pursued the prosecution after Parnell sent a number of letters to officials which were considered intimidating.

One of these mentioned the home address of a female city council employee in Okehampton and contained a line which was crossed out but still legible suggesting he may pay her a visit.

Another informed the council that when he lived in America an unwelcome visitor to Parnell’s home had been ‘beaten to a pulp’.

Mr Joss Ticehurst, prosecuting, told the court that it has been agreed to let the case lie on file on condition that Parnell was bound over to keep the peace.

He read an agreed statement which said:”The issues raised in this case led to correspondence with Mr De Vere Parnell which on one view might have been described as robust but in reality was aggressive and involved insinuations of acts of violence.

“These led to a bail condition not to write to Exeter City Council except to acknowledge documents.

“The case has raised issues as to whether there should be some protection for those working for Exeter City Council to be free from such communications and the fear they instill.

“It is proposed Mr De Vere Parnell agrees to be bound over for 12 months on condition not to undertake at his home address any breach of the Town and Country Planning Act and not to communicate with the City Council using aggressive language or to intimate that any violence may be used towards any employee.”

Mr Ticehurst read the text of one letter written by Parnell in October 2011 to a female planning official in which he objects to being accused of a criminal offence.

He points out that the official does not even live in Exeter and goes on to give her exact address in Okehampton. The crossed out section said:”Perhaps I will go to Okehampton and make a false criminal allegation.”

The letter also makes it clear that he knows that her home does not have a garden of its own.

A second letter, written in July 2012, spoke of his involvement with someone who had come to his house while living in America and said they had been ‘beaten to a pulp by Mr De Vere Parnell.”

The bind-over applied only to Mr Parnell because his brother had not been involved in the correspondence.

Mr Parnell told Judge Elizabeth Rylands he consented to the order. He said:”I will endorse what the prosecution say. This proposal seems very wise and will save court time and save the public purse of Exeter City Council and Her majesty’s Government.”

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