Responsibilities of a Tree Owner - A General Guide
The law outlines the responsibilities of tree owner. Any person may seek redress for harm or injury they have suffered as a result of a tree owner failing in their responsibility. This redress is often sought in a court of law.
Statute Law is enacted by Parliament. The first document to have influenced the constitution is the Magna Carta, written in 1215. This set down the king's duty to his subjects and their rights and responsibilities.
Common Law and the rights and protections formed under them are created by a judge's decisions in court. Common law has its basis in precedent – this means that judges follow decisions made in similar cases to create a consistent, just and fair system. However, there are cases when the circumstances or facts of the case are very different, have not arisen before or are viewed by a senior judge as not reflecting current society, so a decision is made to create or amend the law.
It is worth noting that no two legal cases are the same in every respect, hence the outcome of a particular dispute can never be predicted with absolute certainty.
Duty of Care
The law outlines a landowner's responsibility, known in law as ‘the duty of care’, to take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which he or she could reasonably foresee may result in harm or injury. When a tree owner fails to exercise his or her responsibility the result may be a claim for negligence.
Where A has a 'duty of care' towards B and fails to take any necessary action, resulting in harm or injury to people, animals or property, and if that harm or injury is reasonably foreseeable, then it is likely to be categorised as negligence.
The ideal way to resolve a dispute is to discuss the matter, between the interested parties, in a friendly manner, in the hope that an amicable settlement can be reached. If that fails, an alternative may be for the parties to appoint an arbitrator to make an impartial decision. If an agreement still cannot be reached either party may ask the Courts to make a ruling. This can be a lengthy and expensive procedure and should only be considered as a final resort and after taking legal advice.
Where an incident has been categorised as negligence, a civil and/or criminal prosecution may follow resulting in financial compensation being awarded, a fine being levied or imprisonment.
The law expects people to behave in a reasonable manner and fulfill their responsibilities. A failure to do so may result in conflict and subsequent prosecution which can be both lengthy and financially expensive.
For specific advice, with respect to the law, please seek qualified legal opinion. For general advice please contact us.
APN 11 Trees and Hedge in Dispute published by AAIS
Veteran Trees: A Guide to Risk and Responsibility published by English Nature