by Ross Irby
HORRIBLE behaviour by a nasty neighbour twisted the lives of three women into a nightmare existence, causing them to live in fear inside their own home not knowing what he would do next.
The cowardly behaviour of 40-year-old Ashley Achilles was described by Magistrate John Smith as "harassing, bullying and terrifying" for an 86-year-old woman, her daughter, 52, who has Down syndrome and a second daughter, 55.
Police say Achilles would put rubbish in their yard, throw rocks on their roof, "bark like a dog at them" and yelled abuse, terrifying the women.
A dead rat was even thrown into their yard.
Achilles's antics were unmasked in Bundaberg Magistrates Court when he pleaded guilty to two counts of stalking Barbara Tracey, 86, and daughter Genevieve at Bargara between August 2015 and September 2016.
Despite barrister Nick Larter arguing that a fine was appropriate and that Achilles' behaviour the result of depression and back pain, Mr Smith said jail was necessary to show the community would not tolerate such offending.
He sentenced Achilles to six months jail on each offence.
"Your behaviour was calculated, intimidating, harassing, bullying and terrifying," Mr Smith said.
The court was told there had been extensive case conferencing of the matter before Achilles pleaded, and that he had since tried to maintain the peace.
Case conferencing involves a discussion between the defence and prosecution to negotiate a faster resolution in criminal cases.
Achilles' family, including his parents and partner Melissa Paten, appeared surprised by the sentence then visibly relieved when Mr Smith suspended the jail terms for two years.
Police prosecutor Senior Constable Andrew Blunt said a timber fence separated the two homes in Natalie St.
He outlined some of the many acts of stalking by Achilles, including throwing rubbish like leaves over the fence and driveway, cigarette butts, playing loud noise from speakers he placed near their fence, and revving his boat engine to send fumes and smoke over.
Snr Cnst Blunt said Achilles removed timber palings from the fence so he could watch the women, even some palings adjacent to a bedroom. At times he used a garden blower to blow rubbish through the gaps in the fence.
Mr Larter said Achilles was "very sorry" and stopped the stalking on his own accord.
He said his client suffered a range of psychological problems following a back injury and received a work cover claim, and still used morphine patches.
He had since completed anger management regime.
"If he is suffering then why put suffering on to others?" Mr Smith asked.
"This is really terrible circumstances, terrible conduct he's engaged in," Mr Smith said.
"It does not take back the trauma and terror suffered by these women over a long period. Major depression doesn't excuse what he's engaged in."
Mr Smith noted comments held in their victim impact statements about the effects on health, stress, and anxiety and how family and friends had been unable to stay with the women due to fear.
The women said Achilles harassment caused them fear living in their own home, his behaviour daily intimidating.
Mr Smith said that what Achilles subjected them to for over 12 months after moving in next door caused them to no longer feel safe in their home, something they should not have to feel.
"Genevieve felt her life had been hijacked by your actions. Your behaviour was abhorrent," Mr Smith said.
Mr Smith said a medical letter before the court spoke of Achilles depression and suicide attempt, and anger management issues, and chronic back pain and while one can sympathise with pain sufferer's and depression it was "no excuse to impose mental distress on other persons."
Mr Smith said his change after medical intervention "doesn't change what you subjected your neighbours too".
With jail hanging over Achilles head, Mr Smith ordered him to have no contact with the women and prohibited him from following them for the next two years.
Speaking afterwards the women said there had been many incidents over a long time that made them feel extremely vulnerable inside their own home.
"We even had dog faeces come over the fence," Genevieve said.
"It has had a huge, huge impact on us. That he was lurking there.
"It caused us anxiety and our lives were hijacked.
"It only stopped because of a peace and good behaviour order.
"Why was he doing it? Because he could.
"I don't believe he is sorry."