Farmer who claimed her land belongs to God loses her legal case
The saying ‘on God’s green earth’ took a literal meaning for a farmer in Chilsworthy. This happened during a trial in which the woman was charged with breaching planning laws. She argued that her land belongs to God and was therefore not subject to the laws of man.
The farmer and her husband, Liane and Stephen Shepherd, had purchased the 8-acre piece of land in 2015 for £101,000. They illegally began living in a static caravan and engaged in pig and poultry rearing. They later added a second static caravan and followed this up with the addition of two mobile caravans.
With the caravans in place, they began advertising themselves as a camp site. In January 2017, they were asked to leave the land with an enforcement order coming into effect in August 2017. The couples’ breach of the enforcement order prompted the initiation of legal action against them. During the 3-day trial, Liane staunchly stuck to her assertion that the land belonged to God. She went as far as refusing to respond to her name, asking to be called a ‘living soul’.
When presented with a map that referred to the area as ‘the land’ she retorted that it should have said ‘God’s land’. She went on to say that God would not sell the land and that she was above the crown. Liane went on to state that she was entitled to live her beliefs by the Equality Acts, which was not agreed with by all planning solicitors.
Jurists were told of how officials from the Torridge District Council had gone to Bassets Farm to try and get the pair to get rid of the caravans. It was at this time that Liane launched her Bible-based defines by quoting verses from the book Leviticus. She again turned to the Bible to make her case during the trial. The farmer said that the Bible instructed her to not have any title and to not get into any judgement.
Her Christian assertions were not enough to sway the judge who found her and her husband guilty. Judge Timothy Rose described her interpretation of the Bible as “warped”. On top of this, he told Liane that her beliefs did not give her the license to act in any way she saw fit. The couple were found to have been in breach of the enforcement order and were hit with fines. Liane was handed a £7,500 fine with £8,500 in costs while Stephen was ordered to pay a £1,000 fine and costs amounting to £1,788.
Stephen’s punishment was less severe as he was found to have been less culpable. The judge took into account his testimony in which he said that he did not own the land and had no control over it. He also stated that he had played no part in the defiance of the notice.