Category Archives: Blog

Dispute Despair

Absolutely nothing was done.  It all still continues.  We are either ignored or treated as perpetrators.’  ‘Jack’, London

This is Jack’s side of the story:

No action has ever been taken against my neighbours who continues a 2 year campaign of every instance of ASB imaginable against both my household and another tenant in the property of 3 flats.  We have both continually provided evidence of this woman’s ASB but are both continually ignored by our Housing Association and the police.  In fact, the Housing Association gives this woman their full support by believing without question or investigation of any kind every lie and false allegation she continually makes about my neighbour and I.

Jack has been threatened with an Injunction for something he didn’t do which he said was without any investigation and purely based on the other party’s complaint.

The list of behaviour Jack has suffered is long and horrible:

  • racial abuse
  • damage to their car
  • brick through their window
  • dog poisoned
  • hundreds of live maggots thrown onto their steps and flat door area several nights in a row
  • verbal abuse
  • accusations of drug dealing
  • stealing their post
  • filming them 24/7
  • taking photos of them

Jack has been told that the Housing Association is aware of the neighbour’s behaviour, attributable to mental health.  However, it doesn’t make sense as why they would threaten Jack with an injunction.

Neighbour Dispute

To ASB practitioners, this may sound all too familiar.  The complexities of a neighbour dispute – who to believe and who is doing what.  How can someone contacting us as a victim be seen by the Housing Association as a perpetrator?  Hear Jack’s cry:

Yesterday my neighbour and I received a letter from the Housing Association warning us of OUR ASB and highlighting how WE could be breaching our tenancy agreements  This letter has been generated by more lies from this woman and yet again, without question or any investigation have been believed and taken as truth by the Housing Association.  Where is the help for people like us who have someone like this woman using and totally abusing the system to wreak havoc, cause misery and distress and invoke fear into innocent people?

What is really going on?

Our Comments

When we hear a story like this our initial reaction is deep concern at the way Jack is being treated.  Yet, we are also well aware that there are always two sides to the story.

The agencies acknowledge that there are complications in acting due to mental health.  Yet they then give warnings of injunctions without investigation to Jack. This seems incompletely inconsistent.  This is clearly some missing information on what is happening but there are some important factors to highlight from this story.

  1.  We would recommend to Jack that he activate the Community Trigger.  This would mean that all agencies, including the Housing Association, the local Council and the police, can come together to review Jack’s case.  Jack should request a clear response from that review of where mistakes have been made (perhaps insufficient investigation, lack of mental health support) and what else can be done to resolve the problems.  (Activating the Community Trigger can sometime give the support you need to get a house move as part of resolving the problem.)

2.  This case is a classic example of a Neighbour Dispute and ultimately it has been left to deteriorate into a tangled mess.  This is why it is so important for agencies to take early action and investigate early complaints – see this Housing Association example: http://asbhelp.co.uk/can-read-write/.  We wonder whether mediation was ever offered and how responsive the Housing Association really was when Jack first expressed his concern.

 

 

Let’s Talk

The kids continue to run until way after 11 at night.  Since they moved in my daughter struggles to fall asleep and wakes up scared when the loud “bangs” sound so late.”  ‘Sam’

Anti-social behaviour takes so many different forms.  We all have different levels of tolerance to it – since it is defined as causing harassment, alarm or distress, we will all define different behaviour as anti-social.

This case study shows a situation where a 2 year old girl is experiencing alarm and distress which in turn is distressing to her parents.  However, it strikes us that it is also a clear situation where mediation needs to be the way forward to solve the problem.  Finding a way to talk through the issues is key.

The neighbour in the flat above has two children who run up and down the house “all day long”.  Sam feels he is already making compromises by sacrificing his daughter’s nap, knowing he can’t expect them to be quiet in the middle of the day, but after 9pm the noise becomes a problem.

He says he has spoken to them repeatedly as well as leaving a polite note.  His daughter “struggles to fall asleep and wakes up scared when the loud ‘bangs’ sound so late“.

Meanwhile, the neighbours accuse Sam of being intolerant, saying: “they complain too much and should move to a country house if they need their daughter to sleep“.

Let’s Talk

We recently looked at the value of considering mediation in situations of anti-social behaviour.   Mediation brings the two parties that are in conflict together with an independent person present to hear both sides of the story.

Everyone will have a different take on the situation when reading this story.  Many will empathise with Sam’s struggle to get his daughter to sleep and it is certainly concerning that she is waking alarmed with the noise.  Others will feel it is too intolerant and that noise is a natural result of living in a ground floor flat.

The fact of the matter is that both Sam and his neighbours live there, and want to enjoy their homes.  In situations like these the opportunity to talk together, with someone independent to help ensure both parties can fully explain their perspective, holds huge value.  Tension and frustration is damaging to our health but in a situation involving noise like this, that is unlikely to be classified as a statutory nuisance, there is very little available to agencies to resolve the situation.  This is a place for mediation to try and figure out how to live well together for the benefit of everyone.

Is Mediation Right for You?

One area of dealing with ASB that we haven’t covered much is that of Mediation.  This is where someone independent of both you and the person who you feel is being anti-social towards you comes to listen to both of you and seek to resolve the problem.

In anti-social behaviour, there are many clear-cut cases where there is a victim or victims and a perpetrator or perpetrators.  Someone chooses to behave in an inconsiderate way and their neighbours suffer from this behaviour, try and tolerate it and eventually report it.  The perpetrator does not care about the effects of their behaviour on others.  In a situation like this mediation would be difficult.

However, there are also many cases where the picture is less black and white.  This is perhaps more common now as we so often do not know our neighbours.  As such we do not know what their lifestyle is like, what is important to them and what causes them stress.

Mediation is an effective way to stop anti-social behaviour before it gets worse, hopefully before it starts to impact on your health.

UK Mediation has this to say about Neighbourhood Mediation:

Neighbourhood Mediation – keeping you and your neighbours on good terms

Your home is your castle. You don’t want anyone intruding into your personal space, disturbing your peace and relaxation, or preventing you from enjoying the time you spend at home or with your family.  

Most of us have neighbours, and we can get on with them most of the time. And when there are any difficulties or disagreements, most of the time we can all sort things out with a chat over the fence. Sometimes, however, communication breaks down. There are disagreements or persistent complaints which, if left unaddressed, can turn into more significant problems. 

Mediation is a quick, cost effective and private method of resolving your dispute, saving you from the stresses and costs of court of formal action. An expert mediator can get you and your neighbours talking again: clearing up misunderstandings, agreeing practical steps for how to make things better between you, and moving on from your disagreements. 

Mediation – How it Works

Mediators help people in a situation find a solution that is acceptable to all parties.  They visit everyone concerned, listen to what the problem is and what they want to see change.  They will then arrange a neutral venue for a confidential joint meeting. At that meeting ground rules are agreed, such as not interrupting and using respectful language, and then each person has the opportunity to explain the problem as they see it.

Mediators listen to all sides and then work with them to identify the issues that need to be addressed and how they are going to do that.  The mediator will not solve the problem for them, but help the people involved come to an agreement on what needs to be done going forwards to resolve the issues.  Mediators are independent and do not take sides.

Mediation – Pros and Cons

Mediation requires time and effort to make it work.  However, so does taking someone to court – a LOT more time and effort.  Even in court, if a case got that far, magistrates would want to see that all other ways to resolve the problem have been considered and mediation may be recommended anyway.  Agreeing to mediation shows you are willing to try to understand the other person’s perspective and find a compromise.

Some people who suffer ASB simply want the perpetrator to be evicted from their home.  As a charity seeking to be a voice for victims of ASB, our focus is strongly on the aim being to STOP the anti-social behaviour, not make someone homeless.  Mediation can be very effective to stop the behaviour that is causing you distress and restore neighbourhood relationships.

The disadvantage of most mediation in the UK is that it has a cost.  Some areas provide a free service but not everywhere.  You may also be able to convince your local authority to pay for the mediation – it will still cost them less than taking court action.

There is no overall organisation to represent all mediators in the country.  The College of Mediators is a membership-based organisation where you can find local mediators, but only those that have chosen to become a member will be registered.  Your best source of information is your local authority which should have information about local mediation services in the area.  You can also arrange informal mediation with someone independent in the community coming to listen to both parties – perhaps a Neighbourhood Watch member or the local vicar.

Unfortunately mediation will only work if both parties involved agree to it.  If you want to try mediation but the person whose behaviour is causing you alarm or distress does not want to try mediation, you are stuck and will have to rely on local agencies taking necessary action.

For a case study on where we would recommend mediation, see here: Let’s Talk.

 

Can you Read and Write?

 

Two weeks ago I had the privilege of leading a workshop at the Resolve ASB annual conference on “Putting Victims First”.  I co-led the workshop with an ASB practitioner from Greater Manchester who is passionate about putting victims first and led the section on how we do that practically. Her casual mention of the fact she asks people “can you read or write?” before she leaves them with a diary really struck me.

Diaries are a classic way to start gathering evidence in cases of anti-social behaviour.  Yet, I wonder how many practitioners do ask that question: “Can you read and write?”  It might seem an unnecessary question but it really got me thinking.  Whilst the UK boosts 99% literacy, it is widely recognised that more than 1% of the population are functionally illiterate and struggle with reading information from unfamiliar sources or on unfamiliar topics.

There are also people whose second language is English who may particularly struggle to write in English.  What struck me with Janice’s comment was how aware she was of all the hurdles that could be placed in front of a victim of anti-social behaviour.  She showed through and through a victims-first approach.

Hurdles to reporting ASB

Anti-social behaviour is under-reported, and sometimes when it is reported, action is not taken nor is the victim taken seriously.  How many of the most vulnerable in our society are in those two categories – either they find the whole experience of trying to report an incident of anti-social behaviour too overwhelming, or once they pluck up the courage, they may struggle to clearly articulate the problem and are fobbed off or ignored.  Or sent a letter with further information which they find incomprehensible due to unfamiliar terms and an overload of jargon …

Speaking at a Surrey ASB Practitioners Forum last month, I urged delegates to keep their communication clear, remove jargon, and take time to explain unfamiliar processes such as the court system.  It can be easy to forget that victims have no clue about all this.

At that forum I was challenged by someone about how accessible we as a charity really are.  She commented that only a small proportion of victims of ASB would have access to the Internet to find our website, and then only a small proportion of them would be able to read through the content we have there.  I feel that is harsh and unfair.  92% of the UK population has access to the Internet and we have sought to make our information as clear as possible for victims.  Yes, they need to be able to read, though they may have advocates who can access the information and share it with them.  Unfortunately anti-social behaviour is such a complex topic that it cannot be simplified too much – we are keen not to mislead victims that it is easy to define and easy to resolve.  Usually it is not.

Yet this is a good question to keep holding out there: “Can you read and write?” We are a small charity and are aware that we cannot yet reach the most vulnerable in our society who do not have access to the Internet and cannot read English.  Yet it is worth remembering, anti-social behaviour can hit anyone, anywhere – it is not just areas of deprivation – and therefore we believe there are still many people who can benefit from our resource.  For those who are isolated, our hope is that someone somewhere will listen and connect them to the help and advice they need.  That when they pick up the phone to report the problem, the official at the other end listens carefully, chooses to put the victim first and takes prompt action to help them.

Tips for Putting Victims First

Janice’s tips for how to keep victims in the centre were:

  1. Prioritise going to talk to the victim after they call in to report the ASB (in the next couple of days, not a week next Thursday!  Note: visit, not write)
  2. Empathise and really listen to what they are sharing
  3. Do not downplay what they say but ensure they feel that you care about the effect the behaviour is having on them (such as sleep deprivation, effect on work/school performance, health impact, fear, anxiety, isolation, etc.)
  4. Clearly explain what you plan to do, what you can do and what you can’t do to help them
  5. Check in with them on an ongoing basis to see how they are coping and whether the behaviour has improved if a warning has been given

Halloween Headache

The witching hour is upon us once again – for some a source of great fun, for others something to be dreaded. I think you probably either love or hate Halloween! What comes to your mind when you think about this time of year? The clocks going back, gathering round a bonfire or going to a fireworks display, children dressed up in a vast array of Halloween outfits? As a child I remember going down to the local fireworks display, bundled up in hat, scarf and gloves.

I don’t remember anything much going on for Halloween. That has definitely increased in recent years. There is a spike in anti-social behaviour over the two events of Halloween and Bonfire Night. Police officers know it and increase their patrols. Some areas run special Operations to target anti-social behaviour over these two weekends.

It can be a time of deep fear for some people, especially the most vulnerable. The elderly, people with disabilities or suffering ill health (physical or mental) may find the modern-day celebrations of Halloween scary or threatening. Misuse of fireworks is dangerous and can be frightening.

Victims of persistent anti-social behaviour are already struggling to cope with the effects of noise or harassment, or environmental ASB. Some will use Halloween and Bonfire Night as an excuse to make their lives even more unbearable. Others may not realise the harm and distress they are causing and that Halloween and Bonfire Night antics may push their neighbour’s over the edge in what they can cope with.

To those taking part in Halloween and Bonfire Night activities:

Remember they are not an excuse to make a nuisance of yourself nor get into trouble with the law. Respect the fact some of your neighbours may not want to join in the fun. Be considerate of them, for example many young children and pets are very scared of bangs, elderly people may be terrified of opening the door to a stranger in the dark.

To those who do not like getting involved:

Prepare for the events so that you are not caught off-guard. Respect those who wish to celebrate Halloween and Bonfire Night and know how you will respond. Be tolerant of a bit of noise – it is only once a year after all. If you feel scared, have a look at our tips for coping with that.

HOWEVER, if things get out of hand, and especially if you are already a victim of persistent anti-social behaviour and this is the final straw, or you are being targeted and harassed, please please report it to the authorities. They can only act if they know about the problem. Act Now! Don’t suffer in silence. The police are on high alert awaiting your call.

2 Years On: The Battle Continues to put Victims First

Today is 20th October 2016 – it marks the two year anniversary of the implementation of the majority of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.  (I say majority because the injunctions were delayed until 2015).

A year ago I published a blog on my Trigger Thoughts and how little we knew about whether the Community Trigger was being accessed and activated by those who needed it.

At the two year anniversary, we have a lot of data and evidence to show that the Community Trigger, as suspected, is fraught with problems.  Our recent report The Community Trigger: Empowerment or Bureaucratic Exercise? highlighted the issues around this particular power.  It has been misunderstood by many agencies, the statutory guidance has been completely disregarded with respect to making it clearly accessible to victims, and data on its usage has not been reported.

We will continue to campaign for a Community Trigger that is fit for purpose.  We will continue to pressure government bodies to take responsibility for ensuring the legislation and statutory guidance is complied with and to step up for victims and make the necessary, and perhaps radical, changes required to truly put victims first in this process.

There was a recent debate in the House of Lords about the PSPO which led to a commitment to review the statutory guidance.  This review was also mentioned this week, specifically in relation to a question about the efficacy of the Community Trigger and Community Remedy.  It is music to my ears to hear others raise similar questions to us about this legislation.  I would however question the response of ensuring the guidance “remains relevant and up-to-date”.

ASB practitioners referring to the guidance would, I am sure, agree with me that it is not so much a question of relevancy and being up-to-date, as it is a question of clarity on how some of these powers should work (for example, the consultation process for PSPOs).  We want to ask the following:

bullet    Who is reviewing it?

bullet    Are they ensuring there is input from a range of practitioners?

bullet    Will they be brave enough to make radical changes to ensure victims are put first?

bullet    And who will ensure local areas are implementing the guidance?

For it is not really about how the guidance reads.  It is about who is responsible for its implementation and for ensuring it is being followed.  The statutory guidance can say anything – it will be irrelevant if not followed, as proved by our Community Trigger research with respect to making it accessible to victims and the reporting of data.

We have submitted our suggestions for how the guidance could be improved with respect to the Community Trigger but I am today convinced that our input needs to go deeper than that – to champion the victim which is supposed to be at the heart of each power in the legislation.  I am concerned that if we do not, no one else will, and the guidance will experience minor tweaks and we will still be none the wiser as to the efficacy of the legislation.

Incidentally, the parliamentary under-secretary of state for the Home Office did not answer Douglas Carswell’s question.  He asked about policy to review the efficacy of the Community Remedy and Trigger.  She responded that the guidance would be reviewed.  He didn’t ask about how good the paperwork was – he asked about how effective the powers were.  Surely you would have to ask practitioners and victims that question …

I read this article in The Third Sector today – a reminder that we must get to work, we have a goal to achieve.  ASB Help has certainly not reached the charity stage Matthew Sherrington refers to where “organisational structure, systems and process start soaking up a lot of energy”.  This is a strength and advantage that on this 2nd anniversary motivates us to keep shouting up for victims so that in practice, not just rhetoric, they are put first.

The Community Trigger. Empowerment or Bureaucratic Exercise?

ASB Help has launched a report after considerable research into the Community Trigger. The report asks whether this power has created the intended empowerment for victims or whether in practice it is nothing more than a bureaucratic exercise. Please see below for the Executive Summary. The full report can be read here: http://asbhelp.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/The-Community-Trigger-Empowerment-or-Bureaucratic-Exercise-Sept16.pdf

Executive Summary

In May 2012 the Home Office issued a White Paper entitled ‘Putting Victims First: more effective responses to anti-social behaviour’. This was a precursor to the development of the 2014 Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act. In her foreword, the Home Secretary at the time (our current Prime Minister) stated that the government wanted to empower victims and communities. It is worth quoting the full paragraph here:

We want to empower victims and communities. Too often people in a local area are desperate to have the behaviour that’s blighting their neighbourhood dealt with, they just don’t know how to get the authorities to take action. Elected Police and Crime Commissioners and neighbourhood beat meetings will help, but we will support local communities by introducing a new Community Trigger to compel agencies to respond to persistent anti-social behaviour. We are working with a number of leading local areas, including Manchester, West Lindsey and Brighton & Hove to trial the trigger this year.[1]

Following a long tradition in the field of anti-social behaviour, no plans were put in place to evaluate the effectiveness of legislation brought in to address the issues identified in the White Paper. This report specifically analyses the way in which the Community Trigger has been introduced in law, interpreted around the country, and utilised in practice. It will indicate a wide breadth of usage and a situation that falls far short of the aim of empowering victims. In many cases, we would suggest it is nothing more than a bureaucratic exercise, creating more paperwork, draining already tight resources, and yet still not bringing desperately-needed respite for victims.

Specific issues we have identified in this report are that:

bullet there is great confusion over how to use the Community Trigger;

bullet there has been limited does cialis work with alcohol publicity of the Community Trigger meaning that many victims who would be entitled to activate it are unaware of its existence;

bullet statutory guidance to make the Community Trigger accessible to all victims has been frequently ignored; and

bullet data on its usage is very difficult to obtain and effectively compare.

Alongside these issues, we are concerned that victims are not being properly represented or heard in the case reviews that do take place. Fundamentally, victims of anti-social behaviour are not being put first.

ASB Help was set up after the landmark case of Fiona Pilkington who killed herself and her disabled daughter Francecca in 2007 in desperation after police failed to adequately respond to her 33 calls to report harassment. The Community Trigger should be a power that can prevent another case like the Pilkington one occurring. Without some important changes to the way it is being both interpreted and used in practice, we believe another Fiona Pilkington could easily happen again. We believe she would not have known it existed given the lack of promotion and if in her area the only way of activating the Trigger was through the Police by calling 101 it is highly unlikely she would have had the emotional strength to try that given all her past difficult experiences of calling that very same number. There is potential in the Trigger but work needs to be done to make it more accessible and improve agency attitudes towards its purpose.

[1] Home Office. Putting Victims First. More Effective Responses to Anti-Social Behaviour. May 2012, page 3

NEWS RELEASE: Community Trigger fails to empower

Anti-social behaviour tool for victims in some areas a pointless bureaucratic exercise

Just ahead of the two year anniversary of the introduction of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, a new report finds how one legal power in particular is not fit for purpose. The new Act aimed to put victims first and in particular bring swift respite to victims of persistent anti-social behaviour.

The Community Trigger, also called the ASB Case Review, was designed to empower victims, enabling them to insist on a multi-agency case review to get results and stop the behaviour that was having such a devastating attack on their lives. The report, entitled “Community Trigger. Empowerment or Bureaucratic Exercise?” by charity ASB Help calls for a re-evaluation of how the Community Trigger is being interpreted by local authority areas to ensure the statutory guidance is followed with particular regard to its accessibility and promotion to reach the most vulnerable victims.

The key issues are that:

bullet there is great confusion over how to use the Community Trigger;

bullet there has been limited publicity of the Community Trigger meaning that many victims who would be entitled to activate it are unaware of its existence;

bullet statutory guidance to make the Community Trigger accessible to all victims has been frequently ignored; and

bullet data on its usage is very difficult to obtain and effectively compare

Jennifer Herrera, Chief Executive Officer of ASB Help said: “In October 2014 we welcomed the introduction of the Community Trigger as an important form of empowerment for victims who are not being heard by local agencies. Unfortunately, it has not been championed locally and victims are still left to suffer. We believe that another case like that of Fiona Pilkington (who killed herself and her daughter Francecca after suffering ongoing harassment and not receiving support from local agencies) could easily happen again without important changes to the Trigger. There is potential but work needs to be done to make it more accessible and improve agency attitudes towards its purpose.”

To read the full report: http://asbhelp.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/The-Community-Trigger-Empowerment-or-Bureaucratic-Exercise-Sept16.pdf

Ends

About ASB Help ASB Help is a national UK charity seeking to assist victims of anti-social behaviour as to their rights – who they should report the anti-social behaviour to and crucially, what to do if they do not get a satisfactory response. The charity is represented on the Home Office Anti-Social Behaviour Advisory Board. To find out more about ASB help visit: http://asbhelp.co.uk/ For media enquiries, contact CEO Jenny Herrera, jherrera@asbhelp.co.uk 0203 5030797

Why me?

This is having a profound effect upon my life and feels extremely unfair.” ‘Amber’, London

The cry of ‘Why me?’ is a common one in all areas of crime and anti-social behaviour. We would also suggest it is not a helpful route of thought to take. That is because there is often no answer to the question. Why do some people go through life never experiencing any anti-social behaviour? Why do others get unlucky with where they live, either with their neighbours or more generally in the local area? Why should someone have to invest time in sorting out a problem they never looked for?

Yet, to get results in ASB and bring peace back to your home, you will have to. The best thing is to accept this fact and channel your frustration and perhaps even anger into getting results. ‘Amber’ is a victim of noise disturbance as well as littering and verbal aggression and abuse. The music is loud enough to hurt her ears and the slamming and stamping is so severe the walls shake. Her experience on reporting ASB is that the agencies move the problem back and forth. Police refer her to the Council ASB team, the Council ASB team refer her to the Police, Environmental Health to the ASB team and so on.

I am stressed and cannot relax in my own home. I get very little sleep and have had to use annual leave at short notice sometimes after being kept awake – until 5am some days. I feel the system is weighted toward the tenants who cannot be evicted all that quickly despite non-payment of rent. This is having a profound effect upon my life and feels extremely unfair. Why should my work reputation and employment and health be at risk because of the behaviour of these people?”

Our Comments

Amber is quite right. Why should her work and health be at risk because of the ASB of these people? It is not right that she is being passed from one agency to another when there is new legislation in place to make it easier to act. The agencies MUST decide who is going to take the lead on this case and use the tools available to them. Environmental Health can look at a noise abatement order, the ASB team an Injunction perhaps. We would advise Amber not to dwell on the ‘Why me?’ question and instead carry on fighting. Tenants can be evicted more easily now if they do not respond to warnings. Don’t let agencies fob you off. Be persistent and force a case review by activating the Community Trigger.

When to Approach your Neighbour

We have approached them many times to try to resolve our issues, but it usually reverts to its original form. Recently we told them we have had enough and that unless it stops, we will approach the authorities.” ‘James and Carolyn’, Southampton

‘James and Carolyn’ have experienced a lot of anti-social behaviour from their next door neighbours who drink and then become loud and abusive. This happens nearly every weekend when other family members visit and stay over. James and Carolyn are subjected to late night noise in the form of shouting, screaming, swearing, and slamming doors; also continual barking from their dog, which they leave in the garden. Nice weather also brings trouble as they gather in their garden with really loud music and lots of beer; their method of communication is to shout above the music.

“It has made my husband and I feel quite stressed at times, however we are resolute that we will not be browbeaten by them,” says Carolyn. “We have approached them many times to try to resolve our issues, but it usually reverts to its original form. Recently we told them we have had enough and that unless it stops, we will approach the authorities. We had peace for two weeks, then it began again; hence the authorities have now been notified.”

She reminds all victims that they should not give in to being bullied, that we all have the strength to stand up for our rights to live in peace and to be able to relax in our own home.

Our Comments

James and Carolyn’s approach is one worth highlighting as best practice, though it will of course depend on the circumstances. As a charity we want to get the balance right between tackling the problem yourself and reporting it to the relevant authorities.

It seems that emotions run high on this issue. It is all rather subjective which means there is often no obvious right and wrong method as a victim to deal with the problem, just as for the agencies when it gets to more serious measures. If a neighbour is making noise that is causing you distress and you call in the police, it is not likely to do much for your relationship with your neighbour. It could cause resentment and make the problems worse.

Usually it is right to try something less severe first. Maybe all that is needed is to simply go round and ask them if they could turn the music down (or stop slamming doors, hoovering in the middle of the night, etc.). Some people would prefer to write a short note and pop it through their letterbox, asking them to please keep the noise down (it is worth keeping a copy of what you wrote in this note in case it gets worse as evidence of what you have done yourself to tackle the problem).

Of course we would not want to see anyone put themselves at risk. In volatile situations, for example where alcohol and drugs are involved, confrontation could be dangerous (as in the tragic death of Garry Newlove who confronted a gang in Warrington http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/7176471.stm). Also, if you are struggling to cope with your frustration at the behaviour, there is a risk you will in turn be threatening and abusive in the way you speak to them, something they could report you for, or at least accuse you of, which might weaken your case.

Another victim completing our survey told us that after reporting ASB of extremely loud music, revving of engines, shouting and the strong smell of cannabis, the police, having called at the house of the perpetrators, said it was not advisable for her, or other neighbours to try and solve the issues because of the type of characters they were dealing with. We would suggest this is also true where the perpetrator is suffering from poor mental health. Where there is evidence of potential schizophrenia or bi-polar behaviour, it would be advisable to contact your local Mental Health department rather than speak directly to the individual to ensure there are no misunderstandings and that their health is adequately catered for.

James and Carolyn have now reported their neighbours to the authorities. It looks like they were left with no alternative after numerous attempts to approach them have failed. For many neighbour disputes, agencies are likely to ask you if you have spoken to your neighbours first. If you do this in a polite way, you may find the problem immediately goes away. It may be worth trying.