Most investigations for domestic noise will be made using digital recording equipment installed inside the complainant’s property. The equipment constantly records the noise level expressed in terms of decibels (dB) which can be shown on a graph. It will also be used to obtain samples of any noise that can be played back as an audio file. Usually it will be set so that the complainant triggers audio recording as and when they think that noise is at an unacceptable level for them. In some circumstances, automatic triggers or constant audio recording may be employed but this would chiefly be where the complainant has some disability of infirmity that limits their ability to activate recordings themselves.
The use of such equipment and techniques is not considered surveillance because the noise has been inflicted by the perpetrator who has probably forfeited any claim to privacy. Our equipment is not used or designed to capture sounds not discernible by the unaided human ear and will not be used for monitoring exercises where there is a danger this could result. Careful consideration will be given to protecting individuals from collateral intrusion before sound recording equipment is deployed.
The equipment will be used only to record noise that would ordinarily be heard in the complainant’s property. It will not be purposely used to obtain personal and/or private information on the persons who are subject of the complaint such as the content of conversations. However, if those persons are talking or making other noise loud enough for the average person to hear in another property, then the equipment will pick that up. We would not disseminate any information obtained in this way unless we have lawful authority to do so.
Officers will routinely take steps to avoid drawing attention to what they are doing so that it does not affect the chances of capturing a demonstrative sample of the noise being complained of. They will make special arrangements where necessary if the complainant has particular concerns about this.
Officers may have to return to check equipment and download data during a monitoring period. They will advise and make appropriate arrangements if this is necessary.
In most cases, we would install monitoring equipment on a maximum of two separate periods. Each period would usually between one and two weeks and include at least one weekend. In our experience, if we cannot obtain any evidence of significant noise over two monitoring periods, then it is highly unlikely that a nuisance as defined by the law will exist.
It is important to note that equipment is normally located inside a dwelling in a habitable room that is being affected such as a main bedroom or living room. Access to a power connection will be required for the continual duration of the equipment's installation until collected by the case officer.
The complainant’s co-operation will be required to trigger the recording equipment as and when the noise nuisance is occurring. This will involve pressing a button when the noise nuisance occurs. Officers will issue advice and guidance when the equipment is installed. It is also important that any advice or instruction given by the Officer is adhered to so that any evidence collected is not jeopardised or corrupted.
Please be aware that if the evidence is used by the Council in any formal action then we would require a witness statement from the person operating the equipment to authenticate the evidence.
There is usually a waiting list for the allocation of recording equipment, and officers will prioritise within the resources available, based on the evidence already collected. Officers will install noise recording equipment at the noise sensitive property as quickly as possible.
Officers will need to undertake the task of analysing the results of noise recordings after the equipment has been removed from the premises. This could take the form of simply listening to the recording and noting the recorded levels, types of noise and so on, or may involve a more detailed computer analysis.
The time involved in this stage of the investigation can vary, depending on the complexity of the complaint. It is necessary on occasions to analyse a significant amount of data, both audio and statistical, especially in the more complex cases.
Once this has been completed, the investigating officer will report to the Environmental Protection Team Leader and they will decide whether there is sufficient evidence to satisfy them that a nuisance exists or is likely to exist having regard to the criteria set out above, or whether a breach of a notice has occurred.
During the course of our investigation if we pick up any information that may be important to another authority then we have a duty to pass this information on.
If the recordings made during the period of installation do not provide evidence to progress the complaint forward, then these recordings will be deleted when the complaint is closed. If recordings are made that lead to formal action being taken then these recordings will be kept for as long as the evidence is required, up to seven years.