Gathering Evidence

The problem starts. You call the police or other agency. When they arrive everything is calm.  No one else has seen or heard the problem. Sound familiar? You are not alone.

Without good evidence agencies and courts cannot act. Here are some suggestions to help you build up a case against the perpetrator(s).  Remember that your report of each incident will be the foundation for your case.

Keep a diary

Note down date, time and all the details

Gather evidence

Use a camera or a phone to capture anti-social behaviour

Can't be caught on camera?

Get other witnesses such a professional witness

Diary Sheets

Diary Sheets are a great way to record what is happening, how often and the impact this has had on yourself and your household.  Keeping a log of events will help you to recall the events in the order that they happened.  You cannot expect to remember every incident in the order that they occur as your memory fades over time.  Keeping a diary will therefore assist you, not only will it refresh your memory, but if the case goes to court (although this is not always necessary to stop the behaviour) records of an incident captured in good detail at the time which also describe the impact the anti-social behaviour has had on your well-being will help officers handling the case to provide credible, persuasive and accurate evidence. 

We recommend a simple diary with the date, time and place, the behaviour witnessed, what you were doing at that time, and how it made you feel.  Most councils will have a template ASB diary sheet and they should be able to supply you with these.  However, in the meantime you can use your own diary, notebook or download the ASB Help diary sheet to complete.  All of these formats will be accepted by a court.  Upon speaking to the investigating officer, you will be able to arrange for these to be collected/dropped off at a convenient time. 

However, please remember that if there is an incident that requires immediate attention do not hesitate to contact the Police.  Do not just write it down on a diary sheet as action may need to be taken there and then.

Written Correspondence

If you have received threatening emails, letters, text messages or seen posts on social media, you may want to keep these as evidence.  Written evidence is so powerful and even if it is distressing to read, you should keep it.  

If the message is something posted on a social media site which the person posting it could later remove, we would recommend you print it out or get a screenshot.  It may be worth asking an independent person (preferably in an official capacity) to sign it and confirm they saw it live on the internet.

Also, if you have voicemail or answerphone message that evidences the anti-social behaviour, you should save them where possible, or ask a police/council officer to listen to them and give you a statement noting what they had heard.  

Noise monitoring equipment 

Noise monitoring equipment should be available from the Environmental Health team at your local authority (or possibly at your housing association).  These can be placed in your home to record the noise you are hearing.  The agencies can then measure the decibels and times of the noise which allows them to decide whether it is a statutory nuisance (affecting your health and/or normal lifestyle).  This is necessary to get a Noise Abatement Notice, which is a legal notice requesting the offender to stop making the noise or limit it to certain times of the day.  The equipment used to monitor the noise level will be installed by an Officer (not in uniform) and will not be visible to the neighbours.  

Some housing associations and local authorities have purchased a noise monitoring service which enables you to download an app on your mobile device or tablet.  If the problems you are experiencing relate to noise, it may be worth asking if this service is something your landlord offers.  Once you have made a short recording of the noise, the investigating officer will be notified directly via email.

CCTV surveillance and other filming

CCTV surveillance equipment is now widely used in evidence of both crime and anti-social behaviour.  However, you must be aware of the legislation when installing CCTV in your own home as it should not be directed beyond the boundary of your own property.  Placing the camera in a way that is intrusive could lead to claims of invasion of privacy and harassment, so it is important to be respectful of your neighbours’ and others’ rights.  

Private CCTV should only be used to ensure the security of the property it is installed on, rather than recording the activity of neighbours. The boundary of a garden/property is a very good guideline, beyond which, activity could be considered intrusive. Security of the home is only breached if the boundary is crossed by someone intent on causing damage or committing a criminal act.

Further information in relation to this can be found at: – 

www.gov.uk/government/publications/domestic-cctv-using-cctv-systems-on-your-property.

Please note that the police may require footage from your CCTV equipment, and you may be asked for this if it has picked up evidence of crime and or anti-social behaviour.

There have been instances whereby people have got the wrong idea as to why someone would install CCTV cameras.  In July 2013 Bijan Ebrahimi sought to get his own evidence in this way and it was misinterpreted by his neighbours as evidence of paedophilia.  He was arrested but released without charge by the police, but then murdered by the original perpetrators of the anti-social behaviour.

Using your CCTV in a Responsible & Proper Manner

If you wish to make use of CCTV technology: –

Remember….While it is lawful for you to monitor your own property for security purposes, the manner in which CCTV is used, in particular where the field of view covers areas outside your property, may have legal consequences.  Cameras deliberately viewing areas outside the boundary of an individual’s property could amount to harassment and potentially give rise to prosecution under the Public Order Act or Protection from Harassment Act.

(Source: Archived RESPECT.gov.uk website)

Photographic evidence in ASB cases

How useful are photographs as evidence in court?
Although sometimes photographs can provide useful information, preferably when supported by other evidence, Judges and Magistrates give more weight to evidence from people who have seen or experienced the anti-social behaviour first-hand than photographs or video clips.  Greater reliance is placed on supporting witnesses to keep diaries and provide statements to build a case than obtaining photos and video clips as evidence to use in court.

This shift is due to the following factors: 

That said, below we set out some guidance to help you understand your rights, avoid invading others’ privacy and know what material is helpful to progress an ASB case. 

Legislation (non-commercial film/photography)

Anyone can take photographs in a public place, on streets, or from your own property.  However, there are certain restrictions which apply to specific situations to safeguard children, national security and the rights of individuals to privacy and freedom from harassment.   Below are some points to note: –

Taking photographs as evidence of ASB

If you are seen taking photographs by those believed to be responsible for ASB it could send a signal to them that you are willing to take action and make them think twice about their behaviour. However, you should also be aware that it might also have the opposite effect and escalate the ASB through threatened or actual retaliation.  

The specific agency you are working with (e.g. Police, Local Authority) can give advice on the safety and usefulness of taking photographs in individual cases. 

What can you do with the photographs?

Photographs or video material should only be used for the purposes of assisting authorities to prevent or detect anti-social behaviour and not for publishing or wider use, particularly if they identify people and personal information. When deciding what to do with such material, the officers or public authorities handling your case will be able to advise.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) governs how public authorities use and store personal information. This includes photographs which are stored with personal details. Photographs taken for purely personal use, such as a parent photographing their child in a school nativity play are exempt.

Professional Witnesses

There is great news here, particularly for those suffering from intimidation and living in fear – you do not have to be the one giving evidence against those making your life a misery.  Professional witnesses are a solution for:

a)      People who are too scared or intimidated to give evidence themselves

b)      People who are prepared to give evidence but need an independent opinion (especially in neighbour disputes where it is one person’s word against another)

However, with limited resources due to government cuts, this option may not be possible but may be worth enquiring about if you feel that you would be unable to provide direct evidence yourself.  Alternatively, you could ask a family member, friend or neighbour to come when the anti-social behaviour is occurring and then they also will be able to provide a witness statement.

If family, friends or neighbours are not able to witness the anti-social behaviour, they can still give evidence on your behalf as can the agencies helping you in the case (in legal jargon, this is called hearsay).

How are you coping?