MEMBERS of an off-grid community armed themselves with axes to scare off doggers who were using a car park next to their home for casual sex.

Daniel Bacon and Christopher McKinlay had been asking the local council for months to take action against men who were meeting up at the isolated beauty spot in Haldon Forest, near Dawlish.

They took the law into their own hands when they blocked off the exit to the woodland car park and then threatened the men with axes.

The incident ended with them putting away the axes, reopening the entrance to the car park, and ordering the men to leave and never come back.

Both had families living in makeshift homes in the woods and were worried about the area being used by doggers. They have now set up a community group to try to protect the area.

The off-grid community on Haldon Ridge is one of the longest established in the country and has its own postcode. Its residents pay council tax and some have been there for 20 years.

Bacon, aged 32, and McKinlay, aged 42, both of Haldon Ridge, admitted possession of bladed articles and were each ordered to do 80 hours unpaid community work as part of an 18 month community order by Judge Timothy Rose at Exeter Crown Court.

He told them: ‘The court can understand the way you felt about things, as you explained to the police at the time.

‘You both realise now that this was a terrible mistaken way to go about things. Whatever people were or were not doing in the car park, the fact of the matter is that you very significantly frightened them.

‘No only did you produce the axes but for a period of time you blocked their escape from the car park with your cars.

‘Various members of the public saw you coming towards them with axes held aloft, shouting and behaving in a menacing way. It was obviously frightening. They thought they were going to get axes through their windows or worse still, their bodies.

‘I know you say you did not intend to hit anyone, but they did not know that. It was wholly wrong and should never have happened.

‘I give you credit for the way you have responded since. You were open and honest to the police and explained what your thinking was.

‘You expressed regret and remorse and accepted that you got it wrong and it would never be repeated. In the light of all the mitigation in this case, I am satisfied justice can be met by a community order.’

Miss Rachel Drake, prosecuting, said the incident happened at 4.15pm on March 21 last year when Bacon and McKinlay confronted men who had arrived in the car park in separate vehicles.


They both had axes in the boots of their cars which they used for collecting wood, and used them to threaten the men.

The incident was originally investigated as a homophobic hate crime but that allegation is no longer being pursued.

Mr Lee Bremridge, for McKinlay, said he accepts it was the wrong way to go about protecting his community and a local community group has been set up to try to sort out the problem.

He said: ‘The probation report says my client is a reasonable and decent man who acted in good faith to protect the community without consideration of his actions and is unlikely to offend again.

‘The position is that, with fellow members of the community, he had tried other available means to stop the sorts of behaviour that were happening in the car park, without success.’

Miss Kelly Scrivener, for Bacon, said he has a full time job and his partner is due to give birth next month.