TWO “pillars of the community” who ended up in court in a row over dog mess in their vegetable garden have been told to “get back to gardening”.

Janet Kearney and Terrance Marshall both reluctantly admitted disorderly behaviour when they appeared at Colchester Magistrates’ Court yesterday.

They were accused over a confrontation with a former neighbour, whose pet had been repeatedly fouling the organic market garden in Magnolia Drive, Greenstead.

The court heard Kearney, 63, of Willingham Way, and Marshall, 70, of Magnolia Drive, shouted and swore at neighbour Helena Moraldo, after her dog was spotted running loose in the community garden the couple had set up.

The dog owner complained to police and the couple were arrested, bailed and charged with a public order offence six months later.

The couple’s lawyer, James O’Toole, said they had been reluctant to admit to the charge, and they felt they had been provoked.

Plants had been trampled, fruit and veg pilfered and the ground covered in dog mess, he claimed.

He added: “This project has done untold good for the community.

“The problem is there has been vandalism at the gardens, some of which has been carried out by one of the victims.”

Mrs Kearney, 63, told the court: “The neighbour from hell has been removed by the council and we are getting back with the garden now.”

The pair founded the Magnolia Garden Project in 2006, with funding from council housing management organisation, Colchester Borough Homes.

Helpers in the market garden get a free share of food, with the surplus sold cheaply to other residents.

District judge David Cooper gave the couple a conditional discharge, telling them: “It is not appropriate to punish you for this ancient matter.

“You are both doing a lot of good for the community.

“It’s unfortunate such unkind things were said.

“In many ways, you are both pillars of the community.

“You have done well and it is a great shame you are here today.

“You are free to go and get back to the garden.”