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.
While I was challenging the attitude of a planning authority toward a man struggling against malicious neighbours backed by overwhelming bureaucracy I came across a senior civil servant in power who sat on his hands when I appealed to him for help. We were talking about rigidly sticking to rules that were clearly disadvantaging my friend and how to change that in the UK planning System when he simply invalidated my friends rights because he is in a minority – “planning won’t change just for you – you’re in a minority.” I realise now why I felt so uneasy about this. Our rights were being trampled over as a justification for doing nothing to help. I persevered and later joined in with a public consultation on the topic which was more fruitful. See this link for a definition of what a Tyranny of the Majority is. I see this reflected in every day life; “There are only 55000 of us, we will never get a petition through parliament (which needs 100,000 signatures) etc”. A further concern I have is that my friend had his planning application refused by this local planning authority on the grounds that one neighbour might object to his proposal despite no objection. I conclude my friend is being punished by a tyrannical organisation who will go to any length to smite him without a fair trial on the say so of a bogus complainer.
This short article is written by the campaign manager of the Armando Martins Campaign. During the campaign the author had to come from a position of little or no knowledge, to one of being able to challenge policies that were affecting Martins – and closing him down. Its not just him. Some of the things found to be affecting Martins actually affect all radio amateurs and citizens of the UK.
Because each of the organisations Radio Amateurs have to deal with, has its own views about what Amateur Radio is, this isn’t just a local issue.
Planning in UK drives the performance of amateur radio equipment for example, but planning law is vague.
How do licensed radio amateurs expect planning officers or council workers ever to understand that properly constructed antennas have no harmful effect whatsoever and compared to mobile phone masts their footprint is quite small – made for the back garden? Or also, that they actually support a healthy lifestyle, which is an aim both of planning policy and the NHS? Fortunately most neighbours get the point – but some don’t.
Fairness in Planning
Planners have views, council officials have views, industry has views, neighbours have views. National society’s have views. If all of these views were aligned with those of the end user and the organisation’s supporting them them the whole thing would be a lot less Fuzzy. That’s why we are calling for Fairness in Planning.
The point is, planners talk about heritage but have no idea that Amateur Radio is actually a part of that heritage. This is a risk, because right now, were the telecommunications and lighting industry to realise they were trashing an international and national heritage, it might be a whole lot easier to tackle the issues arising, such as that of Noise Pollution on Medium wave and HF Radio. Nobody seems to see this for the threat it is to our heritage. This is a more of a risk to this heritage than people know because of the potential loss of our use of the ionosphere to human audio traffic and being forced into machine modes. To protect this needs simple communications between all parties. Adopting the same view would be simpler in theory to get simple answers to questions like “Why does my £1300 transceiver perform so badly?” Or what’s that buzzing noise drowning out Capital Gold on 1548AM?” these are global questions which require global action to abate. Individuals raising complaints often are fobbed off or face massive bureaucracy, ending up losing locally the facility pioneered by our ancestors which is why an organised approach is so important. (“Amateur radio? its not all its cracked up to be”.)
As Licensed Radio Amateurs who believe in the traditions of self training and supporting learning, the board of the Armando Martins Campaign has seen too many people put off amateur radio and hiding their activities from destructive people and people who frankly should know better. This is a waste of everyone’s time: The City Fathers, the RSGB instructors and those amateurs who encourage people into the hobby and work to retain them.
The article that follows is therefore aimed to align thinking while opening up a support group for people whose hobby may become blighted as a result of rumours, myths and misinformation circulating among neighbours and public servants.
In International Amateur Radio there is a legacy, which has grown from over a hundred years of developing radio communications between global communities.
The hobby is practised by a worldwide community of makers, scientists and technicians which began to develop in the late 19th century.
Through two world wars, and lots of small wars in between, the worldwide community has developed a self-training ethos which has sustained and developed communications on the battlefield.
It continues to support people in emergencies.
It brings trainees into industry via a well-developed training medium.
In the tradition of its community, today, Licensed Radio Amateurs continue to contribute to the development of Wireless Communications as they have done in many ways which include the development of a 21st Century training syllabus, the development of new modes of communication and digital hardware and software.
As a hobby it contributes to health and well being by providing stimulation for youth and elderly people, bringing communities and like-minded people together through activities. This is a legacy worth preserving, only one of many communities that open to us, and something to be proud of and celebrate.
As the world changes, Amateur Radio changes. What’s trending in the world affects it, both in positive and negative ways, these present both opportunities and threats. Trends like social media, the internet, industrial pollution of the radio spectrum by eager but careless telecommunications operators and the industrial use of technology such as solar energy and lighting products. It is affected both by austerity and prosperity but it isn’t just for rich people. Its part of our personal development – a way of lifting people out of low skilled jobs by self training.
The impact of change and how it is managed
Some countries have robust policy within their national society that enable them to counter the negative impact of change before they cause real issues (or harm) for people. As more information becomes available, it becomes easier to change long term problems. The most worrying trends are the deafening noise pollution smothering the communications medium and drowning out signals on the HF bands. Lack of visible activity on the amateur radio frequencies. Commercial gazumping of frequencies, Licensed radio amateurs being closed down or driven underground by anti-social behaviour, nightmare neighbours and flawed planning policy. As trends emerge there are gaps in the support available.
Filling the Gap in Support
Recently the Armando Martins Campaign sprang up raising 43000 signatures to deal with the impact of anti-social behaviour. The House of Commons Petition to Exempt Amateur Radio Aerials from Planning Permission wants to see the whole planning issue simplified. Both noted that UK planning authorities et al, can completely fail radio amateurs. Now a combined approach is being taken.
The RSGB provides services for its members, sadly it has not yet provided any for those hit by anti-social behaviour and/or who can’t get permission to erect an antenna because of it. RSGB services are good, but they stick to what they know best.
To fill the gap a new service is therefore being developed independently, as any support group would for people affected by what is essentially anti-social behaviour – a criminal issue. Initially the group will be known as the Planning Policy and Neighbour Relations Support Group (Amateur Radio UK) and will work alongside existing services to tackle cases where misuse and abuse are at issue.
It will also help people whose lives are blighted by similar issues outside of amateur radio as we see a common problem affecting almost anyone who owns or rents a home and just wants to get on with their lives. The service is currently providing support for four cases where Amateur Radio is being driven underground by the attitude of nightmare neighbours and council workers. It has a live Facebook page for the purpose of communications.
The 2018 annual report for the Armando Martins Campaign touched on the likelihood of neighbours going on the attack by describing the factors involved. Although it focused on a narrow part of the community, at large the report found the likelihood of a neighbour or work colleague singling a person for special treatment is high enough to cause concern. There are implications for the health and welfare of whole communities. How authorities respond to this behaviour is another concern. Victims are treated like dreamers. The amount of money at stake for both the victims and the authorities, were they to deal with nightmare neighbours properly, is high enough to have an impact on what the public (and mental health) services can deliver.
The problems nightmare neighbours cause is largely due to toxic minded people and these can be found anywhere, in schools, the neighbourhood or in a workplace mingling with ordinary citizens. The understanding of toxic minds is not developed sufficiently enough for people in positions of responsibility to understand and act upon appropriately.
For the purpose of this article therefore, bullying and intimidation is viewed as a process and focus is given to the points in the process where the victim has opportunities to take proportional countermeasures. These are summarised toward the end of the article. The main aim is to discuss the impact on the victim and the role of the perpetrator in conflict situations for the purpose of enabling the victim to decide what can help them.
WARNING: This article describes actions taken by victims of bullying when the police or authorities didn’t react. As far as the author knows he was right in taking those actions and they were proportional and appropriate. They were consistent with public safety training he received while in the NHS. See also here for an article on the topic of what to do in the event of an attack. You should always report crime to the police. Just because your local community safety unit don’t respond, bullying is nonetheless a crime and never acceptable.
The rules of Occasional Conflict
The occasional conflict between an individual human being and an acquaintance, neighbour or work colleague can be expected. It’s a normal part of daily life. Normally any bad feelings generated are easy to disperse by an apology, a favour, a few drinks, and/or a hand shake. Recovery is quite easy to achieve this way and these are the only countermeasures needed in normal situations. The normal rules of society are that regardless of any action by the victim that may have sparked a situation, to continue it, with another wrong, won’t make it right. People make mistakes or act criminally and the fair way to deal with them is for them to face a fair trial, own up, pay up and apologise. The right to a fair trial is enshrined in the human rights act.
Abnormally, if both parties don’t recover, something might be blocking that and it could turn into a continuing and persistent conflict. Often passed off as normal behaviour – various types of conflict exist. These are often explained away as spats, grudges or vendetta. In all of these, one of the parties will go on to become victimised or punished, usually outside the rule of law, by the assailant(s). Assailants have various motives and techniques for achieving their ultimate aim – to score a hit for their own pleasure by harming the victim. Usually they disguise this as normal behaviour.
In the worst case scenario in any type of conflict, depending on the mindset of the perpetrator, the victim can face the ultimate price – death. Kenneth Noye famously killed his victim, Stephen Cameron, in a road rage incident (technically a spat). This happened near Swanley in Kent in 1996 while Noye was out on licence from prison.
Not all Injuries are Visible
Many people become victims of the extreme, abnormal and inappropriate behaviour of their assailants. Not all injuries are visible. For example Stalking, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP), is one form of extreme behaviour that a victim may encounter. They say that stalking can be triggered by the perception of the perpetrator, that the victim has somehow treated them badly or unfairly.
In stalking, therefore the assailant is responding by disrupting the victims life, coercing them with unwanted behaviour that the victim(s) will struggle to cope with. According to the RCP between 20% and 40% of victims experience symptoms of mental disorder as a result of being stalked.
How do you Respond to that?
According to one victim of bullying, this manifest in prolonged internal mental conflict about the situation that developed between him and a neighbour and how to deal with it.
Such a mental state is a very useful tool in the hands of a bullying manager or work colleague. Once the victim begins to suffer, sooner or later, depending on his or her own characteristics, he or she will eventually become unfit for work. This is due partly because of sleeplessness and partly because of mental exhaustion. Such is the level of harm caused by this trauma, it is likely to lead to a mental breakdown and for some victims, suicide.
Recovery is a specialist job and scarce health resources mean that the victim can be easily made unfit for work and without support from colleagues. At work, when their performance dips they become vulnerable targets for unlawful dismissal (which occurs despite the best occupational health and anti bullying policy.) Returning to work if the situation has not been dealt with, would simply put the victim back in harms way. Even if the conflict is manifest in the community, the victim is at risk from poor work performance.
Deliberately Engineered Toxic Situations
All of the above become useful weapons to a toxic mindset and they will very quickly take advantage of any mistake or action by the victim that can be used to deliberately engineer a toxic situation. This will provide the assailant with what they want from it – gratification.
Who is in the driving seat?
The characteristics of toxic mindsets are discussed elsewhere but if your occasional conflict at work or at home has developed into a continuing conflict with unwanted behaviour, then it is not the victim, but the colleague or neighbour turned assailant or perpetrator who is driving it.
The following plan was used successfully to counter a sadistic neighbour who perpetrated over sixty attacking incidents in 25 years against one of his neighbours:
Realise somebody is driving the situation. One victim describes the relief of finding this out, assisted by the counselling of the late Dr Tim Field, as something of an epiphany. Firstly the knowledge that he was being bullied and what that was, was Something he could use to control the mental conflict which was preventing him from performing at work or at home. (Bullying isn’t a dream like some people would have you think.) Armed with this he set in his mind a simple mantra to deal with what bullies refer to as “overthinking it”. To block some thoughts he would simply use his internal voice to say “It’s not me”. He then focused on developing countermeasures aimed to stop the assailant(s) from engineering incidents, or if he could he would disrupt them. This victim said that his assailants found it difficult to recruit somebody into his post. A technique common in the NHS to deal with trumped up work performance issues. The victim is demoted by a back door process of appointing someone to take his job. It was difficult to recruit because the victim had met each of the candidates before their job interview.
Counter Denial, Keeping Records and Writing Reports. The victims natural response to bullying is denial (part of the continuous mental conflict) once the victim has established what is behind his treatment it should become routine to log any incidents. No encounter between the victim and assailant should be “shrugged off”.
Realise its YOUR perception of events that matters. Do not let the authorities “shrug things off”. If you are the victim, its your perception of incidents that matters.
Make Time to Deal with it. Dealing with toxic people can be a daunting prospect in complex situations like the workplace. Effectively an assailant will triple your mental workload and divert energy from your lifestyle and job. Focus on the problem by devoting time to it. What happens at work, deal with at work. One victim excluded himself from other activities or gave them “back burner” status until after the bullying had been resolved. This episode earned him a lot of respect in the hierarchy for the way it was dealt with. While he “wasn’t performing as a manager”, he was letting the CEO know how he and colleagues were treated at work and how to improve that by developing anti bullying policy. Eventually in another job, this meant giving up his job, which had become unsustainable. Each situation is different.
Create a fallback. The ultimate aim of an assailant is to hit you where it hurts. If he or she can get you into the mental state described above it will have the desired effect – an impact on your ability to work. Everyone who works should ask themselves if they are out of work, how will they survive? Make sure you aren’t the vulnerable person they think you are or want you to be. Not everyone can do this but everyone should. Putting aside a few months wages as a reserve will give you a choice.
Take back control. Take control of any incidents. This can be achieved by noting when and and how they occur and the content. This will help in predicting where future incidents will occur.
Get on with your life and live it the way YOU want to. Controlling mindsets will aim to limit the victims lifestyle. Sadists get pleasure from forcing people to obey their rules. By doing things that the victim is perfectly entitled to it and not complying with twisted demands, it will expose the mindset of the perpetrator and deny the controlling assailant his or her pleasure. It will also make them more determined and in turn they will increase the number of incidents, creating more opportunities for them to give away vital clues to the behaviour.
Know the mindset you are dealing with. Take care to listen to what is being said by the assailant and study his mindset. Check against reality what he is saying to the victim and the authorities.
Be alert. Hyper-vigilance is an illness which leads the victim to be alert to sights and sounds associated with attacks. While an illness, this can be very useful. One victim said he got a valuable warning that an incident would be occurring from sounds he heard in previous incidents just before an attack. While these sounds raised his levels of fear, they also enabled him to be ready to gather evidence and briefly prepare for the inevitable.
Establish True Intent and Motive. Listening and recording what is being said by an assailant during any engagement helps to establish the assailants true intent. If you cant record it, make notes. Sort the lies and half lies from the truth and test them against reality.
Expose the assailants lies and deception. A common tactic of bullies is to fool the authorities into believing they are the victim. See DARVO here. One victim said that observing the authorities reaction to his version of events and then hearing what the assailant had told the same people about it raised his suspicion enough to research DARVO and eliminate it from the process.
Keep in touch with your GP about your illness. He or she has access to medicines that help with symptoms of reactive depression and PTSD and the GP can give you time off work to take you out of the situation – if that’s where it is. In the workplace, use the Access to Medical Records act to tell your GP to deny your assailant information about your illness. The last thing any victim will need is an assailant that knows how effective his actions against the victim are. He (or she) will be judging their success by it. Unfortunately corporate occupational health departments have a habit of sharing your health information with workplace assailant’s.
Depending on their own mindset, the initial response of victims when they realise they aren’t in a friendly relationship can be an unpleasant Adrenalin rush or shock. This is caused by the fight or flight response being triggered. Varying symptoms of post traumatic stress will occur from that point on depending on the victims mindset. For the victim this is unpleasant but for the perpetrator it brings a moment of pleasure and satisfaction.
If you find yourself in persistent conflict and becoming traumatised, the best advice ever is to walk away early on in the process. If you have just moved into a neighbourhood, this will not be what you want to hear. Almost certainly if you have bought the property, its price will drop as you will have to declare neighbourhood disputes and problems when selling. All this is good for the assailant of course as he or she can weaponise it and use it to blackmail the victim.
While putting distance between you and the nightmare might seem to be a good idea, and will prevent abusers from getting at you, in the background there will always be a link from one place to the next. This can come in the form of references, or between neighbours, some of whom would go to the extreme of influencing your life and attempt to achieve that through destroying your reputation with stigmata that follow you to wherever you are.
Of all the countermeasures we have come across I have left the best until the last. Winning is highly recommended. A win, will prove the victims case and exonerate him or her. The bullying stops and whatever form it takes you get your self esteem back.
The right place for resolving disputes is through the courts, however, like the police their knowledge of the subject is limited and easily corrupted by money and power, gossip and lies. The type of “justice” bullies rely on in the community by spreading lies and rumours about people is never acceptable.
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 – racking his brains, 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.
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.