Tag Archives: Community Trigger

Neighbour Dispute Confusion

I sense there is a rather sketchy distinction going on across the country between anti-social behaviour and a neighbour dispute.  At best this is causing confusion.  At worst it is leaving innocent, vulnerable victims ignored and without proper support and help.

Nothing was done because it was labelled a neighbour dispute.

Is this a familiar cry?  As I speak to people who have tried to activate the Community Trigger, and to those who have tried for years to get results, this seems to be a familiar theme.  Once labelled a neighbour dispute, police officers in particular can push a problem into an entirely different category.  A category which even allows them to say ‘the Community Trigger is not appropriate for this case”.

I have had this said to me recently by police officers.  I have also spoken to a family who battled for years to get something done about the harassment and intimidation they experienced which had been labelled as a neighbour dispute.  This is also what left Bijan Ebrahimi at the mercy of his killer – anti-social behaviour labelled as a neighbour dispute.

How can this mis-categorisation occur?

I would suggest it is relatively easy for this mis-categorisation as a neighbour dispute to occur, especially with perpetrators who are well aware of their rights with regard to anti-social behaviour and neighbour disputes.

Person A complains of their neighbour, B’s, behaviour.  The police go round to speak to B who invents things about person A and tells the police what they too have done.  The police breathe a sigh and assume ‘this is yet another neighbour dispute’, go back to the station and label it as such.  Look how easy it is!

The major problem is, no-one has checked whether person B is telling the truth or not.  The next time person A calls to complain – and it is very likely that the behaviour has intensified because person B knows that person A has complained about them – the police look at their records, see it is a neighbour dispute, and crucially we believe, their behaviour changes as a result. Instead of concern for person A’s safety, there is frustration at the call about just an argument between two neighbours, something taking up precious police time and not an issue for them to deal with.

Person A often has no idea of the counter-allegations made by person B.  They are left to wonder why the police seem so unresponsive and why they are not getting any proper support.  Imagine their fear, their sense of vulnerability, and the feeling of having nowhere to turn.

How can a victim be better protected?

Awareness, awareness, awareness.

We believe the police need to be aware of this huge risk of failing to recognise personal, targeted ASB, and instead mistakenly labelling it as a neighbour dispute.

We want to ensure victims are well informed that this can happen and be prepared to check with officers how their case has been categorised, and do all they can to ensure it is not a neighbour dispute if they are innocent.  We are not naive – there are also many neighbour disputes which are just that – two sides both making life difficult for the other, and taking up valuable police time in the process.

Yet, we fear that there are too many victims of serious anti-social behaviour that are not being heard and not receiving swift support and protection.  Victims who do not know about the Community Trigger which would enable them to get a multi-agency review of their case after they have reported 3 separate incidents (in the past six months) and do not feel there has been a satisfactory response.  Some who may know about the Community Trigger but are told they are not eligible to activate it even!

Some areas have emotional support for victims of targeted anti-social behaviour.  It is extremely concerning that some victims may not be given proper access to local support all because their case has been mis-categorised as a neighbour dispute.

We do not want to see more tragic cases like those of Fiona Pilkington and Bijan Ebrahimi, yet I fear we will if we do not pay more attention to issues like these.  It is our suspicion that some agencies label ASB as a neighbour dispute to avoid having to undertake proper investigation.

However, we believe that if some of these situations were properly investigated at the outset, and nipped in the bud with early warnings it could take a lot less police time in the long run.  If a clear message was sent out that harassment and intimidation is not acceptable, some time spent at the beginning of the case could prevent it rolling on for years with all the phone calls to the police along the way.

Hypothetical of course, yet something worth dwelling on, especially since it has been proved that early intervention works.

This week marks the third anniversary of the introduction of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, legislation designed to put victims first and ensure swift action was taken to stop ASB.  If the negative feedback from the Community Trigger is anything to go by, the legislation is falling far short of its goal.

Fundamental Flaw

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?

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!

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.

 

 

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.

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.

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.