The joys of Tort

It’s no secret that I’m not a particular lover of Tort. I dislike those nasty negligence cases but, as a longtime lover of Land law, I have always enjoyed the Torts of nuisance and trespass. The other day I happened upon a newspaper article explaining the basics of trespass as they related to one’s garden. The article was interesting, and legally correct, and no doubt extremely helpful to many people. I can see that not everyone is aware that it is a trespass to lean a bag of rubbish up someone else’s fence or wall, or to grow plants up the structure, or to paint it – unless you have express permission. If you ask me, Alan Titchmarsh and Co. have a lot to answer for here – as I recall dear old Ground Force didn’t have too many qualms about applying a uniform stain to all of the fences around a garden, regardless of ownership!

All useful information so far. I can also see that, whilst most people would appreciate that tunnelling beneath the neighbour’s land might just be a trespass, some would be unaware that things overhanging could also trespass – so watch those hanging baskets!

However, there was one piece of advice in the article that did surprise me…not because it was surprising in itself, but because someone felt the point needed to be made: “It is a trespass to throw stones or rocks into your neighbour’s garden”. Now, I appreciate that the average person might not identify this as the specific tort of trespass, but there’s something in that statement that seems to imply that one might think it was a perfectly acceptable thing to do. OK, I’ll admit, when there’s a clown in a nearby garden trying to crawl his way up the corporate ladder by loudly conducting telephone calls al fresco, it can be severely tempting :-) ! (Incidentally, didn’t this sort of behaviour cease to be cool with the demise of the 1980′s, when sad individuals, wanting everyone to think they were ‘something big in the City’ would strut along train carriages with something resembling a house brick clapped to their ear? Just because you can do it with Bluetooth these days does not make it cool… it just makes you look like the legendary ‘extra’ member of Captain Kirk’s landing party – you know the one I mean, the sad, nervous-looking chap in the red tunic who never made it back to the Enterprise!)

But I digress…my real point is, whilst many decent, well meaning folk may be innocently unaware of their lawless trespass by Clematis, can there really be anyone out there who genuinely thinks it is acceptable, and no breach of the law, to simply sling the odd rock over the fence? I’d love to know…

Moving on, but still on the subject of Tort, I do like to amuse myself by collecting photographs of warning notices (I know, sad but true). My old favourite used to be the local safari park, whose leaflets used to proclaim that they refused to accept liability “for any damage to persons or property by the animals, howsoever caused”. So, if they negligently allowed their rhinos to escape and perpetrate a small massacre in the car park they thought they would escape liability?? That was a few years ago now, and clearly someone has since alerted them to the joys of UCTA 1977, but there are still plenty of collectable examples out there.

Pictured at the idyllic scene of the boules tournament in Queen’s Square, Bath, my latest find on the warning notice front is perfectly legal, but it’s still worth treasuring:

Wouldn’t life be wonderful if the worst hazard we faced was the odd flying boule?

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