Don't like nosy neighbours staring into your home as they walk by? Too bad. A B.C. Supreme Court judge has ruled that even the most "intimidating" stares cannot be used as grounds for a lawsuit.

Peter and Meah Martin, a retired couple living in a ground-floor suite at the Savona complex on Salal Drive in Vancouver, filed a suit against a neighbour for what they described his "an almost relentless daily routine" of staring into their ground-floor suite.

The Martins said that beginning in October 2005, Leo Lavigne, "stared into (their) unit in an intimidating way from the sidewalk outside" at least twice a day for almost a year while the retiree was walking his dog or going out on errands.

But Judge Grant Burnyeat wrote in his ruling Tuesday that no matter how intimidated the Martins were by Lavigne's staring, he was not breaking any law.

"Even if you define a ‘stare' as an intense gaze that lasts for a number of seconds, I cannot conclude that the law of nuisance was intended to address such a trivial grievance," Burnyeat said.

"Ironically, both Mr. and Ms. Martin admitted that, in order to observe the ‘staring', it was necessary for them to have to watch Mr. Lavigne as he walked by their Unit."

The breaking point: A staring contest

Peter Martin was a retired chartered accountant and his wife was a former creative writing teacher when they moved into the building in 2004.

Shortly after arriving, Peter Martin said that he discovered bookkeeping errors that he believed had cost the strata owners more than $11,000. In their suit, the couple claims that when Peter offered his assistance to correct the mistakes and avoid future problems, they were ridiculed and harassed by other members of the strata.

The alleged daily staring by Lavigne, a former strata president, was just one part of a campaign that made them feel like "pariahs in their own home," the Martins claimed.

Lavigne would turn his head to look in their window as he passed by two or three times a day, Peter Martin said in court.

"Others would glance at the garden," he said, but Lavigne, "never made any effort to avert his eyes."

Peter Martin decided to fight stare with stare on Sept. 28, 2006, according to the couple's statement of claim.

"When Mr. Lavigne began his daily staring, Mr. Martin went into his ground floor garden to ‘stare back' at Mr. Lavigne. No words were spoken. Such was the level of animosity and intimidation that Mrs. Martin feared the worst and called 911."

The Vancouver police visited, and a police report was filed, but the officers apparently determined that it did not qualify as a criminal matter.

In his affidavit, Lavigne described the incident in a slightly different way, saying that as he walked past the Martins' unit:

"Mr. Martin exited his unit and positioned himself inside the fence on the outer perimeter of his patio immediately in front of the direction in which I was walking and glared at me....

"As I walked, Mr. Martin proceeded to move with me so as to continually face me. He continued to glare. As I continued down the sidewalk past his patio gateway near the boundary of his property, I glanced back and he was at the foot of the steps still glaring at me."

Peter Martin confirmed that he had followed Lavigne, locking eyes with him, as he walked past the suite, but said in his own affidavit that he did so because "I wanted to convey to him that his behaviour was unacceptable."

Both of the Martins acknowledged in court that they never felt physically threatened by Lavigne's staring.

A second suit dismissed

The judge also dismissed a defamation complaint against Andrew Neufield, the building's strata council president, in which the Martins claimed that Neufield had defamed them in a letter to other owners in the Savona.

The headline of that letter was entitled: "Savona Council Forced To Consult Strata Lawyer; Police Complaint To Be Filed Against Peter and Meah Martin."

The letter was written after the Martins called 911 and filed their own police complaint against Lavigne.

Burnyeat wrote that although the headline was defamatory because it "would tend to lower the reputation" of the Martins, Neufield was only performing his duties as strata president, and was not acting out of malice.