Court overturns Springhill landowner’s victory

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SPRINGHILL – Private land ownership is a little less private this week after Nova Scotia’s Court of Appeal overturned a court case involving a Springhill-man.

The original decision, which was heralded as a victory, upheld the 1604 English rule a man’s home is his castle and the state cannot enter without a valid order. It was good news for Garth Hicks who told a provincial environment inspector in 2011 to take a hike and get off his land after neighbours complained about him burning on his property.

Hicks was acquitted by Judge of Paul Scovil of any wrongdoing. Hicks had obstructed the inspector, Scovil conceded, but the inspector did not have legal authority to demand access to his yard, which Scovil declared was part of Hicks’ private dwelling.

It appeared Scovil took a few liberties from the Bard of Avon, William Shakespeare, when writing his decision.

“Where the castle’s yard and driveway fit in these questions are important considerations for the Castle Keep and the Sheriff who wants entry,” Judge Scovil wrote. “…The castles of Cumberland County remain sacrosanct against the powers of the Sovereign, at least in this matter, Sheriffs continue to require proper authorization to require the lowering of the drawbridge and the Lords and Ladies of the Dominion can rest easy. It is likely a good idea that they take care as to what they may burn in the courtyard.”

In the Court of Appeal, however, a three-judge panel felt Scovil erred on the interpretation of “private dwelling” to include yards, imposing a conviction on Hicks and ordering the mater back to Scovil to deal with the sentencing.

“In my respectful opinion, it could never have been the intention of the Legislature to oblige inspectors carrying out their duties in accordance with the Act to be prohibited from entering and inspecting the yards and outlying lands of a property owner without first obtaining the owner or occupants consent or, failing that, a court order,” Judge Saunders wrote for the three-judge panel.

In Hicks submission at the hearing, he warned allowing the appeal would lead to an open season of inspectors.

“I don’t think it can be seriously suggested that taking steps to investigate and prohibit the burning of garbage, or tires, or other noxious substances for the good of the community will be seen as somehow sanctioning state-intrusion into legitimate family activities,” Saunders wrote.

Organizations: Dominion

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Cumberland County

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  • Bill Brown
    July 26, 2013 - 14:20

    This gentleman should remember the golden rule , do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In other words, you should respect the quality of life your neighbors deserve and they in turn would not call the inspector but live in harmony with you. Very simple for those that have the mental capacity to absorbe this.

  • aaron
    July 26, 2013 - 12:30

    Free country , right ! we have no freedom in this country . We are taxed, levied against and at times billed on assumptions when it comes to just how much our land or homes are really valued at .