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BLOG: Victims of persistent anti-social behaviour need more support

In a compelling account, the Victims' Commissioner Baroness Newlove sets out why more needs to be done to support victims of anti-social behaviour.

This op-ed first appeared in The Daily Mirror on 15 April 2024.

Imagine the daily torment of harassment, intimidation, or vandalism. This is the grim reality for victims of anti-social behaviour – a reality that, sadly, I know all too well.

As Victims’ Commissioner, my inbox is full of victims’ accounts of anti-social behaviour. They tell me they feel ignored, unheard, and alone, passed from pillar to post with no resolution in sight.

I feel their anguish. My own personal story is a stark reminder that tragedy can strike when pleas for help go unheard.

Often, victims simply want acknowledgement that they are being wronged; a sense of being seen, and the knowledge they’re not alone.

Recognising this need, the Victims’ Code guarantees referrals to crucial support services offering both practical and emotional assistance, empowering victims to navigate their ordeal’s aftermath and rebuild their lives.

Indeed, recent promotional materials for the Code promise that support ‘for every victim, whatever the crime.’

Yet for many victims of persistent anti-social behaviour, this is not happening. Here’s where my frustration lies.

Despite being a crime, it is often downplayed by policing. By not recording the incidents as crimes, victims are denied the crucial victim support services they should be entitled to – support that crime victims receive under the Victims’ Code.

Left without this assistance, they’re forced to manage the situation alone.

Policing of anti-social behaviour must improve. Police need to stop looking at each incident in isolation and view the persistent harassment as a cumulative issue, recognising its long-term impact on victims’ well-being.

But while changing police culture is a long-term effort, victims need help now.

The Victims and Prisoners Bill was a golden opportunity to fix the problem. Instead, the bill currently overlooks victims of persistent anti-social behaviour.

I, along with others, have called for amendments to the bill that would address this.

Our proposed amendments call for a ‘trigger’ system.

If someone experiences three consecutive incidents and reports these to local authorities, this currently triggers an entitlement to a review of how the problem is being tackled: an ASB Case Review.

I’m calling for this ‘trigger’ to also unlock access to victim support services under the Victims’ Code.

This ensures those facing persistent harassment receive the same level of support as other crime victims – rights they are entitled to under the Code.

I am in no doubt the government is committed to tackling ASB, but their measures focus on punishing offenders rather than supporting victims. We need both.

The government’s anti-social behaviour Action Plan prioritises public nuisances like graffiti and littering. This is important. But I want the same zeal applied to victims targeted with relentless harassment within their own homes and communities – areas untouched by so-called ‘hotspot’ policing initiatives.

We need a balanced approach – one that tackles offending while also offering a lifeline to those who suffer from ongoing harassment.

Many of these victims feel silenced, but I stand with them. I am calling on the government to act so that they are recognised and supported.

Let’s turn the promise of ‘for every victim, whatever the crime’ into reality.