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R v Ruffel [1991] 13 Cr App R

Public Nuisance – Common Law Offence

Facts

The defendant had thrown an ‘acid house’ party which had attracted thousands of people.  The party involved very loud music that continued overnight for some 12 hours.  The party had caused traffic to block a road leading to the site and the woodlands had been littered with human excrement.  The defendant was accused of the common offence of public nuisance and was convicted.  He was sentenced to a suspended sentence of 12 months and had been fined £7,000.  The defendant appealed against his sentence.

Issues

Whether the defendant was acting as a public nuisance or not.  Whether the party which only lasted for just over 12 hours could constitute a public nuisance.  Whether the defendant’s sentence was unfair or manifestly unjust.

Held

The defendant had been acting as a public nuisance.  Following Attorney General v PYA Quarries [1957] 2 QB 169 a public nuisance must be capable of indiscriminately effecting a class of people within a neighbourhood.  This was the case as a result of the very loud music of the party, the littering and fouling of the nearby woodlands, and because of the extremely heavy traffic that had been caused as a result of the party blocking the road to the area.  These elements were enough to have affected a cross section of a class of Her Majesty’s subjects within the area, and it was reasonable to expect them to have to take action to prevent it.  Whilst the defendants suspended sentence was upheld, his fine was quashed because he had no means to pay it.


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