Thursday, 26 October 2006

There is no justice!

So what else is new?

No, no, there really is no justice.

In a normally quiet London suburb there is currently a man who thinks he can do whatever he wants to whomever he wants because he’s just been found not guilty of harassing his neighbours.

For years he has abused them verbally, shone lights into their bedrooms, listened in on their telephone conversations, played very loud music in his garage so everyone can hear it, generally made their lives a misery.

Finally, finally, three weeks ago, he appeared in front of a magistrate. All his neighbours – except one, who didn’t think she could bear the stress of testifying and who is now being shunned, quite rightly in my opinion, by her neighbours – stood up in court and gave evidence about the years they have spent battling with this man. The police made their case too.

The ‘trial’ lasted over a week. It looked like a sure bet he would be found guilty. What else could the magistrate do, those people said to themselves?

He could say that, yes, listening equipment was found in the man’s possession but there was no abiding proof that he’d used it to eavesdrop on his neighbours’ telephone conversations. He could say that because he played loud music in the daytime no one was really disturbed by it. He could say that all his neighbours were neurotic old women (they were mostly elderly women, but women are the ones who find aggressive males threatening) and he’d never heard such a load of rubbish in his life.

He could say all of that and he did.

I haven’t got the strength to slap that magistrate as hard as I would wish to. There’s no point trying to slap the man: he’s invulnerable now. His name is Norman and he lives in Ruislip.


  1. Well this makes me despair. Those poor people. Or is it that when you pass a certain age and are female that your feelings don't matter because you're not human anymore?

    More of a punch than a slap from me.

  2. I think it's more that the magistrate in question probably lives in a beautiful detached house in some gated property and has never had to cope with noisy, obnoxious neighbours. It's a real scandal. The police took ages to take action and by then they thought they had a strong case. Now it's like those people wasted police time and they are more than ever at the mercy of that man.

  3. It's amazing what the law allows people to get away with. My father owns an income property and made the mistake of renting the top floor to a 50-something-year-old career swindler. This man knows the law inside and out and knows exactly what he can get for free. He stopped paying rent to my dad a year ago and only *just* moved out (and into the property of someone else he'll con; he's got a long history of this) because he knows every loophole in the court system. Incidentally, every police officer and judge my dad has spoken with knows this guy and thinks he's slime. But they can only do what they can do legally. People like this -- and the law's leniency with them -- make "vigilante justice" seem almost appealing.

    BTW, I had a downstairs neighbor once who would harass my roommate and me by playing his stereo at top volume at 3:00am, then calling in a noise complaint on US! He also stole my mail and left a snipped piece of its contents (a custom-made tweed skirt my grandmother had sent me) on my mailbox, kidnapped-child's-ear-style. I was told by the outfit that owned our apartment complex that he hadn't paid rent in 10 months, but they couldn't evict him. As long as I was living there, nothing ever happened to him. I had fantasies of torturing him--that's how harassed I felt.

  4. Oh, what a horrible story! I have one of my own too: I moved to my present building because 1) my partner already lived here; 2) because for the price of my flat in Notting Hill Gate (even before that film came out) I could get an extra room in this block. My new flat was so lovely, but within a couple of days I knew my life would be made a misery: my downstairs neighbours were skinheads (two brothers). It was a misery: one of them even threatened me in my own home. I called the police; they couldn't do anything. Nor could the managing agents. I was like a zombie. I felt suicidal. I wanted to get a gun and shout them both in the you-know-what. I had to move out after 11 months. I lost £6,000 in the process. I hate the way we all live: on top of one another.

  5. That's just outrageous. It's bad enough that the case was settled against the poor abused neighbors, but it sounds as if the magistrate was totally unsympathic to their plight as well.

  6. It's because he was unsympathetic that the case went against them. In such cases, there is no jury, just a magistrate.

  7. That's terrible story.

  8. Ugh, bela, that sounds awful. Though admittedly, living next door to skinheads sounds worse. I'd rather live next door to a creepy asshat than violent thugs. You know, on the sliding scale of things that is. I am honestly shocked that no one did anything about those two threatening you. Here, that would not only be harrassment, but possibly a hate crime, too. And in the US, hate crimes are generally taken quite seriously. That's outrageous. And scary. I wonder how many folks have been threatened like that, and then when something does happen, the police act like they're all surprised.

    Anyhow, my sympathy for you and your neighbors. What a pity there don't appear to be simple nuisance laws that the local law enforcement system would actually be willing to enforce. Jeebus. What's the point in having rules about these sort of things if the folks in charge of them don't want to do their job? How much leeway to these magistrates have in making their decisions? Is it kind of on their best judgement when it comes to believing testimony, or are they chained to having to require physical evidence as opposed to considering reliable anecdotal evidence?

  9. K, since I didn't know exactly how the magistrates' courts worked I googled it and this is what I read, 'Cases are heard in front of Magistrates or JPs who are mainly lay people who have good common sense and personal integrity. They should also have a good knowledge of people and their local community as well as the ability to listen to all sides of an argument and to contribute to fair and reasonable decisions.

    'Magistrates sit as a bench of three, one of whom has been trained to take the chair. There is always a qualified clerk on hand to deal with points of law and procedure. They deal with less serious criminal cases such as minor theft, criminal damage, public disorder and motoring offences.

    'When first appointed, magistrates have to go through a programme of training to help them to understand their duties. They need to learn enough about law and procedure, as well as having a working knowledge of the rules of evidence. They are also trained to appreciate the nature and purpose of sentencing. Throughout the initial period, they have the benefit of a mentor.'

    It's quite obvious that in this particular case the main magistrate had none of those qualities. He was a silly man with no empathy whatsoever, and I don't think he was part of the community in question. I heard on the radio a little while ago that a 19-year-old girl had been appointed somewhere in London. It made the news, it was so preposterous.

    In my own case, nothing was done about my neighbours because they'd lived in the building a long time; they were friends with one of the managing agents (young men together, you know); they hadn't actually beaten me to a pulp, and one of my female neighbours, who was also disturbed by them, refused to back me up when I complained. Oh, and the caretaker was scared of them.

  10. From what you say, it does not sound like the case was heard by magistrates. They always sit as a bench of three.
    A single individual sitting in judgement at a magistrates court - especially for a case lasting longer than a day or two - would be a District Judge. They are professional, salaried members of the judicial system, and fully qualified lawyers,in the Scottish system the equivalent is the Sheriff.

  11. Hi!The case was heard by magistrates (I am close to one of the people involved and I know that for a fact). There are indeed three magistrates but, as the quote in my comment above states, 'one [...] has been trained to take the chair', and I was talking about that one: he's the one who read out the verdict and made those stupid comments about the people who had been harassed by the man. He may well have managed to influence the opinion of the other two.


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