Halloween is generally a ‘spooktacular’ time for everyone, but a few bad apples can spoil the fun. What can you do if someone chooses to play a ‘trick’ and damages your property? Can you intervene to stop property damage? Can you be held legally responsible if a child has an allergic reaction to the ‘teats’ you gave them?
Jennifer Cellupica, a paralegal legal advisor at DAS Law has the answers to these questions (and others) to avoid making this Halloween a legal horror story.
Is trick or treating illegal and are there any age restrictions on how old you have to be to take part?
So, “Trick or treating” is not considered an illegal act, although it is considered by some to be an “unwelcome American cultural import” and can sometimes result in incidences such as property damage, nuisance and personal injury.
Anyone can take part in Trick or Treating as there is no legal age limit on this however, the NSPCC does express for parents and children to exercise caution when they are trick or treating on their own or without parental supervision.
If a child damages your property with a ‘trick’, can you recover repair costs from the parents?
Damage to property can be deemed a criminal offence as well as a civil matter. Halloween is a very busy time for the police and they can receive a high volume of calls at this time of year. Before contacting them, please consider whether the matter can be resolved amicably.
However, if you are concerned about your safety then you should contact the police as soon as possible.
Generally speaking, parents or guardians are responsible for ensuring their children are supervised in certain circumstances, although this will vary depending on their age i.e. older children are less likely to require supervision as they will have a greater responsibility for their own actions.
This means that any civil action for recovery of losses due to damage caused by a child would need to be taken against the child. However, holding a child responsible for their actions may not be a realistic way forward as a child is unlikely to have assets to pursue for damages, so it would be preferable for you to hold the parent or guardian responsible.
In order to hold a parent or guardian responsible, you would need to prove that they have been negligent and their negligence resulted in the child damaging your property. This would be dependent on circumstances and evidence and could include arguments such as failing to supervise or failing to control the child. The success of this argument would be dependent on proving the elements of negligence – was there a duty of care? Has that duty of care been breached? Has there been any damage as a result of that breach? Is the damage foreseeable?
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 feel harassed, then you should contact the police straight away 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 or could amount to harassment but these arguments would be circumstantial and based on evidence.
Normally, you could look at taking legal action for nuisance for remedies such as damages and/or 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 rather than nuisance.
Under the Protection From Harassment Act 1977, harassment is defined as a course of conduct which amounts to harassment of another and –
- Is intended to amount to harassment of that person; or
- occurs in circumstances where it would appear to a reasonable person that it would amount to harassment of that person
Can you physically intervene if an act of vandalism is taking place on your property by a minor?
I would advise against any physical interactions and, as above, if the situation escalates you should report the matter to the police.
Any damage to property is potentially a criminal offence and you could threaten to report the perpetrator to the police. 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 as discussed above.
Any physical interactions could cause the situation to escalate. If you assault an individual, 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.
If you give a child sweets for Halloween and they choke or have an allergic reaction, are you responsible?
This would of course depend on the circumstances. Assuming the sweets have not been interfered with, a claimant would have to prove that you have been negligent in order to hold you responsible for any injuries occurred as a result.
To establish negligence the court will look at whether you owed the claimant a duty of care, that there has been a breach of that duty, and this has caused the claimant some kind of loss. They must also be able to prove that the loss was foreseeable.
In practical terms it may be difficult to establish negligence if you simply gave a child a sweet and they choked as this could be down to any number of reasons – for example, the child’s own behaviour contributing to the incident.
The child would be assuming a certain level of risk and therefore, if any claims were brought, you would look to argue either a voluntary assumption of risk and/or contributory negligence as a defence.
However, the circumstances may be different if you gave a baby or toddler sweets as they may be less likely to detect certain dangers so extra care should be taken.
Can under 18s watch horror movies rated 18+?
Films that are classified by the British Board of Film Classification 18+ are only suitable for adults 18 and older. The same applies to any individual watching an 18+ rated film at the cinemas or those who choose to buy or rent copies of a film. The BBFC do not mention any specific rules about underage individuals watching such movies at home. The ratings are advisory on platforms such as DVD’s and streaming services. An underage person cannot actively purchase/rent/watch such a movie at the cinema.
The goods that I have purchased specifically for Halloween are faulty, can I return them?
If you have purchased an item and it turns out to be faulty, not fit for purpose or not as described, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 provides that you are able to reject such goods within the first 30 days after purchase.
If you notice any issues after 30 days since purchase, the onus will be on you to prove the above breaches and for the seller to prove that the issues raised are not an inherent problem or to rebut them.
The remedies available in such instances are a repair, replacement and finally a rejection of goods. After 6 months of purchase, both the onus of proving the fault/issues and proving that these are inherent problems lies with the consumer. The best practical advice would be to act promptly to avoid complication with the seller.
Disclaimer: This information is for general guidance regarding rights and responsibilities and is not formal legal advice as no lawyer-client relationship has been created.
FWD Consulting: 020 7623 2368
Notes to Editors:
DAS UK Group: www.das.co.uk
The DAS UK Group comprises an insurance company (DAS Legal Expenses Insurance Company Ltd), a law firm (DAS Law), and an after the event (ATE) legal expenses division.
DAS UK introduced legal expenses insurance (LEI) in 1975, protecting individuals and businesses against the unforeseen costs involved in a legal dispute. In 2018 it wrote more than seven million policies.
The company offers a range of insurance and assistance add-on products suitable for landlords, homeowners, motorists, groups and business owners, while it’s after the event legal expenses insurance division offers civil litigation, clinical negligence and personal injury products. In 2013, DAS also acquired its own law firm – DAS Law – enabling it to leverage the firm’s expertise to provide its customers with access to legal advice and representation.
DAS UK is part of the ERGO Group, one of Europe’s largest insurance groups (the majority shareholder in ERGO is Munich Re, one of the world’s largest reinsurers).
DAS UK Group Twitter: https://twitter.com/DASLegalUK
DAS UK Group Facebook: www.facebook.com/DASUKGroup/
DAS UK Group LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/das-legal-expenses-insurance/
DAS Law LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/das-law/