Neighbour from hell freed from jail after stroke; WOMAN SERVED JUST DAY OF SENTENCE BEFORE RELEASE.
Byline: JANE TYLER News Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org @JaneTyler4
A WOMAN jailed for assaulting her neighbours has had her prison term suspended after suffering a stroke just hours after being sentenced.
Julie Rankine, 54, had been jailed for 22 weeks in March for the attacks in leafy Streetly Lane, Four Oaks.
But she suffered a stroke just one day into her sentence.
Now a judge at Birmingham Crown Court has suspended the jail term, meaning she is free to return home.
The court heard that Rankine had spent just a few days in jail and the rest of the time was in hospital or out on bail because of ill health.
Suspending the jail sentence for two years, Mr Recorder Kevin Hegarty QC warned that if she reoffended she "could expect to be going back to the cells".
Rankine was convicted of three charges of assault and one charge of using threatening words or behaviour by Birmingham magistrates in March.
All the charges related to the neighbours who live on either side of her PS1 million house in leafy Streetly Lane.
Jamie Scott, prosecuting, said Rankine assaulted two neighbours by poking them with her metal walking stick while having a "tug of war" over garden fences.
She also threatened a third neighbour by waving an axe above her head as they argued about a boundary fence.
Magistrates had previously heard how the incidents were all a result of a long-running campaign of harassment Rankine had waged against her neighbours.
In court one of the neighbours, Andrew Moore, whose wife Caroline was assaulted, spoke of the misery they had endured.
He said: "We've had to put up with this for 10 years, it's been horrendous.
"We wanted to move and tried to sell our house but Miss Rankine called the estate agents and told them there was a neighbours' dispute.
"She then told my wife, 'you will never sell your house - I will always be watching you.'" ."
Lucinda Wilmott-Lascelles, representing Rankine, said she was jailed on March 22, but the following day suffered a stroke whilst in prison. She was taken to hospital where she remained until April 10, after which she was granted bail with the condition she lived with her sister, pending the appeal.
She said her client was in very poor health, which included poor cognitive impairment following chemotherapy for cancer. She had also suffered a previous stroke, which meant she did not have the use of her left hand, and also had epilepsy.
Following her second stroke in March, she was now in a wheelchair, had difficulty speaking and hearing and was reliant on two carers coming to her house four times a day to look after her.
"She accepts what she did [to her neighbours] was not acceptable behaviour and this will not reoccur," Miss Wilmott-Lascelles said.
The court heard how Rankine was still subject to an indefinite restraining order which prevents her harassing her neighbours.
Mr Recorder Hegarty added another condition to it, that she has no contact whatsoever with the two sets of neighbours she assaulted.