More on Nuisance
According to the Noise Control Act, the Physical Planning and Development Board developed under the Town and Country Planning Act, can if it is satisfied that noise amounting to a nuisance exists or is likely to exist, put out a notice “requiring an abatement of noise or prohibition of noise, or it can require the execution of such works as may be specified.” Anyone to whom the notice is applicable, disobeying the notice could be prosecuted. The board can take the matter to the High Court. It can also serve notice with regards to requirement on a construction site as to noise, or it could publish requirements.
Persons who are aggrieved by excessive noise amounting to nuisance on private property can lodge a complaint at the Magistrate Court for the defendant to abate the noise,
If they are not satisfied with the decision of the lower courts they could resort to the Court of Appeal.
The Act provides for a test of reasonableness, which the court must apply in dealing with each case. It is referred to as an “objective test of ordinary standards and ordinary sensitivities.” If the person is of high sensitivity or is known for idiosyncrasy, in order for the court to give justice, the court has to take account of these. In other words, the court will consider whether the complainant is highly sensitive or is eccentric.
When the Act was made, the legislators would have recognized the need to balance the interest of the individual and the concerns and interest of a community. Some guidelines were therefore provided and among them is the “desirability for cultural and social developments”. In other words, considerations must be given to activities, which would not only be healthy, but will help promote the community as a whole.
The law provides some considerations within limits to noise at Carnival and nine mornings before Christmas. Those who expect to operate construction sites are eligible for some consideration, but must apply to the relevant authority for the necessary authorization. Certain areas could be given protection under an arrangement into zones.
The Noise Act specifically refers to noise made by loud speakers and musical instruments and the vibration thereof. Musical instruments include “radio receivers, television receivers, keyboards, wind instruments, string instruments, drums, steel pans, cowbells, scrapers, tambourine or anything made or adapted for use in making or attempting to make musical sound.”
It is common for buses to carry huge boom boxes and amplifiers for purpose of playing music to attract passengers. This perhaps is unique to St. Vincent. Most passengers just want to get to where they are going and not be entertained with loud music chosen by someone else. Older people traveling during the day do not want it, yet the music is blasted out. The music is not contained in the vehicle, but is heard in every district it passes through. We need to settle down to business-like practices and not be in perpetual carnival mood. If you look around in a minibus, you would see many young people wearing ear devices – head phones/ear buds. They want to revise their notes or listen to their own music. In short, there are some persons who do not appreciate the loud music.
As opposed to private nuisance, public nuisance is an unreasonable interference with the rights, which is common to the general public. A private property owner or occupier of property does not have the standing to bring action and could only do so with the consent of the Attorney General. Usually public nuisances are concerned with interferences on the highway or some other public area. It could be a condition that is dangerous to health and offensive to the community.
Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law. E-mail address is: [email protected]