How to stop Halloween from turning into a legal nightmare
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Fears about trick or treaters damaging property can spoil Halloween for homeowners.
Simon Roberts of DAS Law addresses some of their key concerns:
If a ‘trick’ goes bad, can you recover repair costs from the parents?
Generally speaking, parents are responsible for supervising their children but are not liable for the acts of their children and cannot be directly responsible for damage they may cause to your property.
So you would ordinarily have to take civil action against the child as there is no minimum age at which a child can be held to be negligent - this would entirely depend on the circumstances and their understanding. But this may not be a realistic way forward as a child is unlikely to have assets to pursue for damages, so it would be preferable to hold the parents responsible if possible.
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Parents are responsible for ensuring their children are supervised in certain circumstances, although this will vary depending their age i.e. older children are less likely to require supervision as they will have a greater responsibility for their own actions.
Therefore, the other option is to consider would be whether it may be possible to sue the parents in negligence for failing to supervise or, if they did supervise at the time, for failing to control their children. This, of course, would be dependent on proving the elements of negligence.
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How far are you allowed to go to stop a child from playing ‘tricks’ on you and your property?
A landowner is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of their land and to protection from any unlawful interference with their use or enjoyment of it. If you are in fear for your safety and/or harassed, then you should contact the police as these are criminal matters.
From a civil point of view, it could be argued that a regular stream of people invading your property whilst ‘trick or treating’ would amount to a legal nuisance.
Normally, you could look at legal action and remedies such as damages and an injunction. If nuisance is proved, a key question would be who could an injunction be taken out against? Due to the transient nature of the nuisance, it would be difficult to bring a claim against a one-time offender as would be the case with Halloween.
However, if someone persistently posed a nuisance, then it would be more likely to succeed in a claim against them for trespass or nuisance.
I would advise against any physical interactions and, as above, if the situation escalates you should report the matter to the police.
What can you threaten or can you physically intervene if an act of vandalism is taking place on your property by a minor?
Any damage to property is potentially a criminal offence and you could threaten to report the perpetrator to the police. Further, you could also seek to take a civil claim for damages to compensate you and put you back in the position you were before the damage.
I would advise against any physical interactions as the situation could escalate. If you assault a child, this could be reported to the police and it may be difficult to justify whether this response was reasonable in the circumstances and you could risk criminal sanctions.