A DISABLED man has pleaded guilty to harassment after placing a sex toy on the doorstep of a woman who rejected his advances and dead rabbits outside her home.

James Close, 43, from Low Row, near Richmond, North Yorkshire, appeared before magistrates in Northallerton yesterday facing charges of harassment against his neighbour.

Close, who works as a tenant farmer, is deaf and unable to speak. As the case opened, a sign language interpreter was sworn in at the court to interpret the proceedings.

The court heard how between November last year and January 29 this year, Close carried out a campaign of harassment which included using abusive sign language and leaving a sex toy on the doorstep of her home. On another occasion he placed dead rabbits outside her front door and put up a sign indicating her house was for sale.

Sam Law, prosecuting, said the victim lived close to the defendant and he had agreed to let her keep horses on the land he had tenancy on.

Mrs Law told the court: “She says she became friends with the defendant but it became obvious he had become besotted with her and consistently asked her to be his girlfriend. He wanted to marry her and have children.

“She says she always rejected his advances and tried to make it clear she was not interested and wanted to remain friends with him.

“Having rejected him on a number of occasions he has become abusive towards her.

“From her friendship with him she had learnt a little sign language and was aware of some of the abuse directed towards her.”

The woman contacted police after she found the For Sale sign that had been outside her property behind the defendant’s home.

Julian Gaskett, representing Close, said it was an “unusual case” as James Close had extensive disabilities and could be “considered vulnerable in his own right” and his family felt he experienced social isolation due to his deafness.

He told the court: “He asked me to apologise to the court on his behalf for what has taken place. He understands how his language and lack of ability to speak could be considered to be verbally abusive and there’s a certain economy of words in the deaf community that outsiders can find brutally frank.

“In the cold light of day reading what has taken place in black and white one can understand how (the victim) could be harassed or caused offence by what has taken place. James understands she has a right to live at the property.”

Chairman of the bench, magistrate Lewis Grant, said they had taken into account the defendant’s early guilty plea, his expression of remorse and his disabilities. He was given a 12 month conditional discharge and ordered to pay court costs of £85 and a £15 surcharge.

He also imposed a restraining order, preventing Close from visiting the woman’s property or contacting her directly.