Taking your own action
After reasonable investigation, if the Council is unable to establish a statutory nuisance the case will be closed. Under certain circumstances you can take your own action under Section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 at the Magistrates Court. However you will be required to demonstrate you are aggrieved by a statutory nuisance.
In the case of noise, it would need to be substantial and adversely affect the enjoyment of your home or garden and your response to the noise must be wholly reasonable and not someone who is unduly sensitive.
If the Magistrates are satisfied that a nuisance exists they may make an order requiring the person causing the disturbance to stop and/or prevent the nuisance starting again. The court may also impose a fine of up to £5,000 on the defendant although smaller sums are much more usual.
How to take your own action
- Make sure you know the exact source of the noise nuisance. It is essential that you obtain and record the full name and address of the person creating the noise nuisance. Copies of the Electoral Register are available in public libraries. Alternatively you could obtain this information from the Land Registry website. There is a small fee for this.
- Keep precise records of when and how often you have spoken/written to the person responsible for the noise asking them to stop disturbing you. Remember to keep copies of all letters.
A Magistrates' Court is unlikely to be very sympathetic unless you can show that you have attempted to deal with the matter in a friendly non-aggressive manner before presenting your complaint to the Court.
- Keep a record of when the noise occurs and its effect on you and/or your family. It is really important to describe the noise, estimate its level (e.g. louder than the TV) and its effect on you (for example you are unable to sleep). You can use our nuisance record sheets for help.
- Without spying on neighbours you could record the noise level from your home/garden using a digital camera, mobile phone or video camera.
- You may not be the only person who is affected by the noise. Speak to your neighbours and find out if they are disturbed too. They may be willing to provide a witness statement and attend court in support of your case. An independent witness may improve your case.
- Once you are satisfied that you have put together your case, the law requires that before you begin Court proceedings you must notify the person causing the nuisance of your intention to take them to Court and specifying what you are complaining about and you will need to keep a copy of your letter of notification to show the Court. You must give a minimum of three days notice in your letter before proceeding to Court.
Approaching the Magistrates' Court
If the noise nuisance continues unabated, the next stage is to contact your local Magistrates' Court, to request a hearing date for your case.
Ask for the Justices’ Clerk’s Office and tell them you wish to lay a complaint under section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 for nuisance. There may be a charge for this.
You may be required to go before the Magistrates in Court for your application to be considered. Remember to state that you are seeking a summons under Section 82, of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Be clear and concise in giving evidence, this is your chance to convey to the Magistrates the full impact of the noise nuisance. Evidence such as diary sheets should be made available at this point.
If your application is approved a Court officer will issue a summons against the person responsible for the noise and will give you a date and time for the Court hearing.
Tell the Clerk that you need at least two hours of Court time. Insist on this, otherwise on the day the case is heard it may be adjourned (put off to another date).
Ask the Clerk for advice on Court procedure so that you know how to present your case.
At this stage of the procedure, it might be worth reconsidering whether you want the assistance of a solicitor, who can represent you at the hearing. If you are unsuccessful in proving your case, the Court may ask you to pay the defendants costs. You can, however, decide to conduct the case yourself, and people do.
The Court Hearing
On the date of the hearing there are three possible outcomes:
- the defendant fails to appear;
- the defendant appears and pleads guilty; or
- the defendant appears and pleads not guilty.
Failure to appear
If this is the first time the matter has gone before the Court, it will probably be adjourned (postponed) to a future date and the Defendant will be sent notification of this hearing. However, if the Defendant fails to attend a second time, you can ask the Court if they will hear the matter in their absence.
A guilty plee
You will most likely only need to give a brief outline of the general circumstances of the case, as the defendant's guilty plea means they are accepting the facts of the case. The Court will then make an order requiring the abatement of the nuisance or prohibiting its occurrence/recurrence.
Not guilty plea
If the defendant pleads 'not guilty' then you will have to prove your case giving evidence under oath and calling any or all of your witnesses. The defendant can question you and your witnesses. They may also call witnesses of their own. If the defendant gives evidence or calls any witnesses, you will also be able to question them, on the facts relating to the noise case. If the Court substantiates your claim it will make an order requiring the abatement of the nuisance or prohibiting its occurrence/recurrence.
The Court may also fine the person responsible for the noise. The maximum fine being £5,000 if the source is residential, increasing to a maximum of £20,000 for commercial premises.
If the defendant fails to comply with the order issued by the Court requiring them to abate the nuisance or preventing its occurrence/re-occurrence, then they will be committing an offence. Gather evidence of any breaches of the order and let the Courts know.
Taking your own action may seem daunting at first, particularly the thought of taking someone to Court, but it does allow you to take charge of the situation if other avenues have failed.
It may be that once the person responsible for the noise realises that you are intent on taking the matter to Court they may think twice about causing you further noise nuisance.
Action under Civil Law
Civil Law can also be used to control any nuisance which has affected you. This involves hiring a solicitor who will start the process of obtaining an injunction in the County Court. This can be quicker and more effective but can be an expensive process.