We believe that there is a fundamental flaw underlying victim empowerment when individuals are dealing with such big organisations like Councils and social landlords. The relationship is so unbalanced that it is easy to see how a victim could be ignored and feel powerless.
The Victim’s Voice
From our perspective, as a charity seeking to empower victims of anti-social behaviour, it is both sobering and deeply concerning to learn of how residents of Grenfell Tower sought to alert their Tenant Management Organisation to the fire risk of their tower block, but to no avail This was not just one resident, one sole voice trying to ensure safety for their own home. This was a group of residents, coming together to raise the alert.
Our website encourages victims of anti-social behaviour to not suffer in silence but to report the behaviour to the relevant authorities. We suggest that if a number of people are affected, that they consider putting a petition together to make their voices louder. We approach this with a positive attitude and optimism as to results. A tragedy like that of Grenfell Tower fire makes it very difficult to retain that optimism. It hints at a fundamental flaw in the rights of each individual in the UK.
The Most Vulnerable
Many have spoken of the fact that residents of Grenfell Tower were some of the poorer people in our society. Some of the most vulnerable. With a website dedicated to Fiona Pilkington, a small voice speaking up about harassment towards her and her daughter, it is easy to see how she was ignored and felt powerless to do anything about it, seeing the only alternative as taking her own life and that of her daughter.
So where does that leave the Community Trigger, and the Community Remedy, given that they have been designed to put victims first. In the light of what we see at Grenfell, is the Community Trigger really providing empowerment for victims of persistent ASB or is it just lip-service to make it seem like victims are being put first.
The Localism Act 2011 gave local authorities a lot more power and authority over their own areas whilst the Audit Commission was disbanded and with it any central way of monitoring how local authorities are complying with the law and providing value for money. Transparency International has highlighted the risk of corruption in their report: “Corruption in UK Local Government: The Mounting Risks”.
We have seen the lack of central monitoring of local government practice with the Community Trigger legislation – the Home Office no longer has any legal right to police what is happening at the local level. No one seems to. The statutory guidance to accompany the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 is currently being revised, but however good it is, if no one is ensuring local Councils put it into practice, it is not going to be at all effective at improving the way the legislation is implemented. This is surely a fundamental flaw in the whole process.
A Council may choose to follow the law and ensure there are transparent processes to protect victims However, if a Council chose not to pay much attention to a victim, create new reasons why they couldn’t undertake a Community Trigger case review or just walk through the process without properly listening to the victim or investing much money, care or consideration to the case, what recourse does the victim really have?