Understanding the Law
February 10, 2006
More on Nuisance

Last week we looked at the tort of nuisance and the Noise Act (the Act) in particular. The Act is a statutory provision given under Chapter 278 of the laws of St Vincent and the Grenadines (1990 edition) and amended twice since 1990, the most substantial amendment being No. 22 of 1996. In the act of 1996, section 19A was added and parts of section 20 were replaced.

Section 19A specifically addresses the issue of the operation of loudspeakers or amplified instruments in any shop, bar, restaurant. It specifically warns that the operating of such to the annoyance of any person is an offence. {{more}}

We already looked at actions that could be taken by the police when there is unreasonable disturbance by persons in the community. A person who is aggrieved by the noise or vibration made by a tortfeasor (wrongdoer) may also institute action and could do so in the Magistrate Court or the High Court. The court may award damages and costs and impose penalties. The penalties take into account the number of offences that the tortfeasor has committed. In the case of a first offence a person found guilty will be liable to a fine of $250.00 while subsequent offence will attract a term of imprisonment. A person found guilty of a fourth offence could serve a prison term of not less than three and not more than twelve months.

Persons not satisfied with the decision of the lower courts 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.” In order to give justice the court has to take account of cases of high sensitivities and idiosyncrasies (mode of behaviour peculiar to a person).

When the Act was made, the legislators would have recognized the need to balance the interests of the individual and the concerns and interests 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 that would not only be healthy but would help to promote the community as a whole.

The Act provides some considerations within limit to noise at Carnival and the traditional Nine Mornings celebrations. Despite the restrictions, certain allowances are also made for the use of loudspeakers on the streets by the police and ambulance among others. Those who expect to operate construction sites that may cause excessive noise must apply to the Board of Town and Country Planning for the necessary authorization.

Public Nuisance

As opposed to private nuisance, public nuisance is an unreasonable interference with the rights that are common to the general public. Usually public nuisances are concerned with interferences on the highway or some other public areas. It could be a condition that is dangerous to health and offensive to the community. Usually the permission of the Attorney General is sought in order to bring an action.