Statutory nuisance: Southwark London Borough Council v Simpson (3 November 1998) High Court, Queen's Bench Division

United Kingdom
Ms Simpson was the occupier of premises owned by Southwark London Borough Council. In 1997, she made a complaint against Southwark London Borough Council claiming that she was a person aggrieved by a statutory nuisance under Section 79(1)(a) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, arising from a structural defect. The nuisance itself resulted from dampness and mould which Ms Simpson claimed was prejudicial to health. In the Magistrates' Court hearing, a chartered surveyor gave evidence on behalf of Ms Simpson. He stated that, although he had no medical experience to confirm the claim that the dampness was prejudicial to health, he had read various articles stating that similar dampness problems had been found to be so. The Magistrates' Court found in favour of Ms Simpson, holding that it had been proved beyond reasonable doubt that the premises were in such a state as to be prejudicial to health. It ordered payment of £1,000 and prescribed works to be carried out within eight weeks. The Southwark London Borough Council appealed, contending that there had not been produced before the court any expert evidence proving the premises were prejudicial to health. It was submitted that the evidence of the surveyor was not sufficient because he was not a medical expert and, in any event, he had no relevant experience but merely relied on articles he had read, which he had neither shown nor given details of to the magistrates. The appeal was allowed. The court held that although it was not necessary for an expert to have medical knowledge to give evidence as to whether a nuisance is prejudicial to health, he was required to have experience in the relevant field. The surveyor had had no such experience, merely relying on articles he had read. The magistrates had been wrong in allowing the surveyor to introduce hearsay evidence in the proceedings to substantiate Ms Simpson's complaint. An appropriate person to provide the evidence would have been an environmental housing officer, who would have had the relevant experience. ([1998] PLSCS 283)