A woman who taunted her Turkish neighbour with gay insults and racial abuse was told by a judge she avoided jail "by a whisker".

Colette Donaghey, 50, of Shooters Drive, Nazeing, near Waltham Abbey, made the racist comments as she pretended to hold a conversation on a mobile phone while her victim was gardening outside his house next door.

The jury at Chelmsford Crown Court was told that she used the word "pushti", Turkish slang for faggot or homosexual, several times.

She also said "why don't you go back to your own country?" made the comment "It was so nice around here and then you get scum coming in" and referred to "the dickhead next door".

Donaghey, denied the offence but was convicted in October of intentionally causing racially aggravated harassment of Ediz Enver on June 17 last year.

Sentencing her yesterday, Judge Jonathan Seely said: "You have come within a whisker of going to prison."

Instead he imposed an eight-week suspended prison sentence with 50 hours' unpaid work and 15 rehabilitation activity requirement days and ordered her to pay £400 towards the £2,800 cost of her trial.

He also imposed a restraining order for two years banning Donaghey from instigating any contact with neighbours on either side of her.

He warned her: "You are on a knife edge. I understand that's difficult for you but all you need to do is just avoid any kind of trouble."

He described what had taken place as “a classic case of someone in a situation of conflict behaving or speaking in a racist way" and added: "This is completely unacceptable behaviour."

He said Mr Enver was distressed because he was not able to enjoy his garden "which he should be able to."

Businessman Mr Enver, in his 30s, who recorded part of what Donaghey was saying on his own iPhone, told the court she was having a phone conversation with "an imaginary person" with no mobile in her hand but looking at him as she spoke.

He told the court she had repeated the word 'pushti' “over and over."

Among other remarks were references to "scum" coming in, and the term "he's a dickhead next door" was said to have been used.

Mr Enver said he and his partner no longer used their garden much as they were "not comfortable anymore".

Donaghey claimed that at the time she was talking on the phone to a 90-year-old friend who had had a Turkish boyfriend in the past. She said she hadn’t known what the word "pushti" meant.

She admitted she used the phrase "thick lowlife scum", but denied she said Mr Enver should return to his own country.

She also claimed she was racially abused by Mr Enver, alleging he had called her a “filthy Irish tramp.” He denied this.

The jury was told that that she also referred to Mr Enver as "the Turkish one" to differentiate between her neighbours on the other side, Asians, Ramesh and Deborah Rampersad.

She told the court: "I have never been racist. I am a daughter of Irish immigrants myself and I have been subjected to racism."

Her barrister Charlotte Bull objected to the restraining order, claiming that it did not protect her from comments and that she could be provoked to get her into trouble.

She argued : "It gives her neighbours the opportunity to make comments against her with impunity."

She claimed that since her conviction Donaghey had been subjected to shouts of "she's going to be sent to prison" and "guilty, guilty, guilty, you are going to prison" and said that these allegations had been reported to the police.