Category Archives: May2016

Church Challenge

How can you deal with something out of your control? I have a very stressful job and need my rest. ‘Alice’, London

Noise nuisance is not just an issue between neighbours in residential houses. Some of us are unlucky enough to live next to particularly noisy premises – and these aren’t always what you might think. ‘Alice’ has a church hall behind her property. The problem doesn’t lie with its normal Sunday morning services, however, but when they hire the hall out on weekends. Then it becomes a venue for all-night parties.

Alice has had meetings and discussions with the church and they have previously been given abatement notices but they are failing to follow the rules and seem to ignore advice from the local authority and police. Alice has even suffered harassment by text message as a result of requesting the volume of music be turned down. This has been ongoing now for 3 years.

Alice expresses her frustration eloquently: “How can you deal with something that is out of your control? I have a very stressful and responsible job. I need my rest and when people have been warned and given advice yet it still continues the only way is to keep reporting it, but if that doesn’t work, what can I do? It is extremely frustrating and not fair that I have to live with it.”

Alice gets very anxious, her health has been affected and she gets very angry that she has followed all the steps to get the situation resolved yet nothing is working.

Alice should not have to suffer in this way – if the church is ignoring warning and abatement notices, there is more that agencies can do such as issue fines or seize the sound equipment (such as occurred this week in York: http://www.minsterfm.com/news/local/1995442/action-on-noisy-neighbours-in-york/). Activating the Community Trigger could force the agencies to take that next step.

Noise Nightmare

It has been nearly eight years and I am still here … but flagging.  ‘Janet’, Luton

Many of us hear some noise from next-door from time-to-time.  Many of us make noise which at times can be particularly loud – especially when children are around, or when we need to do some DIY, or perhaps we get into an argument and voices are raised, or we have the odd celebratory party.  We must all learn to be tolerant of our neighbours and reasonable in what we consider excessive noise.

However, for some people, those noisy moments can suddenly turn into an intolerable Noise Nightmare.  A nightmare that threatens to take over every area of their lives, a nightmare that means their home is no longer a relaxing and enjoyable place to be.

This week is Noise Action Week – here are some true stories of people suffering today with their own personal noise nightmare:

1.    ‘Janet’ in Luton knows all about how a noise nightmare can go on for years.  “It has been nearly eight years and I am still here … but flagging” she says.  Next door has large parties on a regular basis, especially weekends.  They are out in the garden with teenagers screaming and shouting up to 3 or 4am.  They also harass her by throwing stones at her windows.  ‘Janet’ feels like they are more supported by the Council as Council tenants – she as a home owner is unable to move (because she would need to declare the ongoing dispute with her neighbours) and must suffer alone.  “I wish I had more support“, she tells us, “but people get bored with hearing about it.”

2.    A couple of pensioners in Stockport, one aged 77 with heart problems, cannot sleep in their own bedroom due to the noise from next door’s radio.  They are sharing a single bed in their other bedroom.  They are unable to watch their television and feel their conversations are being overheard and telephone listened into.  They are at the end of their tether and feel they can’t take it anymore.

3.    Another couple in Stoke-on-Trent are unable to watch their TV because their neighbour has her TV on so loud.  Add to that the fact her dogs are barking and she lets them bark constantly all day long.  As a result they feel stressed and on edge and are not sleeping properly, which in turn will affect their ability to cope.  “Even when we get an odd moment of peace,” they say, “we can’t enjoy it as we just sit wondering when the next incident is going to be.”  Their noise nightmare continues – they spoke directly to her first but she was aggressive and abusive.  They turned to the local agencies but were not taken seriously and told the noise wasn’t loud enough and to ‘just ignore her’.

4.    Fred in Bristol hears constant intermittent loud banging on a daily basis with a cacophony of noise – internal and external doors banging, running across the floor, jumping from a height, thudding on his wall when they are playing X-box – all of which can go on until late at night.  Fred feels trapped because although the Council was willing to accept his complaint, he was too scared to follow it through as an older person living on his own.  He accepts part of the issue will be the laminate flooring and no soft furnishings to absorb the noise, but his house is where he spends all his time, making his noise nightmare particularly difficult to cope with.

To submit your story to us please complete our survey – the more people we hear from, the louder a voice we can give you as we meet with frontline agencies to improve the way the legislation works for you.

Tips when in a Noise Nightmare

  1.  Stay calm and don’t retaliate.  See our tips on controlling frustration and fury.
  2. Gather Evidence to build up a picture of the problem.
  3. Don’t suffer in silence.  Report it and find out what help is available to you.  You may feel frightened but you are entitled to support.
  4. If no-one is taking you seriously but you are still suffering, perhaps it’s time to activate the Community Trigger and insist on a multi-agency review of your case.
  5. For more information about noise see these pages: http://asbhelp.co.uk/noisy-neighbours-noise/ and http://asbhelp.co.uk/measuring-noise/.

Emily Maitlis opens up about being victim of stalker

I can’t see how it will end.” Emily Maitlis, BBC Newsnight presenter

This weekend all the main newspapers picked up the story that BBC Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis had opened up about her nightmare of being a victim of stalking for 25 years. Here is ‘The Guardian’s’ version: http://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/may/14/newsnight-presenter-emily-maitlis-opens-up-about-being-victim-of-stalker?CMP=twt_gu

In summary, Maitlis explains that she has been stalked by someone she knew from University and that in spite of convictions for harassing her and bombarding her with messages, it has not deterred him. She feels powerless, fears for her family and has to have an escort to go to the local supermarket as well as for her children to go to the school bus. You can feel the pain in her words:

“There is a weariness to it. It feels never ending. His life is ruined; I try to blank it. It’s a heaviness that sits on you, and when he comes back it’s dreadful. I get calls at all times of the day and night. It feels desperately sad. I can’t see how it will end.”

What’s particularly concerning on reading Emily’s story is those haunting words: “I can’t see how it will end,” How can you not sense the deep weariness of those 25 years of being stalked hanging over her? The conviction and restraining order in place seem to have done little to stop him and so it is no surprise Emily can’t see how it will end.

As a public figure, she is also not in a position to choose to move, hide away and hope he doesn’t find her. Nor should she have to. We were pleased to see that the Daily Mail’s report on this story includes a link to a National Stalking Helpline video.

It does seem, however, that the lack of a resounding cry for justice in any of the reports suggests a certain acceptance that this can be a problem victims must carry for life, through no fault of their own. This is something the Suzy Lamplugh Trust has been campaigning to change. They recently led a Stalking Awareness Week (18th-24th April) and issued a telling report: ‘Out of Sight, Out of Mind‘ which shows that a lot more needs to be done to tackle stalking and support the victims, devastated by this crime.

If you are a victim of stalking, you should call the police, but you can also get helpful advice from the National Stalking Helpline.

Defining Harassment

They said there is nothing they can do as our neighbours behaviour is not harassment! This leaves our young son terrified of an adult who continually stares at him, shouts at him, and approaches him.” ‘James’, Cumbria

Much of anti-social behaviour is highly subjective. This means different people interpret it in different ways. To one person, the behaviour is anti-social; to another it is not. This is the same for officials as for victims.

Harassment is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘aggressive pressure or intimidation’. Anti-social behaviour is something that is likely to cause ‘harassment, alarm or distress’. There is no question the behaviour in this story has caused distress. Whether it has also caused harassment seems to be less clear, and have changed over time too.

‘James’ tells his story:

“Our neighbour has harassed us for 15 years and was given an Acceptable Behaviour Contract by the Police for harassment. He started harassing our 5 year old son in 2009. His latest behaviour consisted of shouting aggressively at our son who is now 11, walking towards him, and calling him a “coward” and a “weakling”. Our son was visibly scared and is reluctant to play outside even in our own garden.

Two PCSO’s said we should report it to the Police so that an officer with more powers can take action as it was harassment. We also took advice from another officer who said it was not only harassment but possibly a Pubic Order Offence. Officers didn’t arrive until we insisted over 24 hours later. They said there is nothing they can do as our neighbours behaviour is not harassment! We asked them to check with their superiors. A day later they called us in the evening to say that the Duty Sergeant would be taking no action either. This leaves our young son terrified of an adult who continually stares at him, shouts at him, and approaches him.

We have experienced verbal abuse, tailgating when driving, continual staring whenever we are in our garden, outside our home, or in public. We have also had a tree cut down within our garden, litter thrown into our garden and abusive language… This has gone on since about 2002 and is all from the same neighbour.

Another neighbour moved away in 2010 partly as a result of this man’s behaviour. She wrote to the Police saying what he was doing and saying that we did nothing wrong.

I have had trouble sleeping for a number of years, fearing to go outside, and eventually had a nervous breakdown in early 2014. I am unable to work and on medication. My wife suffers from stress.

We have tried mediation (our neighbours ignored the agreement), we have a 40,000 word diary of events, we fitted CCTV, and reported events to the Police who, with one exception, have done nothing.”

Our Comments

What seems so odd here is not just that nothing is being done, but the completely confused message ‘James’ and his family have been given.

First of all there was an ABC (Acceptable Behaviour Contract) in place for this neighbour because of harassment – so at that point it was clearly recognised as harassment.

Two PCSOs felt it was harassment as did another officer. Yet when then police officers arrived, they felt there was nothing they could do because it wasn’t harassment.

Is it any surprise James concludes “don’t rely on help from the Police”?

We would recommend trying to get someone else in a position of authority to agree with James that the behaviour his family is experiencing is indeed harassment – perhaps writing to the Police Chief Constable and the Police and Crime Commissioner, or consulting with his local Councillor.

Lessons from Nottinghamshire

I noted with interest this article about how war on anti-social behaviour is being won in Nottinghamshire. The statistics are certainly impressive – a 36% drop in the likes of noise, graffiti, letting off fireworks and fly-tipping, translating to over 20,000 less victims over the past four years. The experience of residents seems to confirm these figures. A read through the article identifies a number of different factors that are mentioned as helping achieve this reduction. In no particular order they are:

  1. residents speaking out persistently to authorities about the issues
  2. neighbours talking together and working as a community
  3. partnership working between agencies
  4. more flexible legislation when the 2014 Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act was introduced
  5. use of CCTV and high visibility patrols
  6. police choosing to focus time and resources on anti-social behaviour

This is a fairly comprehensive list and worth exploring.

bullet The article mentions the residents were “on the verge of launching vigilante action” in 2010. The residents were about to take things into their own hands and the police clearly had to act. With the Community Trigger now in operation, unresolved anti-social behaviour should not need to get to this kind of level. A multi-agency case review can be insisted upon by victims long before it gets to this stage.

bullet Not only did the residents push for results, they were also part of the solution – working together as a community to “nip things in the bud”. It is surely a 21st century problem that many neighbours do not even know each other anymore and that this can make tackling problem behaviour much more difficult. When we chat and live in community, we often become more tolerant and understanding – when we are all strangers there is a risk we can over-react. (See our ‘Let’s be Reasonable’ page for how to weigh up whether behaviour is anti-social and our ‘Empowering Communities’ page for ideas on how a community can work together to bring change.)

bullet There is no doubt that partnership working is absolutely key to dealing effectively with anti-social behaviour. Time and time again we hear of how things work well in a particular area because the agencies talk together, share information and problem-solve. There are areas where police officers, council officers and even a Victim Support ASB champion share office space – is it any surprise they are more primed to act quickly and effectively to reports of ASB than places where each agency is insular and separate?

bullet It is good to see the police stating that the new legislation has made it easier for them to deal with ASB since that was indeed the purpose of creating the new law! For more information about these streamlined powers see here: http://asbhelp.co.uk/what-the-law-says/

bullet Let’s not forget the importance of deterrents and high-quality evidence. CCTV and good lighting act as excellent deterrents for crime and anti-social behaviour, high-visibility patrols from the police even more so.

bullet Underlying this article is the obvious fact that the police has chosen to dedicate time and resources to tackle anti-social behaviour in Nottinghamshire. In spite of ongoing cuts to the police budget and so many other demands on their resources, they have chosen to show residents that they do care about how bad the ASB had got and that they do want to respond and improve things. They are to be congratulated on these results.

We all know there is no quick, neat, easy fix for anti-social behaviour. We also know that left unchecked a situation, and even a whole neighbourhood, can quickly deteriorate. Early intervention is always the best option. When things are bad, it will require a number of different solutions – other areas might do well to look at what has been achieved here and seek to replicate it.

In the article, Superintendent Richard Fretwell, deputy divisional policing commander for Nottinghamshire, says that by “sharing best practice from across the county and city” they have been able to understand how to use the new legislation to reduce incidents of anti-social behaviour. Great to see BEST PRACTICE shared – we would love to see that done from region to region so that all victims can benefit from those who have tried and tested out the legislation and can speak with experience of what will be most effective to stop ASB.