Tribunal to settle disputes between warring neighbours to be set up

A new tribunal to deal with feuding neighbours who just cannot settle their differences is expected to be set up in the second half of the year.

A judge will hear the case and have the power to issue orders, for instance to stop playing loud music after 11pm. Those who refuse to abide may end up being prosecuted.

The move, which was announced on Saturday by Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong, will give much needed bite to the current community dispute resolution system, which is voluntary. "The need for legal recourse arise from some cases that we have seen in which mediation does not work and the aggrieved party feels very frustrated and helpless because they do not know who to turn to and they are not getting peace in their homes," said Mr Wong.

Every year, there are over 70,000 complaints about noise - residents' top pet peeve. Other common grouses include verbal abuse and the use of common corridor space.

Under the current framework, neighbours who cannot resolve disputes on their own or with the help of grassroots leaders can take the matter to a Community Mediation Centre (CMC). But 60 per cent of the 1,500 applications for mediation that the CMC receives each year ends up with one party refusing to show up. That means around 900 cases remain unresolved annually.

This was one of the key issues highlighted during discussions among related agencies, associations and community leaders since last May when Mr Wong first proposed having a more robust framework. The new tribunal will not only have powers to impose judgements and sanctions, but will also be able to order both parties to go for mediation if they have not already done so.

The Government is gathering feedback from the public on this, and those interested can e-mail from today till April 21.