Published: 20/03/2017 13:40 - Updated: 20/03/2017 13:43

Bettyhill crofter left obscene message on neighbours' phone court hears

Case heard at Tain Sheriff Court.
Case heard at Tain Sheriff Court.

A north coast crofter left an obscene message on his neighbours’ phone after they signed a petition calling for his sheep to be prevented from wandering freely.

Neil Mackay (26), Kirtomy, Bettyhill, called the couple ‘f****** c****’ on the voicemail, Tain Sheriff Court heard today.

The grossly offensive message was sent on November 6 last year and immediately reported to police.

Procurator fiscal depute Martina Eastwood said Mackay and his family ran a flock of sheep in the small crofting community.

She said: “The sheep are allowed to roam freely and this was met with concern by other residents in Kirtomy. A petition was submitted to the Crofting Commission in a bid to stop free access.

“The complainers were signatories on the petition and Mr Mackay was aware of this. His father had expressed disappointment that their neighbours had signed the petition.”

Ms Eastwood said the couple woke on the day in question to find a message had been left on their phone.

She said: “That message said ‘f****** c****’. They recognised the voice of the accused and felt that it was a direct result of the petition they had signed.

“The couple also recognised the number from which the voicemail had been left. It belonged to the brother of the accused.

“A complaint was made to police and shortly after the accused was charged with the offence. He made no reply when cautioned and charged.”

Mackay admitted at Monday’s court sending a voice message that was grossly offensive.

Defence agent Neil Wilson said it was common in Highland crofting communities for sheep on common grazings to wander at will. He said if that meant sheep going on to a road, then “so be it”.

He said: “What appears to have happened here is that Mr Mackay – a self-employed crofter - and his father had sheep running out on the hill and others thought the sheep should be fenced in.

“It was a neighbourhood dispute over whether sheep should or should not be fenced in. But obviously to fence in the common grazings would be a huge expense.”

The lawyer continued: “Mr Mackay and his father felt aggrieved that two of the people who complained were people they had been friendly with. The Mackays felt their neighbours had gone behind their back.

“I suspect that Neil Mackay is in the right in this matter but he should not have, in his exasperation, phoned up the complainers and left the message he did.

“The dispute is still ongoing and he has done his best to fence sheep in as best he can – but it is a huge area.  The fall-out between him and his neighbours is irretrievable and, in his own words, they have it ‘in for him’.”

Mr Wilson said that previously Mackay, in addition to helping his father run the flock, had occasionally worked as a fencing contractor and jobbing shepherd.  But he could no longer do so because he had been disqualified from driving last year.  His earnings had suffered as a result.

Sheriff Chris Dickson fined Mackay £220 and also imposed a fines enforcement order.

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