(92)  Nuisance and the spirit of Christmas: its a wonderful life

On 13 December 2000 Sheriff David Smith of Kilmarnock granted interdict against Mr David Rowlands of Irvine at the behest of 50 other residents in the cul-de-sac where he lives, ordering him not to switch on 8,500 Christmas lights, several singing Santas, figurines including Mary and Joseph, the Three Wise Men, a giant plastic candy cane, a talking tree, reindeer and elves in and around his house and garden before Epiphany/Twelfth Night (6 January 2001).  In previous years the display was much visited by members of the public in their cars and by foot, and Mr Rowlands took substantial collections for charity (in particular Yorkhill Sick  Childrens Hospital, Glasgow) at the site.  In 1999 the neighbours had obtained a court order allowing Mr Rowlands to switch on his display in the afternoons only.  According to press reports, Sheriff Smith wrote in his judgment this year: “The defender’s conduct amounts to nuisance.  The evidence of the pursuers was that each of them had chosen to buy a house there because of the quietness, seclusion and freedom of traffic and its associated noise.  It is clear the scheme is meant to be traffic free but the witnesses unanimously estimated the number of cars at peak periods at between 60 and 80 per hour.  Some of the pursuers suffered damage to their grass by people driving over it.  It is a reasonable inference that these people were coming to see the defender’s display”  (Scotsman, 14 Dec 2000).  Mr Rowlands has indicated that he intends to appeal and to invoke the European Convention on Human Rights.