Category Archives: Case Studies

Trigger brings Positive Results

ASB Help has outlined many of the failings of the Community Trigger (or ASB Case Review) in our report: “The Community Trigger: Empowerment or Bureaucratic Exercise”.  However, it is still our belief that it has the potential to make a real difference.  Here is a case study which shows how positive results can come out of the process.

Housing Association inexperience

Scenario: a tenant of a Housing Association complained to her local Council that despite making numerous reports to her landlord about noise nuisance from a neighbour, nothing had been done.  She said that her requests for updates from the landlord were ignored.

On investigation it was found that the problem neighbour had moved out of the property to live with a new partner.  This meant that her son was now living alone at the property and was having regular, rowdy parties with his student friends.

The Housing Association reported that they were having trouble getting evidence on which they could act.  They had also been unable to speak to the named tenant to discuss the complaints with her.

The Community Trigger

The victim contacted the Council to activate the Community Trigger.  The threshold was met and the review meeting was attended by representatives of the Housing Association, the Council, the Police and Victim Support.

As the different partners met to discuss the case, it became apparent that the Housing Association lacked the confidence and knowledge to deal with the issues.  The Housing Association had been so focused on the ASB that it had overlooked the potential subletting issue.

Positive Results

The Community Trigger Panel advised the Housing Association to issue a ‘notice to quit’ as the named tenant was believed to be living elsewhere.  They also offered advice on how to monitor noise.

The Housing Association followed the Community Trigger Panel’s recommendation and wrote to the named tenant who, fearful of losing her own home, moved back to the property.  The noisy parties stopped immediately and there was complete respite for the victim.

The Community Trigger process was a success and brought respite for the victim.  It also brought positive results for the Housing Association and its capacity to deal with issues of ASB too.  The Council has offered ongoing support to the Housing Association which is really beneficial to both parties.

Our Comments

It is so encouraging to see the positive results from this Community Trigger application.  We are glad the victim knew that it was available to them to use and that they will have seen such a great result from the process.

It is also great to see the Housing Association, rather than going on the defensive, was open about its inexperience and has accepted help.  This is key to an effective Community Trigger process – that all parties around the table can be open and honest about what they have done to resolve anti-social behaviour, and be willing and ready to learn how they could improve.  Recommendations were made, then were implemented, with a positive result all round.  Wonderful to see!

Age UK radio interview

During the month of April, a radio interview with Age UK was aired a number of times on ‘The Wireless’, to an audience of older people.  We were delighted to be a guest on the ‘We’ve Got Mail‘ programme, alongside Age UK’s own expert on anti-social behaviour, Lottie Beauchamp.

We answered questions from 5 different victims of anti-social behaviour, as follows:

1.   My Mum got new neighbours a few years back. They are nice enough and helped her with her shopping after she had a fall. However, they’ve done nothing to their garden since they moved in and it looks a mess now. They’ve got these tall trees and hedges that are hanging over Mum’s fence. There’s barely any natural light in her living room, which is where she spends most of her days, and I’m worried about what the roots are doing to her foundations. Surely this isn’t legal!

See our Advice about boundary issues here: http://asbhelp.co.uk/neighbour-disputes/

2.    I live on a council estate and the family upstairs are the neighbours from hell. They are constantly making noise when they are at home and the dad works nights, which disturbs my sleep. I can hear everything they do up there – I don’t understand why they’re so loud! I have lots of health problems and the lack of sleep and stress is making it worse. Please help, I’m at the end of my tether!

See our Advice about noise issues here: http://asbhelp.co.uk/noisy-neighbours-noise/

3.    I own my house but the property next door is privately rented. Previous tenants have been good and kept themselves to themselves, but the current lot are awful. There seems to be at least ten people living in one small house and there are always visitors coming and going. The front garden is full of rubbish and I’ve seen rats crawling about. The tenants are always having parties with music blaring at all hours. One of them keeps a large dog which I’m sure is dangerous. I’ve complained to the police and the council countless times over the past few months. Sometimes someone turns up to tell them to turn the music down, but beyond that nothing seems to be being done. What should I do next? How should I get them to take this issue seriously?

See our Advice about what to do when no-one seems to be listening here: http://asbhelp.co.uk/community-trigger/

4.   My wife and I live in a housing association flat. We’ve had problems with one of our neighbours for years now – both the housing association and the police have been involved. Things have taken a turn for the worse recently and we don’t feel safe in our home anymore. The housing association have said they will move us, but we haven’t heard anything from them in a while – we don’t understand what is going on. Is there any other way we can move?

Our answer focused on security of tenure – see Age UK’s Factsheet 9 on anti-social behaviour in housing and Factsheet 68 on security of tenure for comprehensive information on this. 

5.   I’ve just moved house to be closer to my daughter. The house is lovely, but I’m having problems with the pub on the corner. Of course I saw it when I went to view the house, but I didn’t realise how late it would stay open. The noise is deafening and there have even been fights outside my front door! Is there anything I can do about this?

See our Advice about issues with pubs and clubs here: http://asbhelp.co.uk/premises-licences/

Older People and ASB

Anti-social behaviour can affect anyone in any place.  However, older people can suffer its effects to a much greater extent, especially because many older people spend a lot more time in their own home.  Therefore anti-social behaviour from neighbours will affect them for more hours of the day than someone who is heading out to work and school each day.

Older people can feel more vulnerable and therefore can be more easily frightened.  Our tips on being frightened address some simple ways to help with this.

Another area of anti-social behaviour that may particularly affect older people is disputes over gardens and garden boundaries, especially where spending time in their garden is a hobby and a source of pride.  Living next to untidy gardens or issues around overhanging branches could cause significant distress.  We have information on neighbour disputes and environmental offences which cover these issues.

Do not suffer in silence. There is power in numbers and there may be other neighbours on your street who can support your case.  Emphasise when you report anti-social behaviour to agencies such as the Council, Housing Association or Police how the anti-social behaviour is affecting your health.  Older people whose health is being affected should be treated as a higher risk, and therefore higher priority, for local agencies.

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.

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

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.

Housing Association failure

Every organisation has been helpful but not my landlords.” Edward, Essex

Noise which has turned into harassment is pushing Edward into deep despair. He shares of his feelings of frustration, unhappiness, mistrust, helplessness, anger and loneliness which is with him every day. Add to that tiredness – the mental and physical fatigue with the anti-social behaviour itself as well as with the lack of answers to solve the problem.

What started as slamming fire doors has developed to his neighbours making intimidating war cries when he turns his TV or kettle on, cheering when he leaves the house and giggling when a drill was turned on at 1:30am.

Edward has turned to his Housing Association to get results and has been met with sheer incompetence and apathy. They have lost a diary he submitted last year, say they will visit the neighbour but do not, and say that they have visited Edward but he was there and heard no knock, and in any case they could have pressed the buzzer instead. They have been obstructive at every turn.

It sounds like the landlord isn’t too bothered to really investigate the situation. Edward sums it up: “every organisation has been helpful but not my landlords.”

Edward now listens to his TV with headphones or subtitles and goes out to the library or anywhere but home.

Our Analysis

This is clearly wrong. Edward is in deep despair but the Housing Association has shown a complete failure to act. The victim is being ignored, fobbed off, probably because they know intervention will create a lot of work. That is NOT a reason not to act.

We would definitely recommend that Edward activate the Community Trigger. By activating this multi-agency case review, we would expect to find the Council and Police making strong recommendations to the Housing Association to address this anti-social behaviour and bring much-needed respite to Edward.

In it for the long haul

If you do report it to Environmental Health/Police do not expect things to happen quickly. Expect to be in it for the ‘long haul'” ‘James’, South Yorkshire

‘James’ and other neighbours are subject to a catalogue of anti-social behaviour. There is loud music and DIY noise. The gardens and property are untidy because of hoarding. There is drug use and drug dealing with a steady stream of visitors which is intimidating for the residents, and their property has been damaged on more than one occasion. For local residents, this anti-social behaviour has deeply affected them:

  • disturbed sleep because of the noise
  • health affected by the stress of the situation and the lack ofsleep
  • fear once their property became vandalised
  • the value of their homes has gone down thanks to the appearance of the neighbour’s property with the hoarding.

At the start we appealed to our neighbour in a friendly manner but this did no good. Environmental Health has been involved for a very long time too. Also the police are now involved because of the drug dealing and damage to our property.” James explains.

The case is in the system. He is in it for the long haul.

Our Analysis

James has done everything right. First of all he tried to speak to his neighbour about the problem. When that didn’t work, he contacted Environmental Health because the issues were noise and hoarding. These are dealt with by the Council. Once drugs and vandalism were added to the list of ASB the police, as we would expect, got involved. The problems are not yet resolved but the correct agencies are involved. It really is a case of being ‘in it for the long haul’.

This will feel frustrating and unfair – and it is. You never choose to be a victim of anti-social behaviour. Someone recently commented on our Facebook page that they wish they had never reported the anti-social behaviour in the first place. We completely understand their sentiments – to get results you will need to be involved in the case, giving evidence, and potentially a target of retaliation for speaking up.

Yet you also have to look at the alternative. We need to be tolerant of our neighbours. Yet if their behaviour starts causing us distress and affecting our health, it has definitely become anti-social. Surely it is better to do something about it, even if it will involve a long haul, rather than suffering in silence. Neither option is appealing.

Victims of anti-social behaviour have not chosen to be victims. It has happened to them and they can choose to face it or suffer in silence. It will take a long time to resolve so don’t leave it too late to bring it to the attention of your local agencies. We trust that there is light at the end of the tunnel for James and that in time he and his fellow neighbours can put this nightmare behind them.

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.