Rishi Sunak welcomes harassed constituent back home

A RETIRED police officer has returned to her moorland home for good after her MP succeeded in protecting her from a sex offender.

Mandy Dunford is once more enjoying her idyllic Bilsdale smallholding after a successful legal move to prevent the man who made her life a misery from returning to live next door to her.

Ms Dunford, 55, of Chopgate, near Stokesley, fought a long and unsuccessful battle to ensure the neighbour who was convicted of sexually harassing her should not be able to return to his home within yards of her front door.

But following the intervention of Richmond MP Rishi Sunak, a court has ruled that the man, Ken Ward, is excluded from the area and has to wear an electronic tag for ten years so police can monitor his movements.

Ward was jailed for five years for sex and firearms offences in 2011 but a Sexual Offences Prevention Order originally allowed him to return to his home next door to Ms Dunford’s isolated farmhouse in the heart of the North York Moors.

Ms Dunford had moved out in anticipation of Ward’s release from prison but following the landmark court ruling, she moved back home last week and Mr Sunak called on her to see how she was settling in.

Mr Sunak said: “I am absolutely delighted to see Mandy back home and happy, surrounded by her animals and enjoying her life again.

“When she came to see me in my surgery over a year ago, I knew this was a glaring injustice which had to be put right. I am very grateful to the Attorney General and also North Yorkshire Police for helping me right this wrong and help Mandy get her life back.”

Ms Dunford said: “I can’t put into words how grateful I am to Mr Sunak. This would not have happened without his help. I had tried to get the order changed but got nowhere and it was his intervention that made all the difference.”

Mr Sunak was contacted by Ms Dunford shortly after his election in 2015. Initially, he obtained transcripts of the orginal hearing in which Mr Ward was convicted and the Sexual Offences Prevention Order made. He then sought counsel’s advice on the matter and secured a meeting with the UK’s top law officer the Attorney General to discuss Ms Dunford’s case.

The meeting with Attorney General Jeremy Wright led to North Yorkshire Police agreeing to take the matter back to court to have the original order amended and in June, at Teesside Crown Court, Judge Peter Armstrong ruled that as Ms Dunford was the victim her human rights in being able to enjoy her own home took precedence over offender Ward’s right to return to his home after serving his sentence.

Judge Armstrong described Ward’s disgusting acts as a relentless campaign of intimidation against Ms Dunford which was designed to drive his neighbour out of her home.

Ms Dunford bought the smallholding 18 years ago. She had taken early retirement on health grounds from the mounted section of Cleveland Police after a fall and looked forward to looking after her horses in her moorland home.

Initially, Ken Ward’s behaviour was normal but he grew increasingly aggressive and offensive culminating in his conviction in 2011.