pounds 100 fines to silence too noisy neighbours face instan

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The Independent Online
A legal remedy for dealing with the pounding beat of a neighbour's hi- fi in the small hours of the night moved a step nearer yesterday when the Noise Bill cleared the Commons.

The backbench Bill provides for pounds 100 on-the-spot fines and the confiscation of equipment causing the nuisance.

According to a recent survey, noise is the problem which most divides neighbours. The number of complaints have risen inexorably.

Last month a 40-year old company director was given a suspended jail sentence for firing airgun pellets at the flat of a neighbour in Clapham, south London, because he constantly played rave music.

Other noise cases over the past 18 months have included have included a grandmother ordered by a judge to stop playing and singing along to Jim Reeves records, a Sussex man given an absolute discharge for smashing his neighbour's hi-fi with an axe after "six months of hell", and a 54- year old angina sufferer dying after a confrontation with a neighbour pounding out heavy metal music on his CD player.

Introduced by Harry Greenway, Conservative MP for Ealing North, the Bill gives councils in England and Wales power to take action against noise from domestic properties between 11pm and 7am. Where cases go to court, rather than being dealt with by an on-the-spot fine, offenders face a fine of up to pounds 1,000.

James Clappison, an environment minister, said the voluntary approach would be reviewed in two years and councils might then be forced to adopt its provisions if they had not already done so.

Denying he was a "killjoy", Mr Greenway said: "One in 10 homes suffer severe noise. It's as serious as that and we can't sit back and do nothing."

The Bill, which has all-party support and goes to the House of Lords, also introduces into law an objective measure of the level of noise regarded as a nuisance - 35 decibels. It is about the equivalent of having a television at normal volume in the room.

The Treasure Bill, overhauling the ancient law of treasure trove in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, completed its Commons stages.

A backbench measure, it redefines treasure to cover all objects, other than coins, which contain at least 10 per cent by weight of gold or silver, and are at least 300 years old. The measure also provides protection for hoards of coins.

Coroners' juries will no longer have to decide if an object was deliberately buried with the intention of being recovered - an often unprovable condition under existing law of a find's status as treasure - or simply lost.