Noise nuisance and evidence

In Cooke v Adatia and others (Times Law Reports, 3 November 1988), the High Court has held that the existence of a statutory noise nuisance may be proved solely on evidence from an environmental health officer (EHO). The decision of magistrates to throw out a prosecution under section 58 of the Control of Pollution Act 1974 on the grounds that there was no other evidence to prove the nuisance was wrong. The result confirms what many would already have felt to be the legal position, but as the first High Court ruling on the point the case strengthens the hand of local authorities where evidence from affected neighbours and others is not forthcoming.

The case arose out of complaints by residents concerning late-night music from a community centre. As a result, the local authority served a notice under section 58 requiring the centre's trustees "to abate the said nuisance and prevent its recurrence." Complaints continued, and four months later an EHO took noise measurements at a neighbouring house, showing levels of 45-47dB(A) in its living room at 11.40pm.

The authority prosecuted for

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