A woman has been ordered by magistrates to clear her home of a mouse infestation following a prosecution by Tendring District Council (TDC).
Margaret Manzoni, 73, was taken to court after failing to comply with notices served by TDC relating to her property in Clacton Road, St Osyth.
Alison Lambert, prosecuting, told Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court how environmental health officers had been called in by neighbours who were being over-run with mice and suffering property damage due to the state of Manzoni’s middle-of-terrace home.
After inspecting the house and several visits, with offers of support, Manzoni was given notices by TDC ordering her to stop feeding birds at the home she owned, to clear the overgrown garden, and to call in pest control contractors.
However, while Manzoni did allow the council to carry out some building works on her behalf she continued to provide food and habitat for the vermin, describing them as “wonderful creatures” that brought “a smile to her face”, and said she did not mind the odour – described as “overpowering” by environmental health officers who encountered large numbers of flies and droppings.
The situation became so bad that both neighbouring properties were vacated, with complaints resuming when new residents moved in. Neighbours described to TDC staff the impact on their mental health from hearing the mice scurrying around, as well as the damage to their property and physical impacts such as the smell.
Council staff offered Manzoni alternative accommodation due to the level of disrepair in her home but, on a later visit, Manzoni described the vermin as “my mice” and said they would not intrude upon her neighbours because she fed and homed them, and refused to take action stating it went against her “ethical beliefs”.
Manzoni admitted charges of failing to comply with a notice under the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act, between 22 September 2021 and 23 March 2022; and failing to comply with a notice under the Environmental Protection Act between 12 November 2021 and 23 March 2022.
The bench at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court today (Thursday, 14 April) imposed a fine of £807 on the second charge, with no separate penalty on the first offence, as well as an £81 victim surcharge and awarded £2,000 in costs.
Magistrates commended TDC for its numerous offers of support and strongly encouraged Manzoni to engage with the council and accept help, saying she would be better off spending money on sorting the problem than the fine and costs.
TDC has agreed to give Manzoni some time to explore her options, but it remains open to the council to prosecute again if matters do not improve – with one sentencing option to impose a daily fine for inaction.
Michael Talbot, TDC Cabinet Member for Environment, said the council would not hesitate to act in such cases should there be an impact on others.
“It is a shame that this case got to a stage where we had no option but to prosecute, despite several visits, legal notices and the offer of support to clear the property to help rid it of mice,” Councillors Talbot said.
“However, when such cases spill over and have such a negative effect on neighbours then we will step in to protect the quality of life of our residents.”