A couple who interfered with use of a right of way near Newburgh in Fife have been fined by a Sheriff in Cupar, at the conclusion of a long legal battle with Fife Council.

Mr and Mrs Nisbet own a property at Bloomfield, near Newburgh, adjacent to a right of way which runs from Whinnybank in Fife to Macduff’s Cross in Perth & Kinross. The route was declared to be a right of way in a court action in 1997, and this was confirmed in subsequent appeals. However, Mr and Mrs Nisbet continued to interfere with use of the right of way. They erected gates on the route, extended their garden over it, and challenged people using the route.

Sheriff Johnston ruled at the end of September that Mr and Mrs Nisbet were in breach of the earlier court order which required them not to obstruct the right of way or interfere with its use. Witnesses included 4 members of ScotWays who described how they had been repeatedly challenged when they tried to use the route, and their difficulties in opening the gates that the Nisbets had erected on the route. Sheriff Johnston commented that Mr Nisbet’s evidence ‘illustrated an ongoing determination to thwart the order of the court’.

Today (2nd November) the Sheriff ordered that Mr and Mrs Nisbet should each pay a fine of £500, and they will also have to pay the full legal costs of the case, including those of Fife Council. The costs will very considerably exceed the amount of the fines. It was made clear in the course of the case that there had been considerable effort by both the Council and ScotWays to persuade Mr and Mrs Nisbet to realise the seriousness of the position without going to court.

The case highlights the continuing importance of rights of way. The Sheriff reiterated that the public had a right to use the route, and dismissed the Nisbets’ claim that access along the route was an invasion of their privacy and against their human rights.