Taking action yourself
Taking action in the magistrates court yourself
If noise from a neighbour is materially interfering with your use of your property, you have been unsuccessful in resolving the problem informally and, for whatever reason, the Council has been unable to help or you do not want to involve them, you may be able to take action in the Magistrates Court yourself under section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
- You must advise the noise maker in writing of your intention to go to Court, giving at least three days notice – the Court will ask if you have done this.
- Magistrates’ Court deal with these actions and can be contacted directly.
- Go in person to the Court before 10:00 Monday to Friday. Ask the uniformed attendant for the Clerks Office where you should ask for the Court Officer dealing with that days ‘applications’
- You should take legal advice as to the strength of your case first as, should you lose the case, you may have to meet the Defence legal costs.
Oxford Magistrates Court, The Court House, Speedwell St, Oxford OX1 1RZ Telephone number 01865 448020 or 01865 264200.
Making an application
A small fee is payable in order to pursue the matter. You will need to prepare your evidence to show how you and your household are affected, how frequently, for how long and at what times. Have your diaries copied to give to the Clerk.
When, later, it comes to actually applying for a summons, the Magistrate will ask you questions. Even after starting these proceedings, you should continue to keep a diary of the disturbances and keep copies of all correspondence you write or receive in date order and make notes of any conversations.
The Court serves the summons by recorded delivery or by personal service and will advise you of a date to return to court, usually about six weeks later. You must return to court on this day. Check the lists of cases posted up inside or ask for help to find which Court room you should attend.
- If the accused admits causing the nuisance, the Court will hear the case on that day. You will normally be asked to make a statement in support of your claim.
- If the accused fails to attend and makes no plea by post, the case will usually be adjourned.
- If the Court is satisfied that the accused was served with the summons, it may, in some cases (although these are generally rare), decide to hear the case in their absence.
- If the accused attends but denies causing the nuisance, the Court may hear the case or adjourn to another date, depending on the time available.
When you return to court
You do not need to be represented in Court by a lawyer. If you are however, you will have to pay as Legal Aid is not available for these actions.
Prepare your evidence to show how you and your household are affected, how frequently, for how long and at what times. Bring any witnesses with you and have your diaries copied to give to the Court. The Magistrate will ask you questions, so may the accused, and you will have the opportunity of asking him/her questions on their evidence.
If the Court is satisfied that you have proved beyond all reasonable doubt that a nuisance exists or is likely to recur, they will make an Abatement Order requiring the accused to cease the noise and/or prohibit its recurrence.
The Court may also impose a fine of up to £5,000, although smaller sums are more usual.
You may, in addition, ask for reasonable costs e.g. for lost earnings, to be paid for bringing your case to Court. Any claim must be made at the hearing and any award is at the discretion of the Magistrate. A copy of the Abatement Order served on the accused will be given to you for your information.
Paying the costs
If you are unsuccessful, you may be ordered to pay the defendant’s costs. The costs awarded may include any reasonable costs in defending the case, including legal costs.
If you are successful but the problem continues
Return to the same Court (before 10:00) as soon as possible and apply for a “summons for failure to comply with the court order”. There is no need to notify your intention to the person causing the noise.
You will be able to start a prosecution for breach of the Abatement Order from which further financial penalties are likely to be imposed if the accused is found guilty.
If you require assistance on court proceedings, the Clerk of the Court may advise you in person on a weekday afternoon, usually after the courts have finished proceedings.
Alternatively, it may be possible to take civil proceedings, i.e. in the County Court, for a ‘private nuisance’. Again, take legal advice first.