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Hot tub lovin’, the Daily Mail and Article 8


[Caution – the following story comes from the Daily Mail. It should be read with this source in mind and the inevitable provisio that this site makes no assertions as to the accuracy, truthfulness or reliability of the story, because the Daily Mail cannot be considered to be a remotely reliable source of ‘news’]

Colchester, as its tourist board website proudly proclaims, is “much more than Britain’s oldest recorded town”. I have no doubt that this is true, but it appears that the habit of recording Colchester has been hard to give up, no matter how old it may be. It has been particularly enduring in the person of Mrs Pauline Palmer, as her neighbour, Mr Brian Collins, found out at some expense.

Mr Collins moved into the terraced house next door to Mrs Palmer in December 2006, little knowing that this innocent decision would lead to the world becoming aware of his three in a hot tub steamy sessions (sorry), or his over-enthusiastic response to the sound of pan-pipes (“oh yes, oh yes”).

Mrs Palmer, “Essex Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinator of the year 2009”, appears to have taken an enthusiastically literal view of ‘neighbourhood watch’. From the date Mr Collins moved in, she kept what were described in the Magistrates Court as ‘extraordinarily detailed diaries’ on his activities. She even admitted putting her ear to the wall, presumably to make sure her diaries were accurate in every detail.

The three diligent years of recording visitors to Mr Collins’ house “wearing baseball caps”, overnight stays – with “lovemaking” – by female guests, noting visitors’ vehicle registration numbers and noting overheard conversations, finally bore fruit for Mrs Palmer when she managed to persuade Colchester Council to serve a noise abatement order.

panpipesAnd in September 2009, came the coup de grace. Mrs Palmer asked an Environmental Control Officer to attend, while Mr Collins was in his hot tub. The Officer, Mr Milham reported that “‘I could hear Mr Collins in his hot tub,’ he said. ‘The music changed to panpipes to which Mr Collins was occasionally shouting “Oh yes, oh yes”.” Mr Milham decided that this was statutory nuisance and Mr Collins faced a prosecution for breaching the noise abatement order.

Despite evidence from his neighbour on the other side that she had never heard loud music or been disturbed by any noise, Mr Collins was fined £100. He appealed, lost and had to pay a further £365 costs.

I could not but feel Mr Collins was a bit hard done by, not least because I can now only imagine him – no doubt entirely unfairly – as Peter Stringfellow in an Essex terrace, surrounded by the Andean buskers. It appears that I was not alone. The Daily Mail online comments section is normally a festering pit of ex-pats pronouncing that the Human Rights Act has been the ruination of a country they haven’t lived in since the early ’80s. But remarkably, the same crew responded to this story by insisting that Mr Collins had had his human rights breached by Mrs Palmer. Granted, they couldn’t get the right right, presumably through lack of familiarity:

Surely this nosey old biddy is breaching Mr Collins’ human rights? Article 18, a right to private family life?

And then, even the despised ‘human rights lawyers’ are welcomed

Mr Collins should be looking for a lawyer to protect his human rights against this woman.

So there we are. What does it take for Daily Mail readers to warm to Human Rights? Not torture, not rights for prisoners, not domestic violence, not people losing their only homes. But interfere with a 51 year old man’s right to some pan-pipe accompanied, hot tub lovin’ and the Mail’s constituency rises up as one to demand that his Article 8 rights (or Article 18, you know, whatever) are upheld. No doubt on legal aid, by the way the commenters were going on.

Still, some Mail style monomania can stretch to an angle on any story whatsoever. A prize, or possibly medication, is surely to be awarded to this commenter for managing to blame the whole thing on Europe:

This is the kind of snooping on yout neighbour you would expect in Germany ! Seems like the EU’s 4th Reich is getting here faster than expected!

It may, therefore, still be a little while before we can expect Mail readers demanding that their paper actually reports human rights cases accurately. But thanks to Mr Collins and his baseball cap wearing visitors, it’s a start!

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.


  1. simplywondered

    even the right what the echr when it can be used for nice people like them.
    shami chakrabarti spoke at middle recently and with great relish told the tale of sun columnist and shock jock jon gaunt, who had christened her ‘the most dangerous woman in britain’. he lost his job over calling some local authority guy a nazi and sought liberty’s help to assert his right to free speech. and won.

    and the great phil ochs defined a liberal as someone who is ’10 degrees to the left of centre in good times, 10 degrees to the right of centre if it affects them personally’.

  2. Gem

    A thoroughly enjoyable read! Thanks for sharing!

  3. JAC


    Unless Shami knows something not made public to mere mortals, I don’t think the action Jon Gaunt took (judicial review of OFCOM’s decision) with Liberty’s help was “won” by him. He lost the JR.

    I see he obtained permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal in January ( but I’m not sure that amounts to him winning yet and I don’t see any reference to Liberty in the permission to appeal application.

  4. XF

    I can’t help but imagine Mrs Palmer as “Meddlesome Ratbag” from Viz.

    I’m actually surprised that the Daily Mail stuck up for this chap. I’d have thought they’d have seized on his pan pipes as being evidence of being an asylum seeker (probably) and noisy sex as being grounds for being a suspected paedophile. They also missed a trick by failing to crow about how this affects your house prices.

    • NL

      And he is apparently on Incapacity Benefit, so a target missed there.

      But I suspect Mrs Palmer perhaps sees herself rather more in the Miss Marple mould: ‘It’s been one of my most unusual cases but it does show how important it is to keep a record of what’s happened.’ You can almost see the little smile of satisfaction as she picks up her cup of tea from its saucer.

  5. simplywondered

    hmmm; maybe i misconstrued shami’s story. maybe i wanted him to win as a perfect irony. damn pesky facts!

  6. JAC


    I see Gaunt lost his appeal on Friday last week (with Liberty intervening):

    Perhaps there is a greater irony in him seeking the assistance of the sandal-wearing lefty hand-wringing Liberty to pursue a non-meritorious human rights argument.


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