Thursday, 19 July 2012
If you are reading this, then you are doing so because I have asked you to, or someone else has pointed you towards it. You could be one of my closest friends or a total stranger who's never even heard of me. It doesn't matter either way. Please read this to the end, and if you can do anything, or know anyone who can, let me know, and share this with your friends. I know it's quite long, but it will only take a few minutes. The point of this blog is to get my side, my point of view, and my opinion of the events of the last two years out there in the hope that it gets other parties to act. Three years ago this coming September, I moved into the flat I currently live in. My building has six flats inside it, and of the six, only one, mine, is not a council flat. My flat was purchased by my father, with me making payments to him every month to cover the mortgage he took out. It's in my dad's name, but I make the payments. In that sense, my father and I co-own the property. When I first moved in, the flat above me was lived in by an elderly gentleman who I didn't really get a chance to speak to. He sadly died a month or two after I moved in. For another couple of months after this, the flat above me was empty. Then, around two and a half years ago now, Cardiff Council moved a new tenant in. This tenant was a young man, who at the time couldn't have been older than sixteen or seventeen, who will hereafter be referred to as Neighbour (I'm no expert on the law here, but I reckon using actual names is something which could get me into trouble). It wasn't long after he moved in before the trouble started. At the time of Neighbour's moving in, his older brother was getting towards the end of a stretch in prison for stabbing someone. Only a week or two after Neighbour arrived, his brother came to live with him too. And as soon as he did, my home became a horrible place to live in. It started with loud noise, as all of Neighbour Brother's friends would be in the flat as well, all day and night, every day and night. They would shout and scream at each other, thump around in what sounded very much like indoor football matches, and shout abuse out of the windows at random passers by. It got worse from there, as litter was constantly dropped out of the window, to the point where both my front and back gardens looked like a rubbish tip. And it wasn't just empty bottles and food wrappers, oh no. Anything and everything you can think of came out those windows, including lit cigarettes and human excrement. They started trying to sell drugs and electrical items stolen from local Cash Generators out of the window to anyone who would pass by, and get into arguments with other Cardiff lowlifes, who would come around to the building late at night and shout abuse up at the flat above me. And if that didn't work, they'd start throwing rocks. The number of times my own night was interrupted by the windows above me being smashed is ridiculous. Eventually, Neighbour's brother went back to prison, and we hoped that would be the end of it. But it wasn't. Nothing changed. The shouting and screaming, the drug dealing and selling stolen goods, the arguments with people outside, they all continued. Did we inform the Council? Of course we did. Did we call the police? Yes, whenever we could. And sometimes, they would come out. But nothing seemed to actually get taken forward. The Council would give us incident diaries to fill out, which we did dutifully. Once the diary was filled up, we were just given another one to fill out. And this is all that has happened in the last two years. The problem is, Neighbour himself has been away from the property for at least three extended periods of time. The first of these was for roughly a month, where I heard rumour that he was being made to live with his mother and wear a tag. Naturally, for this month, it went quiet, and no calls or complaints were made to the Council. So they closed their file. When Neighbour returned, and we started reporting him again, the Council treated it as a new case, since the original had been closed down, and we had to start over from the beginning again, filling in diaries. The second time Neighbour went away was for three months or so, when he was sent to prison for unknown reasons. I mean, I know he was stealing from Cash Generator, I saw him going out at night once with a friend and overheard them talking about going to steal lead off people's roofs, and I also overheard him once talking about a time he stole a car, but who knows which of those he got sent down for? The stupid thing about that period of time, which began in April of last year? The Council finally decided to put a microphone in my flat to record any loud noises coming from his flat. The fact that they would choose a weekend while he was in prison to do this smacks of either utter stupidity on their part (surely the Council should know when one of their own tenants is spending time in prison?) or they're doing everything they can to avoid dealing with the problem, and put the mic in my flat at a time when they knew there would be no noise so they could throw the case out again. Which they obviously did, since there were no incidents for a few months. So, Neighbour comes out of prison again, everything starts up again (including the sounds of him revving a motorbike in his flat in the early hours of the morning, and arguing loudly with his new girlfriend, something which, from the sounds of things usually ends with him hitting her). The girlfriend was a new development, as was the dog the two of them got together. Screaming continued, litter was still dropped, and life remained miserable. The cycle began again. Neighbour was sent to prison again earlier this year, but had left his keys with his girlfriend, so even though he wasn't there, the problems continued. She was staying in the flat, and had an almost unending sequence of male visitors who treated her exactly the same way as her convict boyfriend. Again, we complained to the Council continuously. Surely, if this girl wasn't the tenant, then they would have to evict her? What did the Council do? They took her dog away. Didn't kick her out of the flat, even though they admitted she shouldn't be there, so everything continued, there was just less dog barking. Oh, they gave us new diaries to fill out too. Neighbour's girlfriend was eventually kicked out, and the locks on his front door changed, but this wasn't done by the Council. No, rather, Neighbour's grandmother came around and dealt with it. She forced the girlfriend out, and had her husband, a locksmith, seal the flat. Only a week after this was done did the Council take any action. They put a screen over Neighbour's front door, so no one could access it (which they already couldn't anyway), and changed the key fobs we had to use to gain access to the building through the communal doors. Unfortunately, the screen was put in place because Neighbour requested it from prison, probably in an attempt to get the Council on his side. He must have a clever parole officer. Oh, and the Council screwed up the changing of the fobs, as, in changing the back door, they reprogrammed it so it couldn't be locked at all. Now anyone could gain access to the building if they wanted. During this period, the buzzer on the upstairs flat must have broken, because all of a sudden, I was getting numerous people banging on my window asking to be let in so they could go to the flat upstairs. Naturally, I refused. Unfortunately, on one occasion this led to me getting threatened with physical violence by one individual, who would be coming back with his friends if I didn't let him in. I, of course, called the police, but he somehow got in anyway. While he didn't come back, the event, which took place the day after I was attacked in an unrelated incident walking home from work, left me feeling shaken and afraid. On top of this, myself and my girlfriend have also, on a number of occasions, been awoken at three or four in the morning by people stood outside my bedroom window and shouting up at the flat above. And continuing to do so for an hour or so. However, eventually, the Council fixed the back door. A week or two before Neighbour came out of prison, last Friday, and he and his girlfriend both came back. I was away for the weekend, but did return to my flat on Tuesday of this week. I had been back less than twelve hours before, at ten to eleven in the evening, Neighbour's Girlfriend started banging on my window asking me to let her in because she'd been locked out. I refused, since she shouldn't be living at the property in the first place. An hour later, after my girlfriend and I had gone to bed, there was more loud banging on my bedroom window, and the voice of my Neighbour shouting at us to let us in, claiming we had to because he was the police. Yeah. Of course he was. We overheard him and his girlfriend having a screaming match outside my flat, and him threatening to punch her in the face. We also heard him saying there have been over one-hundred and twenty complaints about him since he's lived in the building. And now, whenever he and his girlfriend leave, they leave a rock wedging the back door open. Of course, the Council know about all of this. I phoned them again yesterday. And what did I get? "Keep filling out your diary. And we'll send a letter out to all the residents asking them not to wedge the communal doors open." Yes, I'm sure Neighbour will listen to that. What does it take? Every resident in this building has complained numerous times. Residents in other buildings close by and the houses across the road have complained. It's difficult to sleep here, I've been threatened, I'm scared that my flat is going to get burned down by a lit cigarette being thrown into the garden and I just don't want to be here. I spend as much time at my girlfriend's place as I can at the moment, because my own home, which I pay for, is a horrible place to live. Maybe the Council are doing something, but if so, they're not keeping me informed, and I'm seeing absolutely no evidence of it. I just constantly get told to fill out my diary. Nothing else happens. The diary states on the front "Anti-Social Behaviour - Together We Can Tackle It". Together? Who's "we"? Because I've certainly not noticed them tackling anything. The Council also claims to be cracking down on anti-social behaviour and noise pollution. So why has Neighbour had over one hundred and twenty complaints against him and is still there, with no obvious action taken against him? Two and a half years. That's thirty months. Of those, maybe five have been quiet. That leaves twenty-five months of this happening. I'm fed up of it. I'm fed up of not being able to relax in my home, and I'm fed up of the Council just telling us the same thing over and over again. Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. Please share it with other people you know. I want to get this out to as many people as possible, so that everyone knows what a sham Cardiff Council's "tough on anti-social behaviour" policy is. If anyone wants to contact me about this blog, and I want to hear from people, even if you think I'm overreacting and whining needlessly, you can do so in the comments section, or via my e-mail address (firstname.lastname@example.org) or on twitter (@PJMontgomery). UPDATE, 19th July 2012, After I posted this blog, I had a phone call from Cardiff Council. Apparently, Neighbour was in court yesterday (though that's all they would tell me), and they're going to tell him not to wedge rocks in the doorway. UPDATE, 19th July 2012, I have now had a direct message from Cardiff Council on Twitter. They're going to update me at some point, apparently. UPDATE, 20th July 2012, New incident. Someone just came and stood outside my flat and threw something at Neighbour's flat to get Neighbour's attention. There was then much shouting and swearing both ways. I put the incident in my diary, but the diary wants you to record everything which was said. That's not easy when you're half deaf (as I am) and they don't exactly enunciate. UPDATE, July 20th 2012, I was invited earlier today to go on Good Morning Wales on BBC Radio Wales tomorrow morning. This is now not going ahead, and I don't know if I can mention the reasons why, so I'm going to play it safe, and not do so. Suffice to say, it does seem that action is being taken, but the fact I found out about it from the BBC rather than the Council is disgusting. The BBC are still interested in the story, and have asked me to keep them updated, which I will be doing. Watch this space. UPDATE, July 22nd 2012, So, today I returned home to find my bathroom floor had become a large puddle, and water was leaking from the ceiling through my light switch. While I can't blame Neighbour for a leak from a pipe (probably), I don't feel at all comfortable going up there to talk to him about it. The leak has now stopped, apparently, and I reported it to the Council. The music that was so loud it sounded like it was coming from my flat (even more impressive given I'm deaf in one ear) was a different matter, and has gone on my diary. UPDATE, July 22nd 2012, I phoned the Council about the noise. While I was speaking to them, an egg was thrown out of Neighbour's window. My own window was open, and the egg shattered on it. UPDATE, July 22nd 2012, The music has stopped, but there is shouting, screaming and thumping upstairs, and more rubbish being thrown out the front window. Despite reporting it all to the Council and them promising to call me back, I've heard nothing. UPDATE, July 30th 2012, The last week itself was actually quite quiet, though I was in work a lot, so maybe I just missed any new incidents which occurred. However, last night, my girlfriend and I were sitting in my flat trying to watch television when we heard loud banging and screaming coming from upstairs. Neighbour was arguing with his girlfriend, and we could clearly here such choice phrases as "Don't tell me to calm down or I'll fucking stab you" and "I'll bash your head in, you fat fucking slut" (forgive the language, I just feel I need to get across everything exactly as it happened). I made a phone call to the Council's out of hours noise pollution line, and was at first told that the information would simply be passed on. However, a few minutes later, I got a call back from someone at the Council who said he'd come out to try and hear what was going on. He also told me to call th police, something I was hesitant to do because I was worried Neighbour would know it was me. Still, call the police I did, and they came out ten minutes later. Instead of calming things down though, Neighbour started shouting at them and threatening them. It was while this was going on that the man from the Council arrived and also overheard Neighbour arguing with the police. It was at this point that my girlfriend and I left the property (around 22:00) to go and sleep at hers. I came back this morning and straight away phoned the Council to speak to someone for a full update. spoke to the person who is now dealing with the case, who asked me if any further incidents had occurred since Neighbour came out of prison two weeks ago. I was surprised he didn't know, but updated him fully. He then told me what the current situation is. Again, I don't know how much I can divulge, but it could be weeks now until we know what will be happening, if anything does. After this conversation, I then called someone working for Media Wales who e-mailed me last Friday. Again, this has yet to be confirmed, but it looks like something may be appearing in the South Wales Echo in the next few days. Finally, I have today set up a petition with the hopes that enough people sign it, then maybe it will help us build a case against Neighbour. You can find it here. This blog will continue to be updated whenever anything happens, so please keep checking back. As you may have noticed, updates will now be appearing in the blog itself rather than the comments at the suggestion of a couple of people. UPDATE, July 31st 2012, Expect a larger update later, this is just a document of more litter being thrown out of Neighbour's window into my front garden, and another argument between Neighbour and his girlfriend. I couldn't make out exactly what they're saying, because I had the washing machine on and my own music in an effort to drown them out, but I could still clearly hear them. Someone from the Council is due out to the property around 16:00, and I have spoken to someone from Media Wales again. Look for more details on those either later today or tomorrow. UPDATE, July 31st 2012, I had a visitor from Cardiff Council come around. Unfortunately, I don't know if I can go into specifics detailing what was discussed, but I do now have some dates for when further action will be taking place. He also took my current incident diary and left me a new one. UPDATE, August 6th 2012, Two small updates on new situations which have occurred first of all. Last night, after a weekend away which was the most relaxing weekend I've had in a long time, we got home to more loud banging and shouting coming from Neighbour's flat. It wasn't nearly as bad as the weekend before, but was still enough to make me feel uncomfortable once more. Then, today, there was an individual stood outside my flat shouting up at Neighbour's flat to be let in. Since the last time this happened, I was threatened in my own home, again, not too comfortable with this happening. The individual in question did leave after a few minutes. The big update today is that I've finally had an e-mail back from the Council. I find it a bit of a coincidence that this finally arrived on the very morning that a familiar story appeared in the South Wales Echo. Here is the e-mail I received, with names removed:- "I have read your blog dated 19th July in which you express your dissatisfaction with the Council’s response to ongoing allegations of anti social behaviour by one of your neighbours. I am sorry to hear that you are not satisfied with the way in which these matters have been dealt with by the Council. I can assure you that the Council takes matters of anti social behaviour very seriously and we are committed to doing everything we can to try and remedy the situation you are currently experiencing. We can only operate however, within the restrictions of the Council’s powers for dealing with such matters. I understand that Officers from both the anti-social behaviour teams and Pollution Control have visited you during the course of the investigation and most recently on the 31st July, when you were given a comprehensive update including details of court dates over the next few weeks. I am also advised that additional assurances were made regarding your anonymity and I hope that this has been helpful. Should instances of noise pollution or disturbance re-occur then I would encourage you to report them directly as discussed with Officers in order to provide corroborative evidence for any subsequent proceedings. In addition to this, if you have any further questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to conatct XXXX, Anti Social Behaviour Officer on XXXX who will be happy to assist." And here is the response I sent to them:- "Thank you for your response, but to be honest, I'm still really not satisfied. I understand that action is being taken and that court dates are in place, and I appreciate this, but I was also told that this could still take weeks. Even if we do the get the desired result, it will have been close to three years since the troubles began once we get a resolution. I understand you have processes you need to follow, but I find it hard to believe that these processes can take years and allow people to live the way I have been forced to for so long. A more detailed account of precisely what actions the Council have taken, and when, to get us to this point would be very much appreciated." I now await their next response. UPDATE, August 9th 2012, This is a much larger update, and towards the end, it might get a little more personal than previous ones. I wasn't sure whether to put everything in here, but I promised myself that this would be where everything is recorded, so in it goes. First off, on Tuesday, I realised it had been 19 days since I lodged an official complaint with Cardiff Council. Now, the complaints process I was pointed towards was to lodge the complaint with the Council officially. They then have ten days to acknowledge the complaint, and twenty to respond. If they do not respond, or you are not happy with their response, then the next step is to contact the ombudsman. Some people did say that maybe the e-mail I received (detailed in the previous update above) might well be their response, though this wasn't something that I received as a result of my complaint, but rather from other councillors trying to help. So, either they hadn't even acknowledged my complaint, or I wasn't satisfied with the response. So, I lodged a complaint with the Ombudsman. Today, I have received a letter from the Ombudsman saying they couldn't uphold my complaint, as they didn't think I'd complained to the Council. I phoned them up to clarify, and advised I had complained to the Council, but hadn't heard back in, now, twenty-one days. They advised me that, until I do hear from the Council, I can't complain to the Ombudsman, since the Council have to be given a chance to respond to me. I asked if this meant that if the Council never responds, I can never take it forward, and didn't really get a proper answer to that. It's been left that the woman who rejected my complaint (who was out of the office) is going to call me back at some point. Just for the record, more litter came out of Neighbour's flat last night and into my front garden. Joy. Finally for this update, the more personal bit. For the last few weeks, I've not been feeling like myself. I've been feeling down, I've been getting regular headaches, chest pains and what feel like panic attacks. I've not been sleeping well, even when I'm not sleeping in my flat, and I just feel stressed all the time. This all culminated on Tuesday night with me missing a phonecall from my dad, and bursting into tears as a result. He wasn't phoning for anything special, just a general chat and catch up, as we do every week, but it just felt like the last straw, and it broke me. A few of my closest friends, and my girlfriend, have been worried about me lately, and after Tuesday, I had a number of people suggest I visit the doctor. So today I did. And it's official, I have depression. It's called reactive depression, which means it's depression, no different from clinical depression in the symptons or how I'm feeling. IT's just that it's depression with a very specific cause. I'm now on anti-depressants prescribed by the doctor in an effort to help me, as the doctor said, take the edge off, and hopefully get some sleep. The doctor is also going to write a letter confirming my depression and that I'm now having to be medicated for it. Neighbour and the lack of apparent action from the Council have now caused me to have a recognised medical condition. I can't continue like this. Please, don't forget I'm also running a petition regarding this matter. Please read and sign it. It can be found here. UPDATE, 10th August 2012, Just a small update today. I've received the following e-mail from the Council:- "XXXX is away from work at present and I have been asked to monitor progress on your complaint since your e-mail of 6th August 2012. I am advised that officers will be holding a case conference early next week and as soon as we are able to provide a substantive response to the query raised in your e-mail, concerning Council actions, we will do so. I would reiterate XXXX’s observations that the Council can only operate within the legal framework set down for dealing with such matters, but assure you that we will do what we can to resolve this matter promptly." I have a mixed response to this. While I'm glad they're keeping me updated and that they do plan to give me an answer regarding the actions the Council have taken so far, I do find the bit about reiterating the Council's position vaguely patronising. I'm aware of the Council's position. That's why I asked for more info in the first place. I haven't responded to this one, as I don't really see the point. Another official complaint has been raised, however, via the Council's website, this time drawing attention to the depression I've been diagnosed with. Finally, I have today learned that one of my other neighbours has finally given in and applied to the Council to move elsewhere. I sort of wish I was able to do the same.