Sharon, Head of Professional Practice at RESOLVE
‘Anti-social behaviour’ comprises a range of behaviours that can cause nuisance and annoyance or harm and distress to someone. It is a wide range of unacceptable activity and includes Noise Nuisance.
Noise is by far the highest reported case type of anti-social behaviour; 1 in 3 cases of ASB are noise nuisance and even when noise is not the main incident being reported it continues to be a factor in the majority of all anti-social behaviour incidents reported to agencies. Noise Nuisance is the second biggest complain category in the Housing Ombudsman Service (www.housing-ombudsman.org.uk).
Examples of noise nuisance include dogs barking, children playing, music blaring, people shouting, groups gathering, engines revving, and the list goes on. It is important that agencies and their practitioners get it right from the very beginning when a report is being taken – is it noise nuisance or is it a conflict of lifestyle?
What is important and often misunderstood is the long-term impact noise nuisance behaviour can have on those who are experiencing the anti-social behaviour. Often seen as a low level incident of ASB by agencies, we know that noise can affect the victim in many ways; from sleep deprivation to breakdown in relationships with their neighbours, and can negatively impact one’s ability to carry out normal daily activities, including at work and school. It is crucial that we approach noise nuisance (and all ASB) with a victim centred approach and consider the impact(s) of harm. The former Victim Commissioner Baroness Newlove’s report (https://victimscommissioner.org.uk/published-reviews/anti-social-behaviour-living-a-nightmare/) highlighted how no case of anti-social behaviour should be seen as low level.
We have seen cases in the national press that have gone on for so long with no meaningful outcome for the victims, resulting in victims taking matters into their own hands and resorting to violence.
It is important for all practitioners and their agencies to establish effective case management principles (https://www.resolveuk.org.uk/about-us/all-events-timeline/resolve/85-asb-case-management-principles-4) at the very beginning of an incident being reported. This includes assessing a case at the very beginning using the risk assessment matrix; a good investigation will allow for early intervention with appropriate responses utilising the right tools, with the right support for the victim or witness.
Policy and Procedures should allow for flexibility and should give the practitioner the opportunity to think outside of the box to resolve the issue as early as possible. Thought needs to be given about the use of diary sheets and how they may ‘retraumatise’ the victim – is there an alternative for Noise Nuisance?
We have seen the Noise App (https://www.thenoiseapp.com/#/) being used by many agencies to help gather evidence without the victim having to relive the details on paper at 4am in the morning. Mediation is another tool that is very successful in Noise Nuisance cases; however the appetite is not always there for both parties to take part in this approach. A very popular approach for agencies and there practitioners is learning to listen (https://www.resolveuk.org.uk/about-us/all-events-timeline/resolve/80-conversations-and-not-confrontation-course-3). More can and should be done to promote this positively within agencies; where we see best practice in this area we see good outcomes.