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Nightmare neighbour convicted of abusing homosexual couple

By This is Exeter  |  Posted: October 01, 2008

  • Dennis Scanes who has been convicted of harassing disabled men. Inset, how the Echo previously reported the story

  • Kevin Whitburn, left, and Andrew Brown EE100407_MM02_03

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A NIGHTMARE neighbour has been convicted of making homophobic comments towards a disabled couple as they walked down a city street.

Dennis Scanes, 68, of Aldens Road, Alphington, appeared at Exeter Magistrates' Court charged with harassing Kevin Whitburn and Andrew Brown.

Scanes, a takeaway delivery driver, denied any wrongdoing, but the court heard that for three years he had made his neighbours' lives hell with loud music, swearing and general anti-social behaviour.

At the time of the offence, he was the subject of a conditional discharge after he admitted sending a threatening letter to Mr Whitburn.

Prosecutor Mark Haddow said Scanes had difficulty accepting the relationship of Mr Whitburn, who is partially deaf, and Mr Brown, who is registered blind.

He said the couple had been together for 18 years, but they had broken up in March as a consequence of Scanes' hate campaign.

He said that on June 12, the couple had met in a bid to salvage their relationship when Scanes launched his verbal assault.

Mr Haddow told the court: "He intended to cause them harassment, alarm or distress by the words he used in relation to their relationship."

Giving evidence, Mr Whitburn said he was returning to the bungalow which he shared with his 81-year-old mother when he noticed Scanes standing in the street.

He said that as they approached, Scanes swore and shouted "There's the queers.

"Then he started mumbling. It was directed at both of us, but more at Andrew."

Breaking down in tears, he added: "It just makes you feel sick, you just want it to stop. It's not fair.

"It makes you feel dirty inside and question your own sexuality. At 50 years old, I shouldn't have to do that. I know who I am."

Mr Whitburn said he blamed Scanes in part for the breakdown of his relationship with Mr Brown and said he had complained to the city council about his neighbour's behaviour.

The court heard that Mr Whitburn had a CCTV camera installed on his house for protection and he regularly filmed Scanes with a hand-held camera.

Mr Whitburn denied fabricating the incident in a bid to see Scanes evicted from his home.

Mr Brown said he heard Scanes mumble something and warned him to be civil because he was already in "plenty of trouble with Exeter City Council".

He said Scanes replied with further swearing and a reference to the couple's homosexuality.

"I felt so angry and upset," added Mr Brown.

"The first moment I'm in Aldens Road and I'm getting abuse again. It makes me feel sick."

Scanes, who was acquitted at Exeter Crown Court last year of seven counts of harassment, said he was inside getting ready for work at the time of the offence and he did not make any abusive remarks to the couple.

He said: "I have been trying to keep clear of Mr Whitburn because of what he can do. He's a vicious man, he's evil."

Scanes said he did not have a problem with gay people and he would not use the sort of language described by Mr Whitburn and Mr Brown.

Asked by Mr Haddow if he was homophobic because he was repressing his own sexuality, Scanes replied: "You are barking up the wrong tree."

Defence counsel Piers Norsworthy told the court there was no evidence to suggest Scanes, despite being a "cantankerous old man", was homophobic.

He said there was no CCTV evidence to support the victims' claims or any independent witness verification.

Convicting Scanes of the offence, chairman of the bench Peter White said the evidence of Mr Whitburn and Mr Brown was "credible".

The hearing was adjourned until October 20 for reports to be made before sentencing.

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