ZAMMIT MAEMPEL v. MALTA – 24202/10 [2011] ECHR 1964

Article 8 of the Convention of Human Rights protects the individual’s right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence. A home will usually be the place, the physically defined area, where private and family life develops. The individual has a right to respect for his home, meaning not just the right to the actual physical area, but also to the quiet enjoyment of that area within reasonable limits.

The applicants have resided in a house in Malta owned by them since 1994. The house is one of three houses in a remote area of grassland. Every year, on the occasion of certain village feasts, firework displays are set up in the fields close to the applicants’ residence (a distance of 150 metres or more).

The applicants alleged that every time fireworks were let off from this area they are exposed to grave risk and peril to their life, physical health and personal security. Moreover, the heavy debris produced caused considerable damage to the residence.

In consequence, over the years the applicants complained to the Commissioner of Police (“CoP”), but no remedial action was taken.

Fireworks in Malta have a long-standing tradition which is still very much alive in the crowded calendar of village feasts that take place all over Malta and Gozo, especially in the summer months. The facts of this case deal with a specific area where fireworks are let off during two separate weeks annually and only during particular days, therefore not on a daily basis during those weeks.

The Court noted that the applicants acquired the property while aware of the situation of which they were now complaining. Notwithstanding that the previous owners had informed them of their experience, the applicants proceeded to purchase the property and made it their home. The Court considered, that this was a weighty factor in the relevant balancing exercise, irrespective of the fact that they were lawfully entitled to live there.

The Court found that the authorities had not overstepped their margin of appreciation by failing to strike a fair balance between the rights of the individuals affected to respect for their private life and home and the conflicting interests of others and of the community as a whole, nor did it find that there had been fundamental procedural flaws which impinged on the applicants’ Article 8 rights.

Although this is a European case, it is worthy of a reminder 

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