Help: Saw Neighbours Trespassing in My Backyard, Police Said It Was Lawful

This is a lengthy post. I am still pretty freaked out: you see strangers opening the gate and walking around in your backyard.

So today I saw my next door neighbour and his wife trespassing in my backyard through the window. They opened the side gate (it was locked with one of those latches ( and were their quite some time. By the time I got decently dressed, they were gone. It really freaked me out because I have chronic anxiety, live alone (with one year old twins) and I don't have security cameras. At first I didn't know who it was then I recognised it was my neighbours. I never gave them permission to access my backyard.

I called the police (station, not 000 since it wasn't an emergency and they had gone) an spoke to someone and he said "you are able to open the gate and go into someone's backyard without their consent. We [police] do it all the time." And he was explaining how it was A-OK. It was a grey area because it depends on lawful intent but that it was a grey area and technically (according to him) there is nothing wrong with going into someone else's yard without their consent.

And the policeman over the phone said it was not trespassing, because trespassing is when you go out, see them without permission on your premises and tell them to leave and if they don't leave, that is trespassing. I went over to their house to ask them and they weren't there. I didn't like his explanation because what if you do have security cameras and they catch someone snooping around in your yard. What do I do?

Edit: feel free to suggest security systems/cameras or anything. Just to clarify some things:

  • I went over to their house and knocked three times (three sets of knocks), they don't have a doorbell. So I went home, wrote a note and left a short note for them asking what they were doing.
  • several people thought i was naked/wearing only underwear. I wasn't, I was wearing sweatpants and an old jumper.
  • I have really
  • i have really bad anxiety and it affects my everyday life and I initially didnt want to confront them (at first I thought it was the neighbors in their own yard, then I saw there were actually in my yard)
  • I got dressed (few mins) and went upside, but they were gone.
  • the wife was (I'm presuming) there a few seconds??
  • polic explained it like anyone can walk into somebody else's house, unlock their sidegate and enter the backyard and just snoop around.


  • +18 votes

    What were they doing, or what did it look like they were doing? Looking for a ball/child/animal? Measuring something? Fixing the fence?

    There are plenty of reasons why they may be over your side of the fence which don't require panic.


      None of the above. I'm not exactly sure what they were doing, they were there for more than a few minutes (too long to get a ball or animal).

    • +28 votes

      They should still have the common decency to knock on the front door first at least, I would be pissed if I saw random people in my backyard full stop.

    • +20 votes

      Under the law of trespass, if someone enters the property without permission you can ask them to leave. If they refuse to go when asked, (only then) they are (considered to be) trespassing and you can use reasonable force to remove them. If you use more than reasonable force however, you may be committing an assault and can be charged, or even sued by the trespasser. - Legal Answers. So, what police call-centre responder told you is correct.
      I’d (a) install proper lock; (b) afix “Private Property - Do Not Enter” sign - an implicit prohibition; (c) chat with neighbour about courtesy; (d) (in future) take photos during unwanted entry; (e) ignore most responses on OzBargain - some posters rile (genuine) OPs for sport.

  • +11 votes

    Padlock - problem solved


      I do have a padlock for the latch so I don't know how they opened it. It's weird.

      • +11 votes

        get another padlock or fix the hinge.

      • +2 votes

        Are your neighbours magicians?! Awesome!

      • +3 votes

        If the padlock is not super-tightly fitted, it is a relatively simple matter to rotate the lock over the open end of latch-bolt and allow the bolt to be slid open. Hard to describe, quite easy to do.

        If it is a small, cheap padlock, most can be opened with a similar key and a little wiggling, some even with a bent piece of wire/paper clip.

        If it's a combination lock, there are usually less than a hundred possible combinations, and often it's easy to guess based on how the owner leaves the numbers.

        They didn't break the lock in this case, but it's worth knowing that most padlocks are able to be smashed, shattered or split with the right handtools, (search youtube for explanation).

        The only reliable, truly secure option is to get a rectangular padlock like this:


    This is a case for the FBI, or Bikies.

  • +19 votes

    You know who they are and where they live.

    Go and have a friendly chat with them.

  • +21 votes

    Don't sweat it, OP. Cops these days do nothing unless there are injuries or big damage.

    • +3 votes

      I'm starting to think that…because the policeman I spoke to wasn't really helpful.

      • +13 votes

        Don't bother with cops, they are useless. Someone was throwing bottles at my house a few months ago - I went to the local police station and told then who it was and where they lived. They didn't even bother turning up.

      • -1 vote

        because the policeman I spoke to wasn't really helpful

        Why wasn't he helpful?

        From you description it sounds like he explained the situation correctly and have you all the information he could.

    • +22 votes

      To be fair, at face value - this shouldn't be escalated to a police matter at this stage.

      • +10 votes

        Yeah. I'd first wonder why the padlock on my gate's broken and fix that. If it happens again, I'd head over (maybe with a cheap bottle of red) and just ask what's up. They've really caused no harm or done anything that'd warrant going to the cops.

    • +24 votes

      Cops usually do their job If you are doing 103 in a 100 or drive a 4x4 around.


    Perhaps they were chasing away a trespasser……

  • +7 votes

    Get a dog. Will help you with your anxiety and avoid any intruders. And go back to your neighbours later today asking them what they were looking for as it sound like they know your garden better than you


      Unless scared of dogs.

      • +5 votes

        "Unless scared of dogs."

        If he's scared of dogs and neighbours then he's well and truly munted.

        • +2 votes

          Aren t we all scared of something ?! Dogs are really good to deal with anxiety and stress and you don t need a big one to scare of someone. Most of people don t like the sound of a dog barking and will back off. OP is obviously a woman with 2 young child suffering from anxiety that why I suggested a dog. But reading through comments I think op might need some counselling to overcome her anxiety as it S not something that you can shake off and can affected young child in her care. It S normal for a first time mum to be anxious but with no help that anxiety can turn into "panic attacked".

    • +1 vote

      Also, apparently people who own dogs and live alone, live longer.

      • +1 vote

        Eventually they die and the dogs get hungry and eat their faces. Or was that cats?


          Apparently they both do, but the cats dig in earlier and the dogs wait a few days longer and go for the intestines as they're easier for them to get access to.

  • +47 votes

    If you want them to know you saw them but not accuse them of doing anything wrong, ask them if they found what they were looking for. Then let them know if they want to look for something that you don’t mind, but would just prefer they let you know before they come in.

    I had some neighbours kids come around into my backyard once looking for their rabbit, which I had seen once or twice in the backyard jungle. I didn’t mind, but did ask them to check with me first before coming in next time, basically so neither of us got a fright.

    • +3 votes

      Best advice here

    • +28 votes

      Your scenario reminds me of the old rabbit joke:

      A man walked into his garden one day to find his dog with a rabbit in its mouth. Further examination showed it was actually the prize rabbit belonging to the neighbour. It was very dead, although no obvious injury could be seen.

      The man was horrified and felt terrible. Mindful that there may be ramifications for his dog, if it was found to have killed the rabbit, he took the rabbit inside, shampooed and blow dried it, then quickly snuck next door to put it back in the hutch before the neighbour got home.

      A few days went by and he heard nothing. Then on the weekend he was talking over the fence to his neighbour, who he said that a really strange thing had happened to him that week. When he came home from work one night he found his prize rabbit dead in its hutch.

      "Oh no," says the man. "Sorry to hear that"

      "That’s not the strange part," says the neighbour. "What’s really odd is that it had died earlier the day before, and some weirdo had dug it up, cleaned it and placed it back in the cage !"

    • +2 votes

      Why are you not bringing peace to the Middle East?


      You didn't tell them that "I haven't seen it, but the stew I had last night was delicious."?

    • +1 vote

      That's what I'm going to say when I see them.

    • +1 vote

      "If you want them to know you saw them but not accuse them of doing anything wrong, ask them if they found what they were looking for."

      While holding a baseball bat, casually tapping it against your palm :D

  • +5 votes

    Why don't you go into their backyard & see their reaction?


    I have absolutely no idea about the legalities, but I found this (this applies to NSW AFAIK).

    So, I’m not sure. :/

    If I was told that I would definitely be dubious though. As it sort of implies that your neighbour has free reign to just wander around your backyard and more or less stake out whatever they might want to ‘permanently borrow’. It doesn’t sound right, but who knows. Maybe speak to legal services, at least just to know where you stand as far as the law is concerned.

    • +1 vote

      As the police told op it's the motive that matters if it's a neighbor. If it's somebody from another town then it would be a different story. A neighbor could always say we were looking for something & didn't want to disturb you…

      • +4 votes

        I didn’t initially read the OP’s post like that, but that does make sense as they probably mentioned it was a neighbour, so I get where you’re coming from.

        In my mind, that’s a stupid law though. It should 100% be the other way around, in that a neighbour must first ask and get express permission to enter your property otherwise they are deemed to be trespassing. It’s silly, in my mind, to be expecting folks to needing to ask their neighbours to leave, before they’re trespassing. I mean, depending on where you live, who knows what kind of people your neighbours are, could be high on drugs, who knows.

        • +3 votes

          in that a neighbour must first ask and get express permission to enter your property otherwise they are deemed to be trespassing.

          No, for practical purposes, the police don't want a bazillion criminal prosecutions of kids going into their neighbour's yard to get a ball. I get logically why you're saying what you're saying, but practically it'd cause bedlam.

        • +2 votes

          +jawanzar I completely agree with you and you correctly interpreted my post correctly. I was dubious as well and asked the policeman that 'hypothetically, I could go and walk to a random person's house and unlock their side gate and walk around their backyard?'. He said "yes". So it seems like anyone can walk in someone else's backyard and claim you were just looking for something (when they weren't and they were actually casing the joint and intend to rob it soon).

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