In a case of truth being stranger than fiction, a British woman has been imprisoned for two weeks for being too noisy during sex.
That’s right – noisy sex.
Following complaints from her sleep-deprived neighbours, the local council took action and imposed an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) on 23-year-old Gemma Wale from Birmingham. The order prohibited her from causing nuisance by:
- Making loud noises during sexual intercourse.
- Playing loud music.
- Shouting and swearing.
- Loudly banging things.
- Slamming doors.
Neighbours had complained about Ward’s conduct to the council on many occasions, with one neighbour saying that she was frequently woken in the small hours of the morning by Wale’s loud sex noises.
Another neighbour said: “She was unbelievable. You could hear her screaming and moaning from the other side of the road.”
But the ASBO was of little effect – she did not curb her noise levels and complaints were again made to the local council, and this time the council took legal action.
Judge Kelly of the Birmingham County Court heard the matter and concluded that Wale had caused nuisance and annoyance by:
- Screaming and shouting while having sex.
- Intimidating and harassing a neighbour by shouting “Look, she’s looking the f_____g bitch”.
- Banging, fighting and running around the house.
- Twice setting off the fire alarm at 4.45am.
A council housing officer was called to give evidence, as well as a neighbour who testified that at 5am one morning “Gemma started screaming and shouting while having sex, which woke us up. This lasted 10 minutes.”
Judge Kelly held that the breaches were contrary to the earlier ASBO, which was an interim injunction order, and sentenced Ward to two weeks’ imprisonment.
Noisy sex causing nuisance
While they haven’t resulted in prison sentences, there have been a number of other incidents in which the high decibel antics of amorous couples have so upset their neighbours that action has had to be taken.
There was the case of a UK woman in 2013 whose sex screams were so loud that her neighbour made a recording to support a complaint to the local council. A court hearing followed, and she faced eviction from her rented property.
How about Australia?
In Australia in 2014, police were called in by neighbours at their wits’ end due to the loud sex of a Queensland couple and in 2012, the noisy sex antics of an Adelaide pair saw them charged with offences under the Environment Protection Act (SA) and facing a fine of up to $4,000. This was believed to the first time that noisy sex had led to charges under that Act. After twice breaching the order, the couple was arrested.
And then there are the notes written by those who are desperately sleep-deprived, asking their neighbours to tone it down a notch or three.
But seriously, what can be done about these sorts of neighbourhood noise disputes?
The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is one of the bodies that deals with neighbourhood noise.
Noise from animals, alarms, machines and parties are some of the things that can arise as issues, but the list is by no means complete. Noisy sex could certainly be a basis for complaint to the EPA if the disturbance were great enough.
The EPA recommends various steps in trying to resolve a noise issue, including
- Trying to speak to the neighbour about the problem.
- Contacting a Community Justice Centre which may be able to assist to mediate the problem to resolution.
- Complaining to your local council, who may then serve a notice on the neighbour, requiring them to tone down their noise. If the order is breached, the council can issue a fine or prosecute the breach.
- If you are not having any luck getting the council to act, you can take your own legal action by issuing a Noise Abatement Order via a local court.
- At the time when the noise is occurring and causing a disturbance, it is best to call the local police to attend as soon as possible. Police have the power to issue warnings or Noise Abatement Directions which, if breached, can attract on-the-spot fines of up to $200 for an individual.
It may not be enough to guarantee you a good night’s sleep, but it’s a start. Any action taken by police or council will be documented and can potentially be later used to establish that the problem is serious and ongoing.
If the conduct contains serious threats or amounts to substantial ongoing harassment, it may even be possible to get an apprehended violence order (AVO) to prevent the situation from continuing.
As police indicated in the case of the Queensland couple, if they receive a noise complaint, it doesn’t really matter what’s causing it. It could be noisy sex, a barking dog, an unreasonably loud pool pump or anything and everything in between. If the issue is serious enough, action can be taken.
We all have the right to live with a fair degree of peace and privacy with minimal intrusion from our neighbours and their antics.
Even though the idea of someone being imprisoned for noisy sex is difficult to comprehend, being sleep deprived because of someone else’s selfishness could cause a sense of desperation in anyone.