High Court

DOI10.1177/002201839906300101
Publication Date01 Feb 1999
AuthorJA Coutts
SubjectHigh Court
High
Court
Dangerous Premises and Statutory Nuisance
R v
Bristol
City
Council,
ex p
Everett
[1998] 3 All ER
603
Part III of
the
Environmental
Act 1990 provides
the
procedure
for
dealing
with
statutory nuisances,
which
are
defined in s 79( 1) as includ-
ing
'premises in
such
astate as to be prejudicial to
health
or
a
nuisance'.
'Prejudicial to
health'
is
defined
in s 79(7) as
meaning
'injurious, or
likely to cause injury, to
health'.
In R v
Bristol
City
Council,
exp
Everett
[1998] 3 All ER 603,
the
applicant
for
judidal
review,
who
suffered from aback injury,
was
the
tenant
of a
house
with
asteep
internal
staircase, of
which
she
complained
because
she
experienced
difficulty in negotiating
the
stairs
and
she
feared
that
she
might
fall
and
injure
herself. She
complained
to
the
Council
that
the
staircase
was
injurious to
health
and
anuisance. In fact,
prior
to
her
complaint,
the
Council
had
itself served
an
abatement
notice
on
the
landlord
under
s 80( 1) of
the
1990 Act,
ordering
him
to
remove
the
staircase
and
to replace it
with
another.
Following legal advice, however,
the
Council
had
withdrawn
the
abatement
notice,
and
it
informed
the
tenant
that
it
had
been
incorrectly served, as
the
staircase did
not
come
within
s 79, as a nuisance.
It
was for
the
judicial
review
of
that
decision
that
the
tenant
made
her
application.
Her
argument
was
that
the
like-
lihood
of causing
an
accident was a likelihood of causing
injury
to
health
and
for
that
reason was
within
s 79( 1) of
the
1990 Act.
The Divisional
Court
accepted
that
in
the
ordinary
usage of language
the
expression 'prejudicial to
health'
and
the
words 'injurious,
or
likely
to cause injury, to
health'
were
capable of being applied to premises
which
might
cause aphysical
injury
if
an
accident
occurred
due
to
their
dangerous
nature.
The question, therefore, was
whether
the
context
in
which
those
statutory
terms
appeared
required
a
meaning
to be
put
upon
them
narrower
than
might
otherwise
have
been
given to
them.
In
seeking
the
context
in
which
the
words
appeared,
the
court
looked
not
only
at s 79
and
Pt III of
the
1990 Act
and,
indeed, at
the
whole
Act,
but
enlarged
that
context
by
putting
the
statute
in its historical setting.
The
court
concluded
that
the
history
of
the
statutory
provisions
relating to
injury
to
health
and
nuisance
showed
that
the
purpose
of
Parliament's
intervention
in this field was to deal
with
filthy
and
un-
wholesome
premises;
the
question
of
how
they
were
constructed
did
not
come
into
the
courts'
consideration unless
that
question
was rel-
evant
to
their
unwholesome
nature
which
brought
them
within
the
two
phrases
used in s 79 of
the
1990 Act. The
mere
fact
that
they
might
be
shown
to cause a risk of accident
which
in
tum
might
be said to be a risk
of personal injury did
not
bring
such
premises
within
the
intended
ambit
of
the
Act. Premises so
constructed
did
not
constitute a
nuisance
under
s79(1) merely by
reason
of
their
causing
an
accident,
whatever
the
result of
the
accident, for
the
ill-health
with
which
the
legislation was

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