Taking a case to court yourself
If you feel that the police or council are not doing enough to help you with a problem, you can take action yourself through the courts. But you will need to be sure that you can show there is a nuisance of some kind.
You can take legal action yourself through the magistrates’ court under Section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act. You do not need a solicitor and it need not cost much. You must prove to the magistrate ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ that the problem you are complaining of amounts to a nuisance.
You may need to do this if the nuisance problem occurs occasionally, and it is not possible for the environmental health officer to witness it.
If you want to follow this route, you must tell the neighbour that they have not stopped the nuisance and that, if they don’t stop it by a certain date, you will complain to the magistrates’ court. If that date passes and they have not stopped, you should contact the Justices Clerk’s office at your local magistrates’ court, explaining that you want to make a complaint under section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act. The clerk of the court should advise you what to do next.
A date will be set for the hearing and the person you have complained about will be summoned to attend court.
You will have to give your evidence, and cross-examine your witnesses (ask them questions about the nuisance and the person causing it). The neighbour will be able to cross-examine you and your witnesses, and may produce their own evidence to contradict yours.
If you prove your case, the court will make an order saying that the nuisance must be stopped. The court can also choose to fine the person responsible for the nuisance (up to £2,000 for an individual, or £20,000 for a business). If you lose your case, you may have to pay some of the expenses the other person had to pay to defend themselves in court.
If the court makes an order, but the person who has been causing the nuisance ignores it, you will need to take further court action to make them stop.
Community Legal Advice “Neighbourhood and Community Disputes” leaflet series:
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