Sport, the Crown & the Common Law : an Appraisal of the Common Law Offence of Public Nuisance and the Human Activity of Sport, Embodying Assessment of the Responsibilities of the Executive Branch of Government in Managing the Circumstances in which Public Nuisances are Created and Assessment of the Need for Legislative Reform

  • Christopher McKenzie

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


When a family or a group of friends visit a beach or a park for their enjoyment and recreation and find that they are not able to use the beach or the park or are told to move off the beach or away from the park because a publicly exhibited sporting event is making use of this public space, a conflict of rights arises. The family or group of friends is not wrong in questioning the rights of a sports association to exclusive use of a public space for their public sporting event.
The thesis assesses whether the public possess rights at public places and whether these public rights are adequately safeguarded during public sporting events by reason of the development of the common law in public nuisance litigation. Common law public rights such as a public right to quietude, a public right to safety, and a public right to recreation are discussed. Courts may intervene to protect inferred common law public rights during public sporting events and may declare public sporting events unlawful. This thesis finds that common law public rights may not be impinged by the staging of public sporting events at public places. Only by means of reform of the law may common law rights be displaced and public sporting events be lawfully staged. Public sports are a special category of human activity that depend upon sanction from Parliament for legitimacy.
This thesis argues that law reform in the form of a sports code is warranted owing to the participation of the Executive in promoting public sport in breach of common law proscription of such promotion where it impinges upon public rights. Regulation in the sporting arena is not a modern legal development and this thesis describes examples of regulation from the year 1194 onwards. Each historical regulation can be viewed as attempts by the Executive to control excesses or breaches of the law in public exhibitions of sport.
Because publicly exhibited sporting events are liable to proscription as public nuisances, following the common law case law, and because the public’s rights to use of public spaces may be carelessly inhibited, this thesis argues that legislative reform in the form of a Sports Code is warranted.
Date of Award6 Oct 2012
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJames Corkery (Supervisor) & Gerard Carney (Supervisor)

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