Noise complaints

Advice on taking your own prosecution through a magistrates court

Where you are aggrieved by noise and do not wish to involve your Local Authority or where for some reason your Local Authority has decided not to instigate proceedings on your behalf, you can complain about the noise directly to a Magistrates Court under Section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Before complaining to the Magistrates, you are advised to attempt to resolve the problem informally by writing to the person responsible for the noise. If you are unable to identify who is actually causing the noise, write to the owner or occupier of the premises concerned. Say that you consider they are making a noise amounting to a nuisance and that unless they stop, or reduce the noise, you feel that you have little choice but to take your complaint to the Magistrates Court.

If the Court is satisfied that a nuisance exists, or may start again at the same place, an order will be made requiring the defendant to abate the nuisance and specify whatever measures it considers necessary to achieve this. The order may also prohibit or restrict a recurrence of the nuisance. The Court has powers to fine the noise maker and award costs to the aggrieved party.

You will ultimately have to persuade the Magistrates that the noise about which you are complaining amounts to a Statutory Nuisance. It is therefore important you keep a written record of the dates, times and duration of the noise, a description of its nature and how much it interferes with the use of your property, e.g. prevents sleep. You should also keep details of any other people who may be disturbed by the noise who will appear in Court as witnesses on your behalf. If you decide to take formal action you must write to the person responsible for the noise giving them 3 days notice of your intention to proceed to the Magistrates Court.

Your letter must clearly state what it is you are complaining about; the remedy (you might, for example say that no music should be played after 9:00pm) and the amount of time you will give them to change their behaviour. Ensure the letter is dated and keep a copy. It is likely to strengthen your case if you can show that you have acted in a reasonable manner and given the person responsible for the noise the chance to rectify the situation before resorting to legal measures. At this stage you may wish to consult a solicitor who is familiar with Courts and Court procedure. They may also be able to advise you on your chances of success proving your case. This is not a requirement, however, and you can proceed yourself.

Magistrates Court Procedure

  1. Contact the Clerk to the Justices (0870 241 2820) and explain that you wish to make a complaint under Section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
  2. Arrange to visit the Court when asked to do so by the Clerk and show the Magistrates your evidence. If they decide you have an arguable case a summons will be served on the person responsible for the noise, giving the date and time of the Court hearing.
  3. You must then attend Court on this date, together with any witnesses you have. You can either employ a Solicitor or present the case yourself if you choose the second option the Clerk of the Court will give you advice and guidance
  4. If the defendant pleads guilty you just need to outline the circumstances surrounding your complaint and why you think it is a nuisance. The Court will then decide on the terms of the order to be made, impose any appropriate penalty, and may order the defendant to pay you any costs you have incurred in bringing your case e.g. Solicitors fees. It is a good idea to know your costs before the hearing.
  5. If the defendant does not appear or does appear and pleads ‘not guilty’ you will then have to prove your case. The Magistrates will listen to evidence from yourself and the defendant and decide if a nuisance is proven.
  6. They will make any appropriate orders and can impose penalties or dismiss the case. Whatever decision is reached they may order the loser to pay the other party’s costs. East Berkshire Magistrates’ Court – Law Courts, Chalvey Park, Windsor Road Slough SL1 2HD