The boundary fence dispute

This problem that Alice faces does not seem like a legal problem at all, but instead a common dispute. Alice has raised the issue about the boundary fence being in poor condition to her neighbour Boris, and that she wanted to have it replaced or at least repaired, but Boris refused to even consider paying his share. This is not just a common dispute, but indeed a legal problem. Alice shouldn’t have to pay the full price for the repair of a fence which they both share, but instead the costs should be shared between the both of them. But since Boris has refused to pay his share of the repair of the fence, a legal problem has occurred.

Description of various sources of legal assistance available to Alice

In a dispute such as this, there is not much the law can actually do to solve the problem until all other methods of dealing with the dispute have been tried out. These methods start off from negotiating with the neighbour, through to mediation, which is a process that includes a third party of two mediators to help assist the two parties to reach an agreement between themselves. Mediation is seen as a better alternative than taking a dispute to court simply because of its informality and flexibility. It is less time consuming and less expensive, which is a great benefit when dealing with minor disputes such as this fence problem.

Mediation is a great way of settling disputes as it brings both parties on neutral grounds, and lets them settle the dispute themselves. But if in the rare case that mediation does not settle the dispute, then the matter is able to be taken to court. A solicitor is beneficial to find out Alice’s rights in the matter, although it may end up being very costly and may indeed ruin the relationship between Alice and her neighbour. Once a dispute is taken to the Magistrates court, a decision will be made by the magistrate, and thus conclude the matter.

2nd Legal Problem- The Noise Dispute

Summary of legal problem

The problem that Alice faces is the constant barking of her neighbour’s dog Max. Max’s constant barking all night long resulted in Alice not being able to get any sleep, and under section 48A of the ‘Environmental Protection Act 1970’, it is an offence for a person to cause or allow “unreasonable” noise to be emitted from residential premises. Boris is allowing unreasonable noise to affect his fellow neighbours through Max’s constant barking. Dogs that bark endlessly can be dealt with under the ‘Domestic (Federal and Nuisance) Animals Act 1994’ simply because the dog’s barking is creating a nuisance that doesn’t have to be tolerated.

It is definitely an unreasonable nuisance that Alice shouldn’t have to put up with, thus making it a problem.

Description of various sources of legal assistance available to Alice

In a case like this, there is quite a lot of assistance that Alice is able to obtain. If negotiations with the neighbour fail, then a trip to the local council to find out one’s rights when it comes to a noise dispute should be made. A person is able to make a complaint to either the Police or the local council if the noise is unreasonable. The local council is able to send the party creating the noise a letter which states what the problem is and that it needs to stop. There are many situations where noise pollution can fall within public health standards but is still irritating for certain residents who live near by, just like Alice. If Alice was not satisfied with the action taken by the police or the Council, she could then take the matter into the Magistrates court and plead her case there, although it would be quite costly and may ruin the relationship she has with Boris.

3rd Legal Problem- Boris behaving in a threatening manner and making obscene comments

Summary of legal problem

The third problem Alice faced was when she went over to try and negotiate with Boris about Max’s barking. Boris behaved in a very threatening manner, making offensive and obscene suggestions. These offensive and obscene suggestions that Boris made is regarded as verbal abuse We are not told what kind of threats Alice was receiving, but assuming that he was threatening to inflict injury on Alice, under The Crimes (Amendment) Act 1985 (Vic.), this is regarded as Assault. These threats which Boris made would have put poor Alice in a position where she was in fear for her safety. But if we assumed that his threats were perhaps not so severe, then it would be classified as being verbal abuse.

Description of various sources of legal assistance available to Alice

In this problem, Alice would only need the police to assist her, since the problem is so severe. Abuse is a serious issue, and that is why the police need to be involved to assist in settling the problem since they uphold the law. The police may issue a warning to Boris, and if he does not comply, he may be charged for Assault as he has threatened Alice. Alice may also decide to sue Boris for damages as she may have suffered a lot of anguish through all of the verbal abuse and threats that Boris made to her. Therefore she would have to take her case to the Magistrates court where a final decision would be made by the Magistrate to bring the problem to a conclusion.

Ways of overcoming problems that Alice might encounter in seeking access to the law in this matter.

The legal system and the processes are available for all to use, without discrimination. But not all individuals in society use the legal system to their advantage. It can be argued that equal access to the law is not available to all because access could depend on an individual’s:

* Knowledge of the law/sources of legal studies

Alice may not have any knowledge about the law, and therefore her neighbours may indeed be breaching laws right under her nose and she wouldn’t have a clue they are doing it. Also, a problem that Alice might encounter would be not knowing who to go to when in need of legal assistance. A way to overcome this is to visit a solicitor or legal aid advisor, or log onto the internet and gather legal advice about specific areas of interest. This would thus give an understanding and knowledge of the law, and the steps that are able to be taken to take action.

* Understanding of the law

A key problem that Alice may face is the understanding of the law. Every year the laws in Victoria change and therefore it is impossible for people to keep up with these changes. It is however, necessary for individuals to find out the law as it affects them in day to day life. Take Alice for example. She is irritates by her neighbour’s dog’s constant barking, and wonders what she can do about it. That is why she goes to a solicitor or legal aid advisor, to find out where she fits in when it comes to the law. She is able to find out and understand her rights when she is advised by a solicitor or legal aid advisor.

* Ability to communicate

We are not told in the case summary whether or not Alice is able to speak English, but if we assumed that she wasn’t able to speak English, she would definitely be at an extreme disadvantage when it comes to the law. This is because the legal system relies so heavily on oral evidence and therefore she would be at a great disadvantage when appearing in court. Some people may even be aware of their rights, but they might have difficulty in communicating their problems in the legal system. To overcome this problem of not being able to communicate properly in the legal system, Alice may need the services of an interpreter, to help get her thoughts across, although it would slow the process down a notch.

* Ability to pay for legal assistance

The high cost of legal representation can influence a person’s decision about whether to take a civil matter to court or not, or whether to abandon a claim. Solicitors are extremely expensive so a good alternative would be legal aid as they are free to use and don’t leave a huge dint in your wallet.