A WOMAN has spoken of her “year of hell” after neighbours tried to get her banned from looking at their property or praying on the beach next to their home and then being charged with harassment.

Sheila Jacklin enjoyed a peaceful life for more than 20 years with her husband Nigel and two children in their £600,000 home in Norman’s Bay.

She had used the beach for Hindu prayers since the pair moved into the property in 1996 but new neighbours Dr Stephane Duckett and Norinne Betjamenn said her poses – pointing her middle fingers to the sky with arms to her side – was a rude gesture aimed at them.

Last year Mrs Jacklin, a 53-year-old designer, and marketing expert Mr Jacklin, 57, were given a Community Protection Notice (CPN), a piece of law replacing ASBOs, which banned them from walking directly past their weekend neighbours’ home and creating an “exclusion zone” around the property.

It also meant they could face prosecution for being “perceived by any person to be looking into any neighbours’ property”.

In August 2018 the CPN was declared to have “no further effect” and so Mrs Jacklin carried on her doing her prayer.

She was then charged with harassment by police after her neighbours sent CCTV to the force – but the case was thrown out when the prosecution offered no evidence at Hastings Magistrates Court.

They then tried to get a restraining order on her but magistrates took just 15 minutes to throw that out.

The Jacklins went to court with Satish Sharma, the general secretary of the National Council of Hindu Temples UK and chairman of British Board of Dharmic Scholars who went to testify to the legitimacy of the prayers.

Chairwoman of the bench Janet Courtney said: “The prosecution are offering no evidence in respect of this matter and therefore all charges are dismissed. There will be no trial and you are free to leave.

“I understand it’s been a very distressing time for you so I will give you a moment to compose yourself.”

Mrs Jacklin and her children wept with relief at the back of the court as the announcement was made.

Ahmed Hossain, defending her, said: “There is no necessity here for a restraining order. There is no oppressive behaviour alleged here.

““If the court was minded to impose a restraining order that would be a serious sanction against a person of good character and put her at risk of prosecution for doing something she has always done at the behest of someone who bought a holiday home in front of her property. It would be wholly perverse to impose a restraining order.

After discussing it with the other magistrates Ms Courtney said: “We have heard an application by the crown on behalf of the complainant for a restraining order.

“This application is opposed by the defence on the grounds it would not be reasonable or proportionate.

“While we are aware of the background to the matter the defendant is a of good character. A restraining order risks inflaming an already strained situation.”

Speaking outside court, Sheila said: “It’s a huge relief for this to be over. I’m in a state of shock. This should never have come to court in any shape or form.

“I told the police it was to do with my Indian heritage and my yogic prayers. It’s been a total attack on Hinduism and highly offensive to call my Mudra an “F-you” gesture.”

The middle finger in Sheila’s Mudra, part of her Yogic prayer, has a special Hindu and Buddhist significance.

Mr Sharma explained: “This particular Mudra is used for merging with Akaash - a Sanskrit untranslatable word for which the closest English equivalent would be the ether element. This is within us and outside of us.

“Mrs Sheila Jacklin’s use of this Mudra is to connect to Ether ‘outside of the body.’”

Sheila added: “When I got out there I’m thanking the cosmos for the fact of where I live. It’s a thankful prayer.

“I love where I live and I love my lifestyle. The reason I do it there is because it’s flat, I’ve got a good view of my house, and It’s pretty.

“I’ve been doing it here every day for the last 27 years.”

Sussex Police said: “The prosecution had been authorised by the CPS. We are not in a position to comment further.”

Dr Duckett and Miss Betjemann were not available for comment.