If you have been disturbed by noise and have been unable to resolve the problem, either informally or through the Noise and Nuisance Team, then you may want to take legal action yourself.
Before you do this
Make sure you have followed the steps you can take to help resolve a problem, including:
- sending a letter
- completing a diary booklet
Complaining to the courts
If you have sent a letter but are still disturbed by the noise you will need to consider approaching the courts for an order to abate the nuisance. The magistrates will need to be satisfied that your complaint is justified and your diary booklet will help to prove your case. It is essential that it is completed at the time the event occurs and kept in a safe place for use later.
The court procedure is straightforward and you should not feel daunted if you have no previous experience.
You are required under Sections 82 (6) and (7) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to give at least three days written notice of your intention to bring proceedings against any person and a suitable letter is enclosed for this purpose.
- download a draft letter for complaning to the courts [PDF] (file size 27Kb)
Contact the Chief Clerk at the Hammersmith Magistrates' Court, 181 Talgarth Road, London SW6 8DN, telephone number 020 8700 9350 / 9360, and inform the Court official of your address and that you wish to start an action under Section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
Explain that you have kept a diary of events and that you have previously written to the person causing the nuisance informally and that as there has been no change you have now informed them (at least three days previously) of your intention to bring proceedings.
Confirm that you have copies of these letters available to show the court. You will then be advised where you are to attend and at what time - you should ensure that you can be available but be aware that there will be other cases being heard and that your own case may be delayed or set back. In any event it may be better to assume that the process will take, with waiting time, at least half a day.
Giving evidence in court
On the day of the initial hearing you will be interviewed, having taken the oath (or having affirmed), by one or more Magistrates. The Magistrate's Court is friendly and informal. The Clerk will advise the Justices on points of law during your submission and will also help clarify points in your evidence.
The Court will listen to your explanation of the events and will, assuming they felt that there is a case to answer, issue a "Summons" against the person who you are complaining about. This will outline the details of your complaint and specify a date and time when the case will be heard. Again you should ensure that you are available and be aware that there will be other cases being heard and that your own case may be delayed or set back.
- at the main hearing you will give your evidence first, and the Magistrate will be particularly interested in seeing the diary of events that you have kept and would also hear evidence, on your behalf, from your friends or relatives who can support your claim
- the person whom you have summonsed will be able to cross question both you and any witnesses that you bring. They will also be able to submit evidence to try to disprove your case or prove that there are mitigating circumstances which should be taken into account
- likewise, you will be able cross question them and any witnesses that they bring
- the Magistrates will, on the evidence and the arguments presented, decide whether or not a nuisance exists. If they decide in your favour, an order prohibiting the nuisance and its recurrence at any other time will be made
If a nuisance order is contravened
If the nuisance order is contravened then you will have to consider informing the court. A further summons will be issued which will require the person on whom the order was made to appear before the Court and your evidence of the contravention of the conditions of the order will be heard in a similar manner to your original application.If it is proved that the notice has been contravened then the magistrates can impose a fine.
Using a solicitor
It is not necessary to employ a solicitor to represent you at either the initial application or any subsequent hearing providing that you feel confident that you will be able to explain the situation to the Magistrate yourself.
The Court will ensure that your best interests are represented when you present your evidence and you should not feel daunted if a solicitor is employed by the other side. You are able to have a friend or colleague act as your advisor on the day of the hearing and they can take notes on your behalf but they cannot address the court.
If the person that you have summonsed convinces the Magistrates that there is no case to answer you may be liable, at the discretion of the Court, to pay their costs and you should bear this in mind when deciding what action you are going to take.
You may seek advice from a The Citizens Advice Bureau or from a Neighbourhood Law Centre whose address and telephone number are available at your local library.