Public Nuisance – or Not?
Nottingham crime solicitor Lauren Fisher recently dealt with an unusual case of before Nottingham Magistrates’ Court. Her client was charged with an offence of public nuisance.
Allegation of Public Nuisance
Lauren’s client was an elderly gentleman who was said to have been visiting shops with his trousers open, thus exposing himself. The police and prosecution had apparently been in no hurry to bring the matter to court. The offence dated back to the summer of 2015, and proceedings were not commenced by summons until the following June.
Our client presented as vulnerable. He suffered from both mental illness and learning disabilities. Representations were made on several occasions that it was not in the public interest for the prosecution to continue, but they fell on deaf ears.
This failure to heed these representations was all the more unfortunate when Lauren prepared the case for trial following service of all of the evidence. Detailed legal research led to a concern that the evidence even taken at its highest could not prove the case.
Lauren’s client was said to have gone into two shops, one after the other. The Crown relied on this to show it was not an “accident”. He was said to have been told to ‘put it away’ in one shop before going into the second shop still exposed.
Delay Causes Prosecution Problems
It was at this stage, however, that the delay created by the police in investigating the matter created problems for the prosecution. The witness in the first show was unable to give the date the incident occurred, or even the day of the week. At most she could say that it had happened in August.
The police had failed to hold any form of identification procedure, so witnesses were not given the opportunity to say whether Lauren’s client was the man seen with his trousers undone.
The lack of evidence to show that our client had been warned of his conduct immediately before a visit to a second shop significantly undermined the a suggestion that his behaviour was deliberate. The fact that there were only two shop workers in the second shop was arguably insufficient to show a ‘public’ nuisance.
Unfortunately the health of Lauren’s client deteriorated over the course of the proceedings. This led to the need for a psychiatric report to be obtained. As an alternative to that considerable expense to the public purse, Lauren renewed the representations to the prosecution, combining factors relating to the health of her client with the likelihood of a successful outcome due to lack of evidence. These representations were supplemented by service of a skeleton argument.
Successful Legal Argument
The matter was listed for a case management hearing and the legal argument was dealt with during that hearing as a preliminary point. The District Judge ruled that the prosecution would be unable to establish that it was Lauren’s client in the first shop on the same day, and that the behaviour gave established, as a matter of law, a public nuisance.
The prosecution offered no evidence and the charge against Lauren’s client was dismissed.
Contact Lauren Fisher
Cases alleging public nuisance may be rare, but Nottingham criminal solicitor advocate Lauren Fisher will show the same level of care whatever the allegation that you face.
If you are due to be interviewed by the police or face court proceedings then please telephone Lauren on 0115 9599550 or email her here.