Category Archives: March2016

Letting Agent Denial

Only after 18 months and one suicide attempt did the National Association of Property Professionals take action against the tenants and letting agency.” Mark, Kent

Mark has suffered a huge variety of anti-social behaviour from his neighbours including loud music and other household noise at an inappropriate volume and time of day, drinking alcohol on the streets and inappropriate use of public space such as disputes among neighbours. There has been rowdy or inconsiderate behaviour, abandoned vehicles, abusive language, blocked driveways, excessive vehicle repairs and maintenance carried out in gardens, illegal parking, intimidating behaviour, storing rubbish in gardens/ untidy gardens, and violence or the threat of violence.

He reported the problems to the Police who kept telling him they could not do anything (other than issue 13 Incident numbers). He also contacted the letting agent who abused Mark on email calling him deluded and deranged. He also contacted the Property Ombudsman who would not do anything now the ‘proper authorities were involved’, the Council (who issued four warning letters to the tenants) and the landlord (who ‘could not care less’). The letting agent also said they didn’t care, even when they were told he had tried to kill himself. “At first, I tried quiet discussion with the neighbours. When that didn’t work, I made a complaint to the letting agent (who told me I was a ‘liar’ on my second email), then to the Council and Police and the governing bodies of the letting agent.

Only after 18 months and one suicide attempt did the National Association of Property Professionals take action against the tenants and letting agency.” Mark has been diagnosed with stress, anxiety and depression. He is classed as a ‘Medium To High Suicide Risk’ which has increased as the landlord has returned the original letting agent to the property.

Our Comments

If Mark has been classed as a medium to high suicide risk that should put him most definitely in the bracket of being a vulnerable victim. He is entitled to be heard and his situation reviewed. We would recommend activating the Community Trigger which will require all the agencies to come together and review his case if the actual anti-social behaviour is still continuing in spite of action being taken against both tenants and letting agency. To be allowed to say ‘I don’t care’ and walk away from the problem should not be permitted and we are glad to see Mark finally got action taken – but he had to involve the National Association of Property Professionals to do so. A stark reminder that we often have to work hard to get results with ASB.

System Failures are Letting Too Many ASB Perpetrators off the Hook

NEWS RELEASE: SYSTEM FAILURES ARE LETTING TOO MANY ASB PERPETRATORS OFF THE HOOK

Current anti-social behaviour policies continue to fail victims, says support charity ASB Help

18 months on from the introduction of a power designed to support victims of persistent anti-social behaviour in England and Wales and those people are still being fundamentally failed by the system, says victim advice charity ASB Help.

A YouGov Poll commissioned by the charity, which provides support for and signposts victims of anti-social behaviour in England and Wales to advice and guidance, showed that whilst 32% of people have experienced anti-social behaviour, only 3% have heard of the ‘Community Trigger’ and fewer than 1% have used it.

The Community Trigger was introduced as part of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act in October 2014 to give victims the power to request a multi-agency review of their ASB complaint if they feel a satisfactory outcome hasn’t been achieved. But, says ASB Help chief executive Jenny Herrera, despite a legal requirement for local authorities and other agencies to highlight the availability of the Community Trigger and report on its use, very few people even know it exists:

“We have spent two years gathering anecdotal information of people’s experiences of anti-social behaviour across England and Wales, with the ultimate goal of giving victims a voice both in their local area and at a national level to support a lobby for change,” Jenny says.

“We have also spent the last eighteen months trying to establish the effectiveness of the Community Trigger in supporting victims. At almost every turn we have come up against a brick wall. Police forces report anti-social behaviour incidents but they are not accredited National Statistics and each force may record them in a different way. Local authorities and other bodies to whom ASB is reported have no legal requirement at all to report instances of ASB. Although it is the legal responsibility of local authorities and other agencies to report how often the Community Trigger has been activated in their area, the reality we have experienced is that there is no consistency in recording and reporting from region to region. This makes it impossible to either get a complete picture of anti-social behaviour in England and Wales or to know whether the trigger has been used, let alone how effective it has been. “As a result, many victims of ASB still find themselves at the mercy of a postcode lottery with nowhere to turn to resolve the very real – and in some cases life threatening – issues that are making their lives a misery. It also means that many ASB perpetrators are being too easily let off the hook.”

Jenny says that she hears the stories of hundreds of people whose experiences of anti-social behaviour are being ignored or unsatisfactorily dealt with by the authorities: “Almost ten years since Fiona Pilkington’s tragic suicide was seen as a turning point in the way anti-social behaviour is dealt with by the authorities, I don’t feel that we are very much further forward and I believe a case like this one could very easily happen again.”

ASB Help is calling on the government to put its weight behind the charity’s campaign to extract Community Trigger data from local authorities and other public bodies. Jenny says this will at the least begin to shed some light on the extent of the anti-social behaviour problem in England and Wales, as well as how effectively it is currently being dealt with. “We are working with the Home Office and anti-social behaviour agency partners to step up our campaign and work towards our joint goals of helping ASB victims to be heard and campaigning for effective change that will transform the lives of thousands of people across England and Wales.”

-ENDS-

People who have experienced anti-social behaviour and would like advice, guidance or support can visit www.asbhelp.co.uk.

Notes to editors: All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,018 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 23rd and 24th February 2016. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). The survey defined “anti-social behaviour” as when a person behaves in a way which causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more people who are not from their household.

Why the community trigger is failing: the ASB Help view

The Community Trigger is the term generally applied to the Response to Complaints section of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act in October 2014. If someone has made a complaint about anti-social behaviour in a particular local government area, the relevant bodies in that area must carry out an ASB case review if that person, or anyone else, requests one (i.e. activates the Community Trigger) and the relevant bodies decide that the threshold for a review is met. The review will focus either on the ongoing anti-social behaviour about which the original complaint was made or on the adequacy of the response to that behaviour. Either way, victims should see a full, independent review of their complaint. In our view, the key issues are that:

  • There is no definitive guidance as to what the threshold for review should be. Each local authority area sets its own threshold. The most common threshold is likely to be if someone has complained three times in a six-month period and feels nothing has been done, but this is only a minimum, others may interpret it differently, which contributes to the existing postcode lottery.
  • Each local authority must specify the point of contact for activating the Community Trigger and ensure that applications made to that point of contact are passed on to all the relevant bodies in the local government area. The statutory guidelines advise that this information is made clear and that there be a number of ways of activating the trigger. In our experience, the availability and prominence of information on local authority and other relevant websites and literature are at best inconsistent and, at worst, well hidden.
  • Under the 2014 Act, bodies who carry out an ASB case review must inform the applicant of the outcome of the review and any recommendations made. We see little evidence of this happening in practice. These bodies are also obliged to publish every year how many triggers have been activated and how many case reviews have been carried out. Accessing this information is extremely difficult and some Community Safety Partnerships have treated it as a Freedom of Information request rather than a statutory requirement! Those that do publish it (we have only found 19% of Councils have done this) use a wide variety of time periods and none, making comparison of data almost impossible.

 

Victims Sidelined Once More

Efforts to control public spaces, such as the latest furore over the ban on swearing at Salford Quays, are in the spotlight at present. The Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) have been contentious from the start and research undertaken by The Manifesto Club has recently highlighted why (http://www.manifestoclub.com/). I’ve read criticisms about anti-social behaviour being an “ever-expanding and arbitrary term” alongside concerns of hyper-regulation of our everyday lives. asbhelp2

For us the overarching focus on PSPOs creates a rather different issue. Yes, we agree that statutory guidance is in sore need of clarification to ensure PSPOs go through the proper consultations and to prevent innocent acts from being criminalised. Yet, we fear so much focus on these PSPOs too neatly takes resources away from those types of ASB that are ruining the lives of so many individuals and families in this country.

I’m sure it’s unpleasant to hear a load of foul language if you’ve gone for a family walk through Salford Quays. Yet surely this is temporary. We are rarely contacted by victims experiencing ASB in a public place. No, the heartfelt cries that we receive are usually those who feel trapped in their own homes thanks to the behaviour of their neighbours. The isolated and vulnerable – unable or too scared to galvanise public support to get the Council to take action. Unsurprising, since when they finally do get up the courage to report the ASB they are too often fobbed off, the problem belittled, the victim’s story disbelieved.

We make no secret about our focus – the Community Trigger. This has been designed to help the vulnerable, the isolated, those at the point of breaking, to get a multi-agency review of their case and action taken. Sadly we often feel we beat a solitary drum, the media seem remarkably disinterested in spite of the potential this has to show up agency failings, something they usually like to do! Often the hidden anti-social behaviour is the most complex and costly to solve. Easier to focus scant resources on implementing PSPOs to respond to those who shout the loudest (for what are often relatively minor incidents) than attend to the individual, complicated cases.

Do we have to see another tragedy like that of Fiona Pilkington before agencies truly appreciate the importance of prioritising the vulnerable or those suffering persistent ASB that wears even the strongest person down? PSPO debates rarely mention the victims that are behind the power. They’ve been sidelined once more, this time in favour of the general public’s opinion.

We are glad to see organisations and individuals shouting loud about free expression, free movement and free association. These are important values and the legislation’s statutory guidance flawed given its lack of protection of these. Who is shouting out, however, for that lonely victim, suffering anti-social behaviour of the most damaging kind, not knowing where they can turn? We hope other voices will join with our own and champion the rights of those who most need it.

Jenny Herrera CEO, ASB Help

Prepare for Battle

Do not underestimate the subtle effect this awful behaviour can have on you. Be prepared to be brushed off by agencies … be prepared for them to doubt you.” Lily, South-West England

When Lily reported anti-social behaviour to the police 2 years ago, they said she didn’t have enough evidence for a crime. She had continuously reported it to the landlords only to find they did not respond or even acknowledge her complaint. When she involved her Social Care team, they too wrote to the landlords and did not receive a reply either. To get action with anti-social behaviour, you often need to prepare for battle. Lily explains:

bullet Do not underestimate the subtle effect this can have on you, undermining your confidence and self-esteem.

bullet Be prepared to be brushed off by agencies etc (eg landlord agency) who might rather the problem(s) just disappeared.

bullet Be prepared for them to doubt you, and really try to get evidence. Video evidence was required from me, which I didn’t have. It can be difficult to have the presence of mind to film something when actually happening, but this seems to be what is asked for.

bullet Be prepared for the people doing this to counter-claim, and behave as the victims themselves. This can be awful. Realize that people do lie, especially to gain advantage, or get themselves out of a hole, and try not to take it too personally.

bullet Be prepared for the fact that others who may have witnessed things, may not be prepared to stand up and give evidence, even though it is true. Many people do not wish to, or are afraid to.”

Our Comments

Lily gives good advice. You do need to be prepared for battle sometimes to get results. Don’t Suffer in Silence – are there others who can support you/are also suffering? See our Tips for Getting Evidence for ways to build up your case. In particular, do consider how Professional Witnesses might help where you are struggling to get the evidence required. Unfortunately it is time-consuming and tiring – here are some tips on how to manage discount pharmacy your Frustration with the anti-social behaviour and the whole process of trying to effectively address it.

Death Threats

“I felt like the police were trying to talk me out of pressing charges as they didn’t seem to understand the gravity of the situation until we started getting death threats.”

‘Carole’, in Council housing, explains she was a victim of hate crime due to her religion and mental illness. If she was suffering with a mental health problem, she should have been classified as vulnerable and given additional support. However, she says that “a lot of the times I felt like the police were trying to talk me out of pressing charges as they didn’t seem to understand the gravity of the situation until we started getting death threats.”

She mentions mistreatment of her children to the point she removed them from school, vandalising her car and gardens, obstructing the road and shouting, swearing and name calling with reference to mental health and religion. She became a recluse and was suicidal for the last 4 weeks they lived in that house.

“I could not eat or sleep for fear. My children could not play outside. Eventually got moved because of the death threats. Now, 6 months on, I have only just started going out of my new house to get food shopping but take a 25 mile round trip to avoid bumping into these people. I still cannot sleep and have severe panic attacks. I’ve completely lost what little confidence I had. I just don’t want to be around people. I am fearful all the time. My youngest child will not leave my side and now wets the bed and wakes up screaming from nightmares. It is really devastating that people can behave in this way but yet we had to move from a home we loved.”

‘Carole’ awaits a court case which she is very anxious about but she is determined to speak out against those who have caused her such distress.

Hate Crime is a serious matter and should be reported to the Police. See here for a definition of hate crime.