In the latest of articles on Private Prosecutions Jeremy Asher discusses more minor offences to which bringing a private prosecution could lead to effective relief.
Private prosecutions don't have to be the preserve of the rich, famous or involve complicated frauds.
One area where private prosecutions can be effective is in relation to noise abatement.
With local authorities sometimes being unwilling to dedicate public funds to resolving private matters such as neighbour disputes, even though they are duty bound by statute to investigate, then one way forward for those left dissatisfied is to bring a private prosecution.
The example scenario is a noisy dog next door. You work at home frequently, but fido is left abandoned by their owner every morning and subsequently lets the whole world know about it. You are so disturbed by this racket that you feel you can no longer work from home; your sleep may even be affected and your stress levels have risen. What do you do?
Firstly, try discussing the issue with the neighbour. Keep a diary of events, particularly the noise - make a note of the date and time when it starts - it's best to do this contemporaneously . If discussions fail then the Council can be asked to mediate. Normally if mediation fails a Council will issue a noise abatement notice, which if breached and convicted can lead to a fine of up to £5,000 together with fines of up to £500 per day for each day the offence continues after conviction.
Assuming reasoning with the neighbour has failed and the local Council has decided for whatever reason not to get involved, then another way forward is to bring a private prosecution. If funds allow instruct a noise expert to record the frequency of the disturbance - this can be used alongside your diary as evidence..
Once you have sufficient evidence to secure a realistic prospect of conviction and to prove there is a statutory nuisance, in this instance defined as "noise that unreasonably and substantially interfere with the use or enjoyment of a home or other premises" then you can raise a complaint with your local Magistrates' Court. The Magistrates have to be satisfied that a nuisance exists, or if it has abated that it could recur on the same premises. The legislation and the penalties are the same as the local authority would use, section 82 Environmental Protection Act 1990.
Remember if you have the evidence then there is nothing to fear.