A FAMILY from Ash is suing Guildford Council for £175,000 after an alleged breach of confidence meant they had to flee their home to escape from an abusive neighbour.

The Smith family has issued a High Court writ against the council, detailing the catalogue of events which left them fearing for their lives.

Henry Smith, 59, and his wife, Christine, 44, lived in Winchester Road from 1990 to 2000, during which time they bought their house from Guildford Council.

Also living at the house were their two sons, Jason, 25, and 23-year-old Daniel.

According to the writ, living in the same road as the Smiths was John Jones, known as John Boy, who lived with his travelling parents in their council-owned home.

The writ claims John Boy attacked and injured one of the Smith's neighbours and damaged his property.

It also claims he dumped large quantities of rubbish and constantly behaved in an anti-social manner.

The writ states that in June 1999 the council approached Mr Smith and asked him to make a daily record of John Boy's conduct so that they would have evidence to use to evict him. Mr Smith claims he was assured that his identity would be kept secret.

He kept the diary for three months on sheets supplied and returned to the council.

But the writ states that in September Mr Smith told the council that John Boy was starting to ask questions, and said that he was not willing to continue.

According to the writ, a council officer asked him to continue, promising that they would take proceedings to evict John Boy. They assured Mr Smith that they would not reveal his assistance.

Despite the council's reassurances, the writ states that Mr Smith declined to continue keeping a diary of John Boy's conduct.

According to the writ, in March 2000 the council took John Boy to county court with the aim of forcing an injunction forbidding him to use violence.

The council used the diary sheets and, it is claimed, showed John Boy a copy of a statement written by Mr Smith and showing his address.

The writ states that on March 23 Mr Smith came home to find that the tyre of his pick-up truck had been vandalised. While he was looking at it the parents of John Boy began to barrack him, accusing him of informing on their son to the council.

It is then claimed a crowd of travellers surrounded him, saying that his family would be run out of the road and their vehicles wrecked.

Mr Smith claims he was warned that their home might be burned down and that the crowd produced a copy of a statement in his handwriting, which included his address.

The following day, claims the writ, Mr Smith phoned the council to explain the problem.

The council said they would buy the house and that the family should move out that day.

Throughout the day travellers gathered outside the house and threatened Henry, puncturing another tyre on his truck.

A removal van was loaded with as much of the contents of the house as could be fitted.

The writ continues that later that afternoon Mr and Mrs Smith and their sons left their home, escorted past the crowds by police.

Two security guards, arranged by the council, remained at the house.

Many of their possessions had to be abandoned, including the whole of Mr Smith's ornamental fish stock.

They stayed in bed and breakfast accommodation for around a week, before moving to a hotel for a further month. Their nine-month-old dog stayed in kennels.

The whole time they had to avoid being seen by John Boy, his friends or family. The family changed their vehicles, as did Jason's fiancée.

The family claims the repercussions of the whole incident have severely affected the lives.

A doctor's report has confirmed that Mr Smith has suffered depression, pre-venting him from working.

Their dreams of spending their lives together in the Ash house have been shattered, and they are now claiming total damages of around £175,000.

A spokesman for Guildford Council said: "As the matter is subject to legal process we are unable to comment."