Silence is golden

High Court rules that trying to drown out neighbouring noise nuisance by creating your own noise is unreasonable.

In the case of Waltham Forest LBC v Mitoo, the High Court ruled that playing loud music to drown out the noise from local building works was not a reasonable excuse for failing to comply with a noise abatement notice issued by the local authority.

The circumstances of this case were that Mr Mitoo had been served with a noise abatement notice by the local authority for playing music at a level that caused a nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Having been served with that notice, he continued to play loud music and, by all accounts, to make his neighbours’ lives a misery.

Mr Mitoo’s conduct was investigated by the local authority and the authority concluded that he had failed to comply with the noise abatement notice. He was therefore prosecuted in the Magistrates Court. Mr Mitoo pleaded not guilty and argued that he had a “reasonable excuse” because he was attempting to drown out the noise of building works being carried out in the local


area. He argued that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress as the result of an accident. His carer provided evidence that supported his argument about the noise from the local building works.

The Magistrates decided that, once the issue of “reasonable excuse” had been raised by Mr Mitoo, the onus was then on the local authority to prove that, contrary to Mr Mitoo’s argument, his excuse was not a reasonable excuse. Surprisingly, the local authority were unable to construct an argument to satisfy the Magistrates that blasting out loud music and creating a noisy hell on earth for neighbouring occupiers, just so that Mr Mitoo did not have to listen to the sound of local building works, was not a reasonable excuse for ignoring a noise abatement notice. Mr Mitoo was therefore found not guilty. And presumably continued to inflict his noise-induced mayhem on his neighbours.

Smarting from that defeat, and no doubt with half an eye on Mr Mitoo’s sleep-starved neighbours, the local authority appealed to the High Court.

A refreshingly pragmatic approach was adopted by the High Court.The Court held that the whole purpose of statutory nuisance abatement notices is to curb nuisances. A person on whom a notice has been served is under a duty to comply with that notice.The existence of another noise is not a good reason to make more noise and therefore to cause neighbours to suffer two types of noise.The whole purpose of this statutory scheme would be perverse if it led to the multiplication of noise.

Failing to comply with an abatement notice is a criminal offence so it remains to be seen what will happen to Mr Mitoo at the end of this process. Whatever the outcome, Mr Mitoo’s neighbours can now rest in peace.

Victoria  Raven, Trainee Legal Executive - 01242 574244 -