Turning negative situations around. An occasional online account of every day struggles for people in toxic situations, Toxic Lives focuses on those things that affect mental and physical well-being – pulling together the information needed to tackle poisonous situations in the most likely places and campaigning for change, so that people can get on with their lives, free from interference or stress.
Background The victim in case three is an elderly man whose next door neighbour accused him thirty years ago, of interfering with her TV set. Relationships have never been good since this was resolved. He is well known in the community for his hobby, being a licensed radio amateur. His profile is quite high in the neighbourhood due to his garden antenna system. He gets on well with his other neighbours – most of whom support him.
Recently he has been the recipient of several types of unwanted behaviour as follows:
Type 1. False accusations of licence breaches delivered via secretive symbolic messages left on the doorstep of his home by an anonymous caller. The symbol used is that used by CB radio operators to accuse each other of causing problems by “improper” use of his radio, breaking the terms of his licence.
Editors Note: In common with other cases being compiled in support of Armando Martins, this feature implies the perpetrator has a need to torment the victim. It implies he is being observed breaking rules and the potential to involve the authorities. It is a veiled threat therefore. The same symbol has appeared several times in the last few years.
Type 2. More recently he received a malicious call about his hobby purporting to come from the authorities and telling him he would be in breach of the rules of his licence, if he didn’t act. This caused the victim to respond.
These incidents he thinks are pranks, however the frequency and numbers of incidents are building up and this is upsetting for him and his wife. Someone is “getting off” on causing them anxiety.
Type 3. The neighbour next door’s demeanour has never been good, but recently she has made a number of caustic remarks about him and his hobby containing threats to disrupt him by reporting him to the council. This attempt at coercive control was delivered over a number of incidents, one of which included complaints to his wife shouted through a communal wall, and accompanied by banging on the wall. This occurred while she was indoors enjoying TV and he was enjoying a session of radio operating in the shed.
When they eventually spoke, there was an allegation of TV Interference and the neighbour adopted a more threatening stance.
Despite his offers to resolve the situation, which mean accessing the neighbours TV to test it, she refuses and continues to threaten him saying she will have it stopped by the council. The victim takes the correct action and obtains a leaflet from the BBC and gives it to the neighbour. The neighbour insists she will do it her way.
NB. It is the BBC who have the technical resources to locate and prevent the interference. The council don’t have any (but do have enforcement officers).
She isn’t interested – she wants to invoke sanctions that close him down.
Anxiety levels are raised. Her attitude and demeanour imply if the victim doesn’t comply with her rules, he will face the “bureaucrats” at the council or some other judgement. As of today the victim awaits a call from the council and is in fear that they will act on her complaint rather than leave it to the proper authority. (A few weeks later there is a distinctly toxic atmosphere). While the victim said that he wasn’t losing any sleep it was clear now that he sees this as a threat to his livelihood. In his mind he is continually questioning the situation – looking for reasons why he is under attack, what the next steps may be and how to deal with it – fearing the worst.
NB. The behaviour of this neighbour bears a strong resemblance to that shown in Nightmare Neighbours Next Door Series 5 Episode 8. This has been screened multiple times on multiple channels of Freeview TV – ed.
Annual Report of the Armando Martins Campaign – Highlighting Achievements and the need for further work to make it more difficult for planning laws to be abused.
It is now just under two years since the petitioners of the Armando Martins Campaign asked Canterbury City Council to re-instate Armando Martins’ amateur radio antenna, – after it was ordered to be removed following an act of mobbing.
Acting on behalf of the mob, council workers had successfully curtailed Armando’s hobby causing him to move. After he moved, council workers continued to interfere with his lifestyle for several months and he was subsequently refused planning permission despite asking specifically to move to a place where he could use his property. The impact of this struggle, a journey lasting over several years, was to thoroughly depress, stress and demoralise him.
The immediate aim of this campaign in late 2016 was to expose the nature of his treatment and counter the behaviour he encountered by resolving the issues raised by all parties. We wanted the council to fully re-instate his statutory and human rights (to develop and use his property.) These rights had been arbitrarily put to one side in order to satisfy his assailants.
A second case we reviewed (case 2) was used to compare Armando’s experience with. This came to court in March 2018. It resulted in the assailant being found guilty of assault and given a conditional discharge. The victim in case 2 is currently enjoying a respite from the bullying he received over 25 years of living in the vicinity of a toxic neighbour and is able to get on with his life.
Achievement Both victims are now able to get on with their lives. Armando was removed to safer accommodation, and, while he has now regained his lifestyle and thanked the council, he cannot yet draw a line under the whole experience, due to the number of avoidable incidents involving council workers and the way his planning application has been handled, which infringed his rights and flaunted various policies.
Case 2 approaches a similar junction, the council workers he encountered have been very helpful, not so the police, as they refuse to acknowledge the offence of stalking was being committed, or do anything about the surveillance cameras overlooking the victim’s property.
Where it could, the campaign gave Armando help to resolve the incidents and acted as agents and advocate, helping him through three incidents; a complaint to the local government ombudsman, a planning application and its subsequent appeal. Our approach was to walk with him during this part of his journey and share his experience.
Currently Armando is pursuing legal action against the council staff who he thinks have helped, by breaching his rights. He means to recover costs and make sure others don’t get the same treatment.
In September 2018 there is a noticeable difference to Armando’s outlook. Over a cup of tea in the radio shack at his new home, we were listening to an Italian radio station making contacts with many other countries across the globe. By October 2018 he has himself made contacts in North and South America, the Indian Ocean and Europe using his latest antenna, and he is building up a steady number of contacts with pins on the world map – proving the aerial is doing its job. He is now in the process of improving his garden and living accommodation, and looking after his health while planning a future expedition.
Learning Opportunities – Armando
For 78 year old Armando, the last six months have been good for learning about radio, and this year’s focus has been on how to get good transmitting performance, with the minimum of local impact, while complying with the planning laws governing his experimentation with aerials in the back yard. (These are set out in the national planning policy framework (NPPF) (revised in July 2018) and related documentation, the most important being Planning Policy and Guidance No 8 – Telecommunications.)
Lessons Learned by the Campaign
The campaign was also learning. To get to this point, we studied and consulted planning experts at the Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB). As an organisation the campaign put the views of its forty three thousand signatories to the UK Planning Authorities and the Radio Society as well as the council and housing departments involved.
These conversations are worth recording primarily because they answer the question why is nobody listening and why can’t I get a quick, simple and accurate answers to my questions about planning or support from the planning system when it goes wrong for me?
After consulting Armando’s MP he was directed (rightly) to complain to the ombudsman. This is still in progress after more than six months.
A further case came to light which highlighted the nature of the problem of consistency between different LPA’s when dealing with licensed radio amateurs. John Carpenter, A licensed radio amateur from Cornwall had written a short piece about how his LPA had forced him to apply for planning permission for an antenna which normally wouldn’t need it costing him £500 for plans and the process. (Source: Gary Myers – https://www.m0plt.me.uk/#planning).
Since the conversation with Gary circa 29th October the importance of these conversations has been realised:
Public Consultation Process ( Follow Link). This is the official means of making change in government. Complaining about problems to your MP puts the complainant in a minority and you will be directed elsewhere – usually the ombudsman. Democratic process allows for public consultation and public consultations are used to make changes to plans and laws. Organisations and individuals can influence change via this process.
Local Plans (Follow link). This is about shaping where you live. Since 2012 each local authority has been directed to make their own local plans in consultation with local people. These are the rules that the LPA is more likely to use to make planning decisions. Martins local plans are devoid of anything that would make obtaining planning permission easier for the radio enthusiast. Also they were written by the LPA and not the local people, he thinks radio amateurs weren’t consulted when they were compiled and therefore they don’t take into account this minority groups needs.
The RSGB acknowledged that Local Plans is a problem and said they would take part in consultations with the Department for Planning and Communities about the national planning policy framework.
Because of the above we were able to recommend that the parliamentary campaign to exempt amateur radio aerials from requiring planning permission take a different approach from November 2018. See Joint Statement Here
We concluded to make change in Amateur Radio needs the right people to do the right things at the right time using established principles and techniques.
The radio society guidelines on planning were re-published in September 2018. The campaign has two constructive criticisms for an otherwise welcome revision. It omits to appraise the significant changes made to planning policy and inform the reader of some important developments relative to them which changed in 2018. Also it ignores the Armando Martins Campaigns approaches to the RSGB over their attitude to neighbour bullying aka nightmare neighbours, abuse of licensed radio amateurs and the planning authorities. However it gives good planning advice.
Nightmare Neighbours and The RSGB The RSGB’s current policy regarding the neighbour nightmare is that it takes a bystander role. According to the late Dr Tim Field, et al, bystanders tend to sit on their hands and indulge in victim blaming during encounters with bullies.
Normal Neighbour Behaviour
The RSGB puts getting on with the neighbours at the centre of its policy as a means for members to achieve their planning goals. See here for a report entitled A Neighbourly Nation: Through the Keyhole prepared by the COOP and Neighbourhood Watch. This provides some basic statistics about neighbour behaviour, establishing what good neighbours are and that 52% of people surveyed said they had good relations with neighbours.
Borderline Abnormal Behaviour
The report went on to say a quarter of people say their neighbours are less than courteous. We established that getting on with the neighbours is normative behaviour.
To support its view the Armando Martins Campaign also discovered through the work of Svenn Torgersen, PhD; Einar Kringlen, MD; Victoria Cramer, PhDa prevalence of people at large in the community exhibiting a dark triad of behavioural traits or personality disorders such as sadistic personality disorder. By comparing the traits of people exhibiting toxic behaviour with normal behaviour we concluded that there are small numbers of people in the target population of our study who are exposed to being victimised by neighbours with these traits. We conclude it’s no co-incidence to find in the target community of licensed radio amateurs people reporting toxic neighbour\council worker issues via social media, Seven cases have come to light – all in the south east of England. #MeToo
Because of the variation in reactions from these different mindsets, we say, while the majority of people benefit from great relationships with their neighbours, getting on with the neighbours should never be a pre-requisite to entering into a planning development.
In case study two, the victim’s normal neighbours allowed him to put antenna wires in their gardens and encouraged the diversity his hobby brought to the area. They were happy to learn about it. A toxic neighbour silently objected, and cut the wires in several acts of covert (and then overt) sabotage.
As we established that getting on with the neighbours is normative behaviour, we noted that toxic people have an ability to pass off their abnormal behaviour as normal, producing plausible lies, particularly when compromised etc.
By denying, or playing down the existence of toxic behaviour in communities, we think it exposes others, forcing them to take part in a range of undesirable or inappropriate behaviours. Some examples of which are:
Opening the victim to coercive control.
Encouraging the victim to indulge in bribery.
Encouraging the victim to be false – by being nice to people they don’t really like.
Exposure to emotional blackmail.
Forcing avoidance behaviour, the victim hiding or limiting their activities.
Victim blaming; Members of the community blaming the victim (for whatever he or she did to encourage the assailant.) Also members of the victims hobby community blaming the victim for bringing the activity into disrepute or for their own difficulties\behaviour.
incitement (e.g. to retaliate).
The victim in case 2 said “the first sign of trouble is if you receive a veiled or overt threat when talking to your neighbours”. “Do we have to put up with that?” “Eyesore” etc. Unwelcome questions and remarks about your property are indicators that all is not well and will set hairs running. He records his assailant has many of the traits associated with sadistic personality disorder. Someone who spent time making up and trying to enforce a set of rules on his victim and raising the stakes when the victim doesn’t comply – reporting the most minor and sometimes made up “infringements” or “misdemeanours” to the police or the planning\housing authorities for his own pleasure. Victim 2 makes the point normal people are more forgiving and polite about mistakes and errors and don’t tell lies. All of his “errors” and “mistakes” were shouted at him – or were lies, made up and shouted at him in front of the other neighbours. His neighbours all feared the assailant – as a tyrant. “All of this was ignored by the police until he assaulted me”.
Both victims have had anxiety levels raised, and experienced sleeplessness and symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress, flashbacks about incidents and obsessing about retaliatory measures etc.
Once exposed the assailant represents a perpetual threat, which might not come directly, but via the planning department. Toxic people like to create fear. This is enhanced by anonymity. The perception is that planning authorities gather intelligence on “illegal” developments and this is something the toxic mindset uses. How the planning authorities react is a variable which causes fear – that the victim’s goals will be blocked and restricted – giving the assailant pleasure and something to gloat about.
Talking openly about what you do for pleasure is an open invitation to a toxic mindset.
The RSGB should explain its policy further.
Steven Way, a chartered building surveyor at Collier Stevens, was quoted in the Times on 8th April 2018 as saying, “Some people seem to think that rejecting their neighbour’s planning application is a way to get even if there is a history of distrust. Many disputes are rooted in jealousy.” He was talking about a high profile case which had been resolved by the courts.
When comparing the performance of Canterbury City Council in Armando’s case, with how Gravesham Borough Council dealt with Case 2, there are significant differences in the way housing and planning staff operate when nightmare neighbours attack. The former it is suggested, are more open to being used to abuse.
The Armando Martins Campaign concludes: There is enough evidence to prove there are toxic people at large in our communities. These are people with the type of mindset that would willingly exploit “the planning system” for their own (sadistic) pleasure. When they don’t have the power to get at their neighbours they can tap into a ready source. Willing council workers who flaunt government and local policy to coerce them into compliance.
Pot luck for the victim who depends on the skills of policy makers, council workers and police to detect and rectify sometimes criminal behaviour, only to find more of the same or limited services. One further learning experience involves discovering just how much effort is needed to deal with nightmare neighbours because of the protective envelope of bureaucracy and lack of support for victims. This in itself is a weapon in the right hands. Victim blaming also brings victim punishment from people who role themselves as by-standers. The reaction of authorities when asked for help, may well take the form of more bureaucracy – being forced into complaint systems, appeal systems and judicial services that are designed not to be productive but to coerce people into giving up.
During the petition phase of the campaign we listened to lots of opinion, and contacted responsible people in: Canterbury City Council and East Kent Housing, The Department for Community and Planning and the Planning Inspectorate, and also the Radio Society of Great Britain, these organisations also all played a hand in getting to this point. We were particularly inspired by the contribution of people on Facebook especially the un-official Radio Society of Great Britain and Amateur Radio UK groups for sharing their experience and views (and for not booting me out).
What does success looks like?
Not all opinions were appropriate or agreeable, and some conflicted with the campaigns view’s. They did however tell us what success would look like and how it would be achieved, by influencing these organisations in variable degrees. For example with the radio society who supported us with planning advice, and who have recently updated their guidance which was outdated and inaccurate. We think we even managed to re-focus their strategy by highlighting the benefits for elderly people of hobbies, by pointing them towards good practice such as the Men’s sheds movement. We notice the RSGB has broadened their strategy in that very direction. We also came across taboos, and people unwilling to stand up for Armando – blaming him for his situation. That’s not unusual, it is human. Nonetheless an inappropriate value in this day and age. Also we passed on the requirement for changes, to the national planning policy framework team and after evaluating it for the planning inspectorate, are reasonably sure there is to be change in the areas we highlighted.
They think it’s all over…
We could leave it here but Armando thinks if we do, sooner or later he or somebody else will face this treatment and therefore he is now taking action aimed to close the problem down for everyone. To support him he asks you to view his crowdfunding page here and join him in taking further preventative measures. The campaign remains open for business, because it is simply not OK to witness such behaviour and do nothing.
A draft constitution covering the forward plan to raise funds to support a legal challenge has been raised.
Draft Constitution The Armando Martins Campaign and subsequent crowdfunding is to cover legal costs that enable Armando Martins to be fairly represented in court. As others have been treated the same as Armando we want to prevent further occurrences of abuse and provide help and advice for others in similar situations – filling a gap in the RSGB’s services. We think the way to achieve this is to set a legal precedent and to be an organisation and continue campaigning. IT’s NOT OK. Until then we want to raise funds to keep “old timers” on the air until they choose to stop, especially when their circumstances change. This is to combat loneliness and breakdown in mental and physical health. We are open to all radio amateurs who find themselves in difficulty after their antenna systems and plans have been interfered with or their legitimacy misunderstood. In the interim we will develop a process for tackling unfair decisions by council officials based on Armando’s experience and make it available to others. When there is a fair and consistent process we will close the campaign. When the campaign winds up, surplus funds will go to a charity such as Men’s Sheds.
Governance\Roles Any money raised will be kept in a non-registered charity account. (Any money collected temporarily and currently goes into a business account). Nominated officials are: Mac McDonald, John Rivers, Stuart Dixon and Ian Hope.
Twice this week, in case studies, one in my own life, I have seen examples of Corporate Toxic Ignorance at a local level.
Case 1 – A local Councillor
We held a meeting with this chap, who was obviously diametrically opposed to a friends proposal requiring planning permission, in his constituency. Nobody else in my friends community objects to this, even the parish council supported him.
We didn’t know the councillor was so opposed when the meeting was booked, but at the meeting it became obvious that he was absolutely hostile to the fact that people like us, just want to enjoy our hobbies in our own back yards, without interference from our neighbours. He was opposed, despite planning law being fairly explicit as to what is allowed.
After the meeting we began to politely email him to thank him for attending and to ensure he had noted our friends requirements but from the point he left the meeting he began to act against the proposal – using his considerable power as a member of the city councils planning committee to sabotage the application. The decision was removed from the hands of a planning officer and tactically diverted into a planning committee meeting where the councillor could debate it, rather than risk it being approved by a planning officer.
FFS councillor, this is a seventy eight year old man who just wants people to stop interfering with his livelihood.
Recorded in the minutes of a planning committee meeting, is the councillor saying the following, without mentioning what the outcome or content we provided was or mentioning our views:
Simply “Councillor Xxxx-Xxxxx made a voluntary announcement that he had met the applicant at his property and had also met the speaker (me) from whom he had received considerable correspondence which had been passed to the Planning Officer. Councillor Xxxx-Xxxxx indicated that he had not in any way pre-judged the application.)”
Well he did as our account of the meeting and his emails show.
NB. Normal behaviour by any standard says that he should have let the planning officer do his job.
At the committee meeting the councillor had the opportunity to withdraw from the planning meeting but instead he led the discussion that ultimately saw nine out of ten vote to refuse planning permission, forcing my friend into a planning appeal. (which is final).
(The same councillor wrote in the local press after the planning committee meeting how he had discarded the joint opinions of several thousand petitioners on the topic. Toxic People love to brag and seldom let you live and let live, once you challenge them.) They are not there to let you live and let live but are controlling instead.
Case 2 – A Regimental Association
The author is a progressive person and sees change as part of life – he has been running a branch of a national regimental association for several years and it is not without problems, one of which is a dwindling and ageing membership – approx twenty people paying very small subscriptions when there is a market of a few thousand potential members. Something obviously needs to change.
What we did
We took the problems to our branch membership and noted their requirements for change, to put to the Regimental association. They were doing similar studies but had so far left our group out.
Before we did all this work we had attended the annual general meeting (AGM) of the association twice, and its sub committees a few times so were sure we were on the right track. (not so apparently – see later).
At the 2017 AGM We were impressed that the general at the head of the organisation had asked for suggestions that could be included in the associations forthcoming strategy in 2017. The green light was on.
What happened Next?
When we submitted our short, presentable, easy to read documents to the hierarchy, they were rejected out of hand so quickly, and in such a way that it was as though it hadn’t been read. I challenged that but it was clear to me then that the hierarchy of the association didn’t like what we (the signatories to our proposal) had said. Needless to say our suggestion never got to the general. (Well not with our name on it anyway). At this point I let our committee know and resigned my position. The options weren’t acceptable. I would never accept a position in an organisation with a toxic leadership and without a plan or opportunities to develop.
As the branch has opportunities to report any issues it has once a year before the AGM, you would think the next time this came up it would be debated as a fundamental problem, especially as our chairman had discussed the issues with with the president who attended the meeting. Not likely. We had to fight for a copy of the minutes of the meeting which simply said “Each branch gave a very good update on their current membership and highlighted key points to the Group Director. Copies of branch reports can be requested through the Group Secretary.” In an email the president said the group meeting was not an appropriate forum for the discussion.
Toxic People don’t believe in your right to freedom of expression and will do their best to assert their own personality into any situation. They claim your good ideas as theirs or assert their own will without considering your ideas no matter how good they are. If they don’t like what they hear for any reason, (Jealousy or envy for example) they will suppress it.
If you work for a toxic boss who employs a spin doctor then expect stress. Here’s a link.
As an organisation our interest is not only to get justice for Armando. The same treatment he got from his neighbours and the council can be applied to anyone, but is a particular feature in the life of some radio amateurs. What happens is the amateur suddenly finds himself the victim of a malicious complaint aimed specifically to ruin his or her enjoyment of their property. As Armando’s local councillor (inappropriately) put it during his planning application, “if you put up an amateur radio antenna in your garden – you can expect people to have a go at it.”
We say that attitude is victim blaming, a technique used to mask the true motivation for a complaint, which is usually attributable to the controlling behaviour of the assailant. The type of complaints amateurs encounter are easily refuted, however the malicious complainer can get lucky when councils respond out of ignorance, to the loudest shout. In Armando’s case his assailant managed to motivate several complainers in an act of bullying, known as mobbing, to voice a number of complaints, most of which were fabricated. The mobbing went unaddressed despite being listed by the council as anti-social behaviour – council staff joined in blocking his goals and blighting his life and satisfying the assailant(s) need for power.
Being able to enjoy the use of your property is a human right and making malicious complaints is a criminal activity called Harassment.
The National Planning Policy Framework focuses on the needs of the community for housing. At an individual level, the needs of radio users are simple; to be able to deploy their property – the antennas they buy or develop, on the property they own or rent.
The Government Policy which rules the Planning Regime in the UK is the National Planning Policy Framework 2012.
On 12th March 2018, the secretary of state for communities and planning announced a public consultation about a newly drafted version of this policy. (See link above). This ran from March to May 2018 and is now closed.
The Armando Martins Campaign has consulted with the Radio Society of Great Britain over many of the issues he faced. We see eye to eye on a number of issues.
The problem in a nutshell is, the current framework excludes amateur radio as an entity. Amateur Antenna experimenters have to apply the rules for housing extensions, conservatories, sheds and garages. This limits the height and size available to a particular “virtual box” dependent on the size of the property. Council workers dealing with radio amateurs have no knowledge about amateur radio and are expected to make planning decisions etc. Successive re-writes of this policy have eliminated the needs of radio amateurs – making life more and more difficult.
It follows that to rectify this for the future, some improvements were needed to the policy, to improve relevance and define further the needs of radio amateurs.
The campaign was able to contribute as an organisation to the final version of the National Planning Policy Framework 2018. It asked for several amendments and shared information with the RSGB who agreed the suitability of those relating to amateur radio and telecommunications.
Amendments Improving Relevance to Part 10 Supporting High Quality Telecommunications
Firstly, where the draft states at Para 112 – Planning Policies and Decisions should support the expansion of electronic communications networks.
We asked to insert – that these are usually regulated by OFCOM.
By inserting this it would make it clear that amateur antenna developments would be included in planning policy.
Secondly the draft covers a number of situations applicable to telecommunications services at Para 115:
We asked to insert a new paragraph after para 115 c) as follows:
d) Applications for planning permission to install the masts often used by amateur radio operators, radio taxi firms and other private and commercial users, usually present few potential planning problems in terms of size and visual impact over a wide area and will not normally be of such a scale as to have a serious impact on local amenity. Such applicants will generally have less scope for using alternative sites or for sharing sites, and masts will often need to be located on the premises.
By inserting this, it would help resolve issues where scale and amenity were being misquoted in order to resist planning applications.
Where we don’t see eye to eye with RSGB has been in the field of abusive neighbours and nimbyism, There is a tendency for victim blaming here. Too often we hear you have to keep in with the neighbours and while we support that whole heartedly it is not appropriate to have to resort to bribery to avoid emotional abuse, as several amateurs have reported to us. Where neighbours have taken advantage of planning regulations to abuse us by making anonymous complaints for example. We therefore have also asked for the enforcement regulations to be centralised (one Policy for all areas), and gave feedback as to the requirement to have a system that could not be abused.
The consultation ended on 8th May 2018 and we are now waiting to see if our effort had any impact. There’s a chance it may not.
The revised policy as it stands is a welcome change and if all goes well, we will be able to close the campaign on the strength of it, having made all of our points. We asked RSGB to query the right to develop in the space above a property which was included in the policy.
The aim of this short report is to state what happened when Mr Martins engaged in the Planning Process with Canterbury City Council.
According to the planning portal Armando could decide whether his antenna designs were to follow the recommended pathway for the type of development category they belonged in. They could either be de-minimis, permitted or planned. The portal recommends consultation for the first two types but didn’t mandate it. He noted some difficulty engaging the planning department about these and decided he could go ahead with confidence after our consultation with the RSGB. The antenna he previously used without planning permission, now needed planning permission. Technically to get what he had asked for from the property, He would require planning permission was developing an antenna requiring planning permission but also had designs for permitted developments which would allow him to make use of his radio’s. He accepted he would need to go through due process and expected due process back from the council.
During the year housing staff attempted to “enforce” a ban on his wire antenna, he constructed a wire antenna using his right to choose a permitted development.
During these meetings we took an educational approach and realised the council housing staff, issuing “enforcement action” weren’t authorised or qualified to, nor had they offered any measurements or paperwork etc. A theme running throughout Armando’s experience and causing him stress. Having now queried this with RSGB we learnt we took the correct action by engaging the council and not accepting the “enforcement” and documenting the conversation. Subsequently RSGB informed us via an article titled An Unexpected Visitor in the the March 2018 issue of RADCOM that this was the correct form of action.
From moving to Thanington in March, up until June 2017, Armando was quite happy with his situation and was preparing a planning application. He was expecting housing to support him by checking ahead that the property he moved into was somewhere he could get planning permission for. Before he moved.
Armando was advised by the RSGB Planning Team to take advantage of pre-planning and obtain a certificate of lawful development, when attempting to put this into practice it was contradicted by the architect as being a waste of time and money. From this point it became important to monitor the process.
There were discrepancies between the process actual and the process expected according to both the RSGB and the Kent Design Guide. An aide to planning applications in Kent.
All went well until the planning officers decision. Following a verbal report of a conversation with the planning officer from the architect, it appeared that the decision would be for his proposal as there were no objections by the closing date.
There then came another message: “A councillor has asked for your application to go before the planning committee. There was going to be a refusal, and it was a committee decision, because of its impact on visual amenity”.
By coincidence we had interviewed the councillor for Thanington who said he was going to intercept the proposal and make sure it would go before the planning committee. He was generally disparaging of amateur radio and made inappropriate remarks, some of which we heard influencing the planning committee outcome when considering his failed application at Thornhurst. We question his attitude. During the conversation we had, he stereotyped Armando as a Radio Ham, “You radio hams”. “You should expect trouble if you put up those structures in your gardens”. (We say; It is wrong to blame the victim for the anti social behaviour of his neighbours, the council has a duty. Also when they gave him trouble, the council he sits on are expected to prevent that and not condone it. Also they have a duty not to waste public money. See below. The same councillor was most vocal during the planning meeting, leading the less experienced councillors, together with the chairwoman, when he should have left the room. We say he had a deep rooted prejudice.
Going by prior experience, Armando was understandably upset and wanted to know more. He had assumed the cooperative process described in the Kent Design Guide, and also as described by RSGB Planning would be available to him, and was proceeding in that direction. As far as he knew he would be able to ask questions and could modify the plan if there were issues, to make a more acceptable proposal.
He asked for more information – a questionnaire was produced. This included how and by who had the application been diverted to a committee decision. Also about visual amenity.
The response was that “The Canterbury City Council Planning department cannot answer questions during the process, due to its high case load.”
Armando had identified two possible candidates for the interception.
He became concerned about; visual impact, the assurances made by East Kent Housing, the lack of a meeting on site with the planning officer and the lack of a response to his questions. This led us to create a separate overview of his locality.
He could not reconcile the phrase “visual amenity”, when related to the area, in context. In the area there are several objects in the street scene that take the eye and it is litter strewn, several refrigerators have been seen since the time he moved in. A number of vertical objects are present. Objects that the proposal would be wholly congruent with, such as an electricity substation on his doorstep fenced with grey iron railings (the same colour scheme as the mast). Also nearby residents are used to seeing Multidirectional Telephone junctions mounted on Telegraph poles. Presenting a tee shape, similar to the proposal. Also the refusal seemed to suggest the application could be controlled by one neighbour next door, based on the “fact” she “might” see the antenna and make an objection, but who didn’t when asked and whose view across the property was very well screened by foliage (at the time). We think this could well result in Armando being held to ransom or promote bribery. De ja Vu.
As the report had little to say in favour of the proposal, we think the detail needed to balance the report in favour of the proposal was omitted. We asked if the planning officers report could be combined with our information, ahead of the planning committee meeting. Following the late publication of the report on 21st December, we found out this had been ignored. We took the issue up with head of planning who said he would ask the planning officer to review it. He didn’t.
From 29th December there was a game of cat and mouse. We thought it fair not to appear at the planning committee meeting until the issues raised had been reconciled.
Only the day before the planning committee meeting and on the day, was Armando to hear that there was no chance of his information being incorporated in the planning officers report or altering the decision before going before the committee. Postponements refused.
It then became a foregone conclusion and we think it was tactical that Armando was railroaded into a decision. After attempting to back out, he felt coerced into attending.
At the meeting, we weren’t allowed to speak, before or after I had spoken on his behalf. Despite asking for three slots. We had to listen to his application being assassinated by the PO and two councillors, one of whom had a grudge and the other with inappropriate fixed views.
Armando deeply believes that this is a poor example of public service standards and has quoted the Nolan Report. He has asked his MP to intervene with EKH. Here he was directed to complain to the LG&SCO – the local government and social care ombudsman.
From the campaign POV he is unable to identify anyone in Canterbury City Council who can take responsibility and make things happen. His rights to enjoy his property are at risk.
Also because there are more than one amateur, in more than one council area affected by malicious complaints which triggered this saga, he is offering the chance for RSGB to help by calling in his application.
became clear that the process he was a participant in, fell short of guidelines. Essentially his needs, which the secretary of state for community and local government says must be met by the planning process, were discarded on the strength of a single report biased towards denying him those needs.
At each stage of the process he raised a number of issues and objections first with the planning officer in charge and then with the head of planning. These requests were systematically ignored. Attempts to stop the process to allow for the issues to be rectified were also ignored, railroading him towards a decision made solely on the recommendation of the planning officer. Evidence Mr Martins supplied to refute that decision was not disclosed. The planning officers recommendation contained a clause giving the power to refuse or take the antenna down was given to his neighbour.
There were no objections, and on this basis it was expected the planning officer would make the decision to allow the mast. Instead the decision was sidetracked into a committee decision and the truth about how that was carried out was obfuscated. Mr Martins was denied the support of his local councillor, and the Radio Society of Great Britain. But has support from his MP.
If your wondering why at 77 Years of age there is no support for this then join the club.
Naturally disappointed, Mr Martins refuses to give up. The local press has had a bit of a field day. Our response was to contact the reporter immediately regarding the councillors inside knowledge of our petition and the lack of data or the willpower to verify it in order to support his own planning decision, in respect of the numbers of amateur radio operators in the Canterbury area. Invalidating our argument is a technique well covered by literature. We summed up the planning committee meeting as deeply ingrained cultural bullying. Firstly his access to the process was interfered with by not allowing him time to speak.
We think the process was used to relentlessly drive the application towards a final decision whilst not disclosing the full facts associated with the site or the application.
It became clear that there is no place for amateur radio enthusiasts in the 460 +/- pages of local plans, supposedly prepared with the consultation of all people in local communities.
Our response the the press did raise the eyebrows of the RSGB.
In the community, living in fear has a number of causes. It most likely results from excessive control being asserted over one or more members of the population and a need to avoid sanctions. In the extreme it can lead to stress, violence, and ultimately cause suicide.
This article focuses on controlling neighbours using fear for their own gratification. It examines how one vulnerable group of people is affected by bad laws and lack of public service resources leaving them open to abuse by controllers.
Sanctions. These are measures which a controller has within his power to invoke. In the neighbourhood these include stigmatisation and social exclusion. Once sanctioned the controller can use that information to control others.
When a controller has no power, their devious and manipulative traits and their need to control others is enough to escalate. Once they have started this obsessive behaviour they have got to go on until the end is achieved. They will be coercing others with more power into carrying out their exploits.
In the community, council workers at all levels, including the police appear vulnerable to becoming a proxy acting on behalf of the controller, by the nature and powers of their job. They are hired and trained especially for similar traits and attitude.
Fit in or Fuck Off
This inappropriate standard is a threat which has been applied by human resources in the workplace, and bullies nationally to ensure control is maintained, over potential trouble makers for example. It is highly likely to be applied in the community. In itself it invokes extreme behaviour. It is the direct opposite of live and let live, which is the desirable objective of communities. Fit in or Fuck Off in the community means if the victim doesn’t comply he or she will be forced to move away. This is outlawed in Great Britain under the freedom from harassment act).
If you aren’t open to being controlled and don’t have the strength to resist it, then its a sure sign your life could become poisoned by controlling behaviour.
Normal people will try to live within social rules, deviation can lead to a range of sanctions. designed to ensure people stay on the side of the controller. The level of sanctions applied depends on many factors such as autonomy, power and the resources available to enforce control. It can depend on rank whether sanctions are imposed or even fitting in. Once a “limit” (also variable) of deviation is reached sanctions are invoked. Challenging authority and the ability to escalate invokes a greater response.
In normal life it stands to reason that to apply sanctions requires authority. Sanctions must be measured and appropriate, to be effective.
Abuse of Power
Among the tools of the controlling mindset are lies, plausibility and gullibility and misinformation. An abuser may use fear mongering or other forms of abuse such as emotional blackmail to obtain conformity.
To live in the vicinity of a coercive controlling character is to live in fear. He or she will have many controlling skills to be avoided and will be able to conceal his or her actions when they are used.
On the receiving end of prolonged abuse are psychiatric or physical injury.
In the community, one common way to poison the life of somebody you don’t like, (assuming the victim hasn’t already done it them self), is for the controller to tell lies or half truths about them. Where the victim is a couple, this is more effective. Some husbands won’t care what people think or say, but the stigmatisation will have an impact on the female partner who values social contact and neighbourliness. An attack by a controlling neighbour can lead to strained relationships and trigger controlling within the partnership. The power used here is the relationship the abuser (may) have with the neighbours he or she shares with the victim. To escape this treatment one only has to comply completely with the poisoners personality.
Real Life Examples
In three of our case studies involving amateur radio enthusiasts, separate controlling neighbours tried to achieve gratification by asserting control over another. To achieve this they raised a bogus objection to the unusual antenna structures they created in their gardens.
In each case the behaviour started with a warning “are you allowed to put that pole up?” (Or “ditto that wire there?”). Or more directly “you can’t do that, you haven’t got planning permission”. There then follows a visit from the local council planning department.
In one case the planning department saw through the controlling behaviour and refused to escalate for the controller, denying him the gratification. This led to the planning department themselves being abused by the controller. The controller went to extreme measures in his attempt to gratify himself. This included stigmatising the victim accosting him and his wife , hysterically screaming at the victim and his wife, eventually culminating in several assaults.
In two others cases, the planning department met the aims of the controller(s) to their complete satisfaction. As far as the local authorities were concerned the victim was to blame and was subjected to indiscriminate enforcement orders by unauthorised council workers and excessive bureaucracy – forcing the victim into the planning process when it wasn’t appropriate. At no time were any measurements taken or tolerances applied.
When tracing back why this had been so effective, the Armando Martins campaign concluded that the personnel dealing with the “complaints” of the controller knew nothing about controlling behaviour and were completely taken in. The controller coerced them into complying. They didn’t have the authority to enforce change, but it was easier to do so or face being bullied by the controller(s). The staff involved had scant knowledge about amateur radio and where it fits within planning law. The same staff authorise planning applications or provide reports for councillors expected to make planning decisions. According to social media, these factors lead to radio amateurs living in fear, resorting to avoidance and limiting their activities while being forced to comply with a very complicated rule set. Attacks by the controllers have caused people to give up their hobby in order to avoid the unwanted attention.
The one way that this can be avoided is nationally by a joint legal action by radio amateurs against controlling neighbours and planning rules. Another possible action is to train the local council or to ensure radio amateurs are included in local plans. The latter must happen.
This year we have been tracking Armando Martins (M0PAM), a radio amateur, in his engagements with Canterbury City Council as he applies the planning process to the antennas he wishes to erect in the garden of his council accommodation.
We followed up on three incidents amounting to a blanket ban on all types of amateur radio antenna by the council housing department. This ban was unlawful, and infringed his rights under the National Planning Policy Framework, Town and Country Planning Act and its associated General Permitted Development Order, et al.
We think what happened was initially a gross misuse of the planning system instigated by his neighbours. We say a professional organisation with the city councils resources would have prevented this misuse, rather than being drawn into it. What made it possible was a complete lack of understanding of the acts and council policy, by council workers.
Raising the Issues
On the first occasion we studied what had happened and on the second and third occasions we took the time to work with the council to test and develop the necessary understanding. (However its too early to tell whether this work has created a lasting and permanent change).
Now Armando is in the process of applying for planning permission and finds his application is on the verge of being refused. There are some discrepancies in the way his application has been handled.
Emotionally, this year has been a very worrying and stressful time, being micromanaged by council officials for several years has affected his life. We say, when nobody knows how long they have on the planet who would want to waste their time struggling with their local council in a distorted process? We have heard from people who have simply given up in frustration when it should be clear cut.
Because of the combined experience of Armando and others we think in some parts of the country the process is in disarray and therefore open to abuse. It could be different.
To gain this view we followed up various situations where other peoples neighbours have abused the planning process with the intention to cause difficulty. We think this practice is undesirable and part of a crime, when harassment is intended.
It goes wrong when unwarranted complaints are accepted and supported by untrained housing officers, and then arbitrarily enforced, without first checking whether the complaint is abusive or relevant. What happens is the abuser is gratified, when actually they should be made to account for their actions – wasting council time etc.
Abuse is facilitated when councils do not share the complainers details with the victim. The fact is the council people who could prevent the abuse, work in different silos and don’t consult with each other. The worst possible impact is on vulnerable people, or the victims of – persistent unwanted behaviour intended to cause harm – a.k.a Stalking. Harm because complaints cause stress and are hard to deal with.
In more than one of our case studies, one neighbour in a community is inflicting unwanted and emotional abuse on another, using the council to achieve it, and at the taxpayers expense.
We acknowledge that there is just as much chance that a council worker is making a bad decision, for example to refuse to give permission for a permitted development, based on sparse knowledge of the process (passing the buck to the planning department) etc. This can also feel abusive. We have cited contravention of the wishes of the SOS for Health and the SOS for Community and Planning as further reasons why this process needs to change.
Defective Planning Process
From what Armando says, the process in Canterbury is secretive and political. The planning department is under pressure of work (high case load) and refuses to share data with him at this stage on those grounds. This removes the opportunity to anticipate, amend and resubmit his plans. Because of this and previous experience we think the process in use at CCC lacks openness and transparency, has little substance and is open to further abuse from arbitrary decision making. As new cases come to light on a monthly basis we ask:
Isn’t it time this defective process was fixed?
Stuart Dixon MBCS, GCGI, MInstLM (G4IYK), R MacDonald (2E0ATZ), Armando Martins – (M0PAM),
1. Surveys and Data 2. What we Want (Airing a possible Solution)
Appendix 1 – Surveys and Data
Case Studies 1 and 2. Please note our two previous case studies, Armando Martins being number 1, and Number 2 which, is now subject to legal action by the police. We visited and spoke to three radio amateurs both living in separate areas of the South of England who all agreed to give further examples we could use of what is thought to be a growing problem.
Case Study 3. On a recent weekend, a 65 year old disabled person, living alone, was removing his antenna after receiving intimidating and threatening letters from Bexley Council. He removed an antenna which was well within his rights to retain because “he didn’t want the hassle”. He thinks the councils action was initiated by a neighbour who has demonstrated controlling behaviour towards him going back several decades. Interestingly they agreed the antenna was lawful, but suggested he had to re-apply for planning permission as the polarisation had changed from vertical to horizontal. (The top part of the installation, from upright to flat.) even though this reduced the height and made it less conspicuous.
As planning comes at a cost of £180 he has curtailed activity on the six meter amateur band. The work of taking it down, although on this occasion by volunteers, could have cost him a few hundred pounds. Note Hassle = Further intimidation. He thinks he would not be in this position, nor would the council have incurred costs but for the inappropriate and anonymous action of a neighbour, deliberately designed to put him out and intimidate or humiliate him.
Case Study 4. In Gravesend, a 76 year old retired and disabled gentleman who lives with his wife and two dogs has received unwanted attention and criticism from a next door neighbour for several years. Although unrelated, now an anonymous caller has left several trademark calling cards on his doorstep over the last few months, obviously related to his hobby. This is unwanted behaviour designed to cause fear and as such not a joke. He notes he is losing the support of his wife who doesn’t want the hassle, in common with the victim in Case Study 2. He said he doesn’t understand how the council can take action against radio amateurs but ignore the gangs of youths roaming the streets at night setting off fireworks upsetting his dogs.
Case Study 5. This is an elderly blind and disabled person living in Sheltered Accommodation in Southampton who the council will not support to erect a simple wire antenna. He writes “I think I’m beyond helping. I’m disabled and in supervised housing. Been licensed since 1972. RSGB recommend a “magmount on a tea tray”. RAIBC can’t help. I don’t want much but the council say Radio Amateurs interfere with tv hence ‘no’.
A similar case has developed recently in Portsmouth.
Comments from Petition Responders. Several comments received from responders to the Armando Martins Campaign support these case studies.
Social media contains more data to support the view that there is a growing problem. Some news reports have been taken into account.
One of the issues is costs to the local councils, police and magistrates who all have much better things to spend time and money on. While local areas are full of rubbish, all find it difficult to see how council officials can waste time on this.
Appendix 2 What We Want (Airing a Possible Solution)
Basically what this campaign wants is for a fair and equitable process:
Councils to stop issuing inappropriate “enforcement” orders.
As these can be life changing if misused, these should only come from experts and be supported by objective measurements set within the process.
We identify anti-social behaviour as one source of these inappropriate actions. Radio users in the community are easy targets for controlling behaviour (aka Goal Blocking). (This applies to many kinds of development, not just ham radio.) Malicious attacks often come in the form of anonymous reports which use enforcement action as a means of delivery. Council Workers at the lower level are not trained to respond appropriately, identify compliance with the various acts or recognise anti-social aspects. They themselves are in danger of being drawn in by unfounded complaints and\or committing an act themselves.
We want all council officials to be armed with a policy that prevents stressful goal blocking by neighbours and putting the cost of resolution back to the initiator of complaints. We think Initiators of complaints to the council must identify themselves at the outset, first and foremost to the owner of the alleged offending object. They must then take appropriate action before engaging the council, i.e. they must show evidence of mediation and proof of a breach before councils act. This puts the burden of proof of any allegation, on the person making it.
(It’s not just about amateur radio – its common sense applicable to all sorts of common garden objects. This measure will save councils money and focus council workers on more pressing matters. This will help combat\prevent neighbour stalking).
Reinstatement of PPG8 at a local level.
PPG8 was the only succinct and humane document that could possibly prevent the misuse of council enforcement. (It must be improved on and re-instated(RSGB).
The root cause of this is obscure documentation about planning requirements which identify TV and Domestic Antenna and put de-minimis and permitted Amateur Radio Antennae developments into the same class as you would expect to use for an outbuilding, conservatory or house extension. Radio users are not property developers. Council workers who are not experts can be easily misled into thinking there is no such thing in planning law as an amateur radio antenna.
RSGB to take a role
We think the RSGB should be more open about the current problems coming forward and the impact of localism. We think there are opportunities for change and it must have an action plan. It should at least stand up for radio amateurs. We suggest it starts by educating them, via its regional network to assert their heritage and rights into local plans.
Also from the RSGB and our councils we want a fair and timely, modern process that operates 24/7 and includes tenancy matters in its processes. An accurate digital system would save all time and effort and reduce the number of volunteers needed by RSGB.
We realise a FAQ may settle many issues and ours is set out already. RSGB to review and adopt this as part of the their process.
The late Dr Tim Field taught us to predict, resist, challenge and combat bullying.
Several years of ill treatment by a neighbour which; included five cases of assault, resulted in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – and also contributed to the loss of his job, prompted one victim to take action against a tyrannical stalker who had latched onto, and was victimising him. The victim gives us insight into his struggle to get the police and local community safety unit to recognise the crimes of Stalking and Harassment and to do something useful and positive to assist.
Despite Stalking being a crime and the presence of several other criminal acts, the police approach is summarised as “pass the buck”. They continuously claimed the crimes were civil matters despite the contrary being posted on the CPS website. This left the victim to deal with what was in effect a multitude of criminal acts, in the civil courts.
Various factors led the victim to review the costs of their recommendations and he realised that they were being passed on to him – he thinks as a cost cutting measure. Meanwhile in other areas, the police do recognise and deal with stalking as a crime.
In hindsight he sees this as a postcode lottery. He also thinks that the police were diverted from realising the seriousness of the affair by the perpetrator who employed various bullying tactics to control his neighbours.
This article examines the common strategic tactic used by stalkers and bullies called DARVO. Standing for Denial, Attack, Reverse Roles of Victim and Offender, this behaviour has been used by generations of stalkers and bullies, to avoid detection and evade confrontation. Properly executed DARVO isolates the victim of stalking, harassment or bullying from effective support.
In abusive toxic organisations such as the mental health services, anti-bullying policies that fail the victim and allow bullying managers to target workers in the same way, have also been experienced. Appointing an internal, salaried investigator to deal with bullying or stalking can turn into yet another form of attack.
This article therefore calls for the police and the unions to rethink their strategy when victims complain of a pattern of unwanted, fixated and obsessive behaviour which is intrusive and causes fear of violence, serious alarm or distress. The definition of stalking, according to Paladin who run the national stalking helpline.
DARVO strategically delays or defeats justice and prolongs the stress of the victim, giving the perpetrator maximum opportunity to destroy him or her. By exposing the tactic it is hoped that victims, supporters and police officers can learn how to break the cycle of stalking attacks, and shorten or curtail the victims exposure. No victim should be left to tackle a stalker alone.
How Stalking Works
Stalkers are sneak attackers, expert in causing mental pain in ways that only the victim, or someone with rare empathy can detect. They often exploit some unique personal characteristic(s) or “failure” on the part of the victim in the attack. Fictional, half true or otherwise, nonetheless attacks hurt the victim where others would not be hurt. This makes it difficult for others to understand.
Perpetrators engineer and enjoy unwanted contact with victims. It suits their purpose, which is to control and if not, sadistically destroy their victim or target. Often this is achieved by using the victims emotions as a weapon to de-stabilise them, eventually invoking mental illness. As a last resort the perpetrator may employ violence if they cannot achieve what they want emotionally.
Unwanted Contact and Intrusions
In stalking or bullying, contact incidents are extremely unpleasant for the victim, being designed to engage him or her and the stalker, (and\or a third party) in a conflict situation. Normally how the victim handles conflict will decide the outcome for them.
Normally when conflict occurs, depending on the severity, it results in an outcome which can easily be forgotten for example, both parties move on etc. Equality is achieved between the parties or they adopt superior or inferior roles which they both respect. Under abnormal circumstances the conflicting parties can also divide into the roles of stalker and victim.
The victim who does not handle conflict well, (or has further attractive characteristics (beyond the scope of this article)), and exposes this to a psychopath, is drawn into a destructive relationship.
As the perpetrators intention is to destroy or eliminate the target, and overt violence is risky and illegal, the conflict is carried out by attacking emotional weaknesses in the target that cause stress.
Having witnesses present during the attack serves a number of purposes for example to highlight the victims weakness, especially if in response the victim acts offensively (or defensively) or “out of character”.
The accumulative effect of many incidents over time damage the victims self confidence, can erode the targets reputation when delivered in public or behind the targets back and are aimed at asserting control and dominance.
Often hidden, or disguised as normal behaviour, when delivered in public, this type of attack gives the perpetrator power over others by showing them how they could also be treated or abused by the perpetrator, if they don’t conform. (or “toe the line”). The perpetrator that inspired this article has mistreated members of the victims family in order to get at the victim, and then further attempted to exploit the victims responses to his tirades. Many unwanted intrusions and contacts have been arranged that bring the victim into contact with the authorities to draw them into assisting him in his aims. A loyal citizen, the victim only wants to go about his business and maintain his reputation as law abiding member of the community. This is so far disrupted. The resulting fear has created further incidents where the family see how the victim is treated and are immediately alerted to the presence of the perpetrator and respond adversely to it.
Consequently people around a stalker or bully tend to live in fear, and when they see what is happening they tend to gratify the perpetrators behaviour or turn their back on the victim, both acts that feed and encourage the perpetrator. Selected victims will find it difficult to provide an appropriate response and through stress and anxiety, a physical illness, called hyper-vigilance, victims will wish to avoid further abusive contacts when the stalker is around. Just seeing or hearing signs the stalker is around will trigger a response.
Mediation and face to face meetings between victim and offender are feared by the victim because of this ability to trigger such a response and exploit it; degrade, demean or invalidate the victim. Perpetrators aim to keep their own name clear by avoiding being caught, and demonise or label the victim. To the victim the stalker is a bully, and to anybody else he would like them to think of him as a truly great neighbour.
How DARVO works
When a victim begins to relate the impact of the perpetrators behaviour, during any resulting confrontation between the victim or a third party supporter, the stalker denies any offence or meaning, caused by his or her actions. Feigning apology may lull the situation. A tissue of lies and half-truths will be used to support this. Due to the credibility of the stalker and his or her excuses, denial serves the purpose of asserting their preferred version of events.
To embed this view, a diversionary or counter attack can also be mounted. This has the aim of discrediting the victim, commonly shifting the focus onto some offensive action purported to have been committed by them. A fictitious event or some minor misdemeanour or performance issue blown out of proportion will suffice. This gives false reason and motive to the real offenders action and diverts the spotlight away from the original (victims) complaint. Such attacks often involve a “characteristic” of the victim, for example one very effective tool is to claim the victim is ill or unfit, (even though this is due to the stalkers action). Labels are used to stigmatise the victim with mental health or performance problems, incompetence or a criminal record.
Reverse Role Victim\Offender.
The perpetrators aim is to portray the victim as being responsible for the offence. “Because you did this, I did that”. A fantasy version of “events” puts the victim in the position of wronging the perpetrator or other parties involved.
The aim is for the perpetrator to get the support of the local community surrounding the victim as well as that of the investigator and eventually the victims friends.
The victim is further isolated, while the stalkers behaviour remains unchallenged or they gain status.
Investigators will shift their judgement to the victim and lose the will to act against the perpetrator.
(Another version of this occurs in workplaces when HR investigators on the organisations payroll begin to act for the perpetrator.)
Gaining Advantage – The Perpetrator
Stalkers are obsessive and therefore convinced in their right to pursue a course of action in what is often a fantasy or delusional situation involving a victim. In one mode, he or she has well developed powers of persuasion and charm. Also they may have, or think they have rank, status and power in the community, (or organisation) above the victim. If not they may attempt to cultivate a relationship and get support from somebody who has the muscle, rank and status, which can then be used to carry out attacks by proxy. This may be a higher value boss, a council official or a police officer etc. The more senior the better.
He or she may vent – victimising others when they don’t conform to expectations, or escalate until he finds people who he can suck into the situation, to pull rank, causing a break in the process or a diversion.
Perverting the Course of Justice
By gaining the support of the investigator(s), further advantages are given to the perpetrator, enabled by the action or failure to act of investigators and the victim. These actions or in-actions make it much less likely the victim will obtain justice. A short list of actions and outcomes from the victims experiences follows:
Victim. Avoidance of the perpetrator. Due to the obsessive nature of the offence, the perpetrator would re-engineer contact, even when asked many times to stay away.
Victim. Denial – shutting off from what just happened at the end of an incident under the assumption it is over and the perpetrator won’t return. In reality this left the victim exposed to further attacks.
Victim. Misunderstanding the role of the perpetrator, blaming themselves (what did I do to deserve that?) or being blamed by others.
Victim. Following bad advice to do any of the above.
Victim\Police. Taking no action to prevent further attacks – police (or investigators) fail to use powers or invoke laws or policy. Victim fails to learn lessons or take preventative measures to stop repeat incidents. Perpetrator thinks he can get away with it. Attacks intensify.
Police. Multiple uncoordinated incidents, with more than one investigator, no single controlling mind. The victim thinks the current policing model makes continuity impossible and a new policing model that provides continuity is needed – see below.
Police. Applying dispute management or conflict resolution processes which give equal weight to the perpetrator and victim, inadvertently giving the perpetrator the advantage over the victim due to their different human characteristics.
Police. Fear of the stalker. Allowing them to control the situation, and to escalate through the ranks to find and target decision makers.
Organisations. Who use employees to investigate allegations. This escalates the stalking behaviour and is a tool which can be easily manipulated to bring overwhelming defeat to the victim instead of offering protection. Organisations that do this almost certainly have a toxic culture.
The victim discovered DARVO through Wikipedia and when he realised what it was, he reviewed his incident log. It was highly probable that DARVO was responsible for the never ending situation he found himself in.
The police just closed most of the incidents without following up and “hard luck” “we wouldn’t want a neighbour like that”.
The victim had located a fault in the process being used by the police. His local force has consistently demonstrated no skills in dealing with the issues caused by the stalking mindset or serial harassers. Nationally and statistically this was true. (BBC News\National Police Surveys\Paladin).
The police never reviewed what the perpetrator had said to them, with the victim.
On many occasions the perpetrator had bragged about the police coming to interview the victim after an incident – “because it was your fault”.
The flawed process also includes:
Dropping and closing incidents without reviewing with the victim
Never referring back to the victim over the outcome – whether it was satisfactory or not.
Attempting face to face mediation when it was not appropriate
Blocking the victim from seeing information about him in police logs
New Process Needed
The flaws in the process give rise to the idea that a new policing process is required to deal with stalking. Briefly a single timeline, under regular review by a single trained mind with an aim to end the belligerence and resulting stress is required. DARVO is so basic a concept it is hard to believe the police don’t train for it already.
Once the victim had become DARVO aware, he developed a counter strategy, first documenting it and then making it plain that he thought the perpetrator was lying to them.
Rationale and Personal Risk in the Approach
The victims rationale was (within limits) to do some of the work the police should have done. To expose DARVO he would leave the perpetrator in no doubt that he was acting within his rights. Avoiding the perpetrator or avoiding upsetting him would be counter-productive to evidence gathering. His mere presence seemed to trigger an attack. Information about the level and continuity of activity against him was essential and he and his family had to be seen to be above the law. Anything that confirmed the actions as those of a stalker was not to be encouraged nor discouraged. He decided gathering evidence was worth some risk while protecting his family. Importantly one benefit of his approach was that the effectiveness of the abuse was reduced – his own actions gave him back some control.
When he cut off the abusers access to him in a specific location, he found the abuser increased his range of trivial actions which confirmed his attention had not diminished. The number of these signalled that the next attack was due and confirmed the perpetrators modus opperandii.
Eventually the perpetrator was caught out.
The law allows for a proportional response. After identifying unwanted behaviour you are highly likely to want to stop it and you may wish to consult with police and housing services about curtailing the behaviour. An effective counter strategy is required. Follow Police advice. This will mean religiously logging and reporting incidents to them. They are likely to tell you no crime has been committed when events are trivial and no damage has been done – labelling it as a neighbour dispute seems to absolve them of any any responsibility despite what it says on their website. Keeping a log is essential. Stalking behaviour is likely to comprise a number of events over a period of time. Not logging any encounter is likely to prolong the realisation that a crime is in progress. The victim is often seen as a perpetrator and any aggression will be reflected back to him or her which exacerbates the difficulty of dealing with it effectively. You will need to:
Know your Enemy – research behaviour and establish motivation.
Recognise your own relevant weaknesses and build capability.
In case 2, the victim realised that he was under the abusive thumb of a tyrant who had the objective of ruining his families life, and would not let go i.e was fixated on him. He found out mainly through research and acquired knowledge about the typical behaviour and compared examples with experience. After recognising the crime of stalking, he realised his stalker was somehow preventing direct intervention by the police and took steps to find out how. He kept an open channel with the police, while taking care not to mimic the offender by keeping a matter of fact and short approach, while documenting his version of events – which were being somehow overridden.
This included losing his job which kept him busy and diverted time from dealing with the offender. Instead he made it his part time day job to; work with the police, seek legal advice and study and develop countermeasures.
He made it plain that he would be continuing his life within his rights, despite the controlling and aggressive behaviour which he would challenge, not ignore.
Identify Attack Zones
He identified the zones more or less likely to be used in an attack and confirmed the likelihood of an attack on his property and placed legal deterrents such as anti climbing paint and bird spikes. On more than one occasion these were challenged by the perpetrator and inspected by the police.
Limiting Exposure to Attack
While going about his business he developed safe ways of doing things such as using the car, carrying or having personal safety cameras around and developing limited and legal defences when trespassing or surveillance was involved. Where walls were built within legal limits and this was being used to trespass the height was raised. (As he developed these defences, his abuser was cheeky enough to attempt to get the council to order their removal, so he could carry on his attacks unimpeded). The victim was prepared to go to court to justify the action and that was sufficient to deter any action.
Logging and Recording Everything
Go-Pro is your friend. The Victim made use of several types of personal safety cameras such as the Go-Pro. Contrary to popular belief, fixed home security cameras are not the best method of recording crime on your property. This is because you must avoid pointing into areas where you are recording neighbours and passers by which is a severe limitation when trying to catch intruders. Due to a legal ruling fixed home security cameras were used only for gathering evidence of the offence and once it had been gathered were dispensed with. Otherwise you must obey the guidelines published by the information commissioner. Mobile phones are also less useful. In the heat of the moment menu systems and camera settings cause difficulty. On the other hand a Go Pro can easily be positioned on a flat surface and the only control required is to switch it on.
The police understand video evidence and spreadsheets. Keeping police updated by sharing video evidence and updating a database of each incident and including any crime reference numbers helped the victim to group the incidents and save wasting police time, (two logs were being kept, one by the police.)
Looking after Himself
He went to his GP. GP’s are aware of the symptoms of reactive depression and PTSD which result from this behaviour. This helped limit the toxic effect of the perpetrator and allowed him to concentrate.
Establish Intent\Taking Control
Do nothing that would deter the offender from initiating incidents but at the same time do nothing to trigger them. Limit own actions to things that are within your rights. Control access to property using alarms or “tell tales”. The victim in case 2 used grease at strategic points, as a tell tale which was invisible from the direction of attack. The perpetrator was foolish enough to complain about this and claim it to be criminal damage, and also attempt to force the victim to clean it off. Alarms will alert you to intruders.
Reduce the number of available Attack Zones
Position obstacles or cover from view screens. This gained him the choice of where the attacks took place and enabled him to decide whether to use, avoid or eliminate these locations.
The victim in case 2 documented the assailants methods, particularly his use of cameras for surveillance. This was how he picked his time and place to attack. As the cameras went up he had sufficient evidence to note a rise in the number of incidents. He challenged this surveillance as two criminal offences were being committed. (the offender ignored his challenges). The police refuse to deal with the issue.
The victim documented the lies the stalker used to justify his actions and the style of the attacks. He found a “stalking horse” in the form of a trumped up “neighbour dispute” was being used to justify the attacks, and throw the police off track. He set about neutralising that excuse by not disputing it, but studying the law and asserting his rights. It helped him to note the burden of proof was on the stalker and there was never any forthcoming evidence to back up his false accusations or complaints.
Know the direction of travel and Develop Appropriate Responses
By using lessons learnt from conflict management he knew if he was being assaulted he would be able to use minimum force in response. The stalker had already physically assaulted him and his wife and due to inaction by the police the attacks had gradually got worse.
When the assailant waved a sharp object in front of the victim during the first of two assaults, the victim retaliated by pushing him away. This deliberately restrained incident was reported by both the victim and the assailant as an assault. The assailant naturally blamed the victim, however the victim had video. Not content with his effectiveness on that occasion, the assailant repeatedly harassed the police with a set of lies to amplify his case against the real victim and urged them to take action. (Source: the police).
When the police didn’t respond in the way he wanted, there was a second assault within a month. This time the assailant made out the victim had damaged his property, used in the attack, when he disarmed the perpetrator. He denied that what he did was assault when he found out his story was contradicted by the victims video of the event. When compared to the perpetrators version of events it clearly showed who the aggressor was. Under interview, the perpetrator had exposed himself as a liar – even denying it was him in the video. His DARVO strategy was now neutralised. In court he pleaded not guilty but was forced to change his plea. He pleaded guilty to assault and was given a conditional discharge and 2 years on the promise that if he harassed the victim in those two years he would find himself back in court for sentencing. The victim opened a complaint to the police one month after the courts decision due to ongoing harassment. The victims property and access points are still under surveillance from four cameras.
Stalking is an extreme behaviour resulting from a disorder. To limit the damage and break the cycle of abuse, requires appropriate countermeasures. The resolution of stalking behaviour is a police responsibility, and the victim in this case has spent years under the thumb of a Tyrant, a serial harasser or stalker with designs on ruining his whole family’s life. Despite eventual injury, the police had sent more than thirty different people to investigate more than sixty incidents treating each one as a standalone event, or part of a “legitimate” dispute between two similar personalities. As such they thought mediation would resolve it – which the victim rightly refused. Realising this being the limit of their experience and knowledge it caused more damage to the victim and his family. The continuity required to detect and expose DARVO was absent, as was the knowledge and willpower to deal with it on the police’s part. The victim, not being a police officer was excluded from contributing to the resolution.
At the time of writing, there is a national wave of success against stalkers being broadcast by police communications in hand with the media. It could be signalling the end for some victims although we have our doubts due to the dwindling numbers of police and the rise in violent crime absorbing police time. As at 11/18 political gain is being made of the end of austerity but no visible sign of improvement to policing is seen. (See also here). This comes after Paladin highlighted the failure of police to bring stalkers to justice after five years with the new laws in place. For others the behaviour continues with victims unsupported. It is hoped this article has exposed this and given rise to the need for change. The idea that all police and genuine workplace investigators can develop the methods they need to identify and directly support the victims of stalking and harassment is a change which is taking its time to come about.
A cross Kent campaign is coming to Gravesham in July 2017 promising to clean up. This involves a smartphone app called littergram which posts the location and pictures to the councils involved. The good news for Gravesham is the borough council are involved, in July 2017. Are you ready?, Don’t wait for July Download the app and make it a success.
As much of our hidden rubbish dumps are also covered by weeds during the summer, don’t let this stop you. Give a short description when you send your reports in.