Harassment case against praying Sussex woman is dropped

Nigel and Sheila Jacklin pictured on the beach in Normans Bay
Nigel and Sheila Jacklin pictured on the beach in Normans Bay

A woman who was charged with harassing her neighbour while praying on the beach said she was relieved when her court case was dismissed by magistrates.

Mum-of-two Sheila Jacklin, 56, of Normans Bay, was accused of ‘pursuing a course of conduct which amounted to harassment of Norinne Betjemann’.

She appeared at Hastings Magistrates Court on October 4 to answer the charge after Miss Betjemann sent police CCTV images of Mrs Jacklin doing her prayer – including a gesture called a Mudra which involves the raising of the middle finger – on the beach at Normans Bay.

However, after the prosecution offered no evidence in respect of the matter, chairman of the bench Janet Courtney told Mrs Jacklin the charges were dismissed and she was free to leave.

Despite the case being dropped, prosecutor Paul Lamb asked the court to impose a restraining order on Mrs Jacklin to stop her praying outside Miss Betjemann’s property.

Ms Courtney dismissed the application, saying it ‘risks inflaming an already strained situation’.

Speaking afterwards, Mrs Jacklin said the ordeal has caused her insomnia but added it was a ‘huge relief’ for it to be over.

She said she told police during interviews the prayer was to do with her Indian heritage and her yogic prayers and that she decided to do it on the beach because ‘it’s flat, I’ve got a good view of my house, and it’s pretty’.

Mrs Jacklin said the middle finger in the Mudra, part of her daily Yogic prayer, has a special Hindu and Buddhist significance.

On the day of her court hearing, she was joined by Satish Sharma, the general secretary of the National Council of Hindu Temples UK and chairman of British Board of Dharmic Scholars, who attended to justify the legitimacy of the prayers.

In a letter to the Crown Prosecution Service, seen by this newspaper, Mr Sharma wrote: “I can confirm that the activities described by Mrs Jacklin are a part of the devotional practices of Hindu worship and an intrinsic part of Yoga practices, often engaged in prior to religious contemplation and worship.”

A CPS spokesman said: “The CPS offered no evidence in the case, but did apply for a restraining order. This was opposed by the defence and the magistrates determined that a restraining order was not proportionate or necessary in this case.”

Sussex Police said the prosecution was authorised by the CPS. A spokesman added: “We are not in a position to comment further.”