Claim council is 'escalating downwards' complaints made by residents
Hounslow's delegation to a Pride March in 2018
Conservative councillors on Hounslow Council are calling for an urgent cross-party summit on the issue of homophobic abuse in the borough amid claims that the council is not handling complaints effectively.
The councillors say there has been an increase in the number of cases they are being asked to deal with and that a meeting is needed to discuss policies that are needed to deal decisively with the issue so that residents know what to do and what to expect if they experience homophobic abuse.
The interventions are being requested after frustration with the official procedures in one case three years after the original alleged offence occurred. The complainants say that they feel ignored while the abuse continues and they characterise the official response as siding with the person who is the subject of the allegation and being more inclined to believe counter allegations that they are making. Some complainants say they fear leaving their homes because they may come face to face with the person they say is abusing them. Councillors believe that these cases are being delegated to relatively junior staff, making a satisfactory resolution less likely.
One of the complainants said, "The first homophobic attack started in January 2019 when a neighbour assaulted me using homophobic foul language. I was cautious to report it as I felt the person assaulting me needed help. Then it progressed with more hate crimes including spitting, and sustained and prolonged homophobic name calling. I’m a tolerant man so I let it go. The homophobic name calling and assaults continued and extended to my gay friends and I was bombarded with wild accusations. Both the police and council have failed me as a victim. I feel my victim rights have been trampled over, not even acknowledged.
“They pay the perpetrator particular sympathy, which is well-documented, and that has allowed the situation to deteriorate as the homophobia stepped up a gear when the perpetrator was given the green light by inaction from the council and the police. This inaction has affected my mental health. I went from very confident to a shell of myself. I feel like a prisoner in my own home. I can’t tend my own garden as I’m spat at and watched. What is the policy? I’ve been asking for this for this for months. I know the perpetrator is ill but all they do is protect the perpetrator, leaving me more vulnerable and exposed to more attacks. How desperate do I have to become for the council to stand up and acknowledge what is going on and deal with it correctly?”
Cllr Peter Thompson, leader of the Conservative Group, has asked the council to create a dedicated multi-departmental team, with a named senior officer overseeing, and a stated published process including expectations of what will happen; who will be involved; timelines that must be met; good communications throughout; and binding assurances that counter allegations will not overrule the original complaint without evidence.
“Silence gives the impression of inaction, that the council is not taking the complaint seriously,” Cllr Thompson said. “We need to do more, and to be far more responsive, to support not abandon residents who are experiencing homophobic attack. Counter allegations seem to be a feature of these cases and the council is, in our view, giving them undue prominence belittling the seriousness of the original complainant without evidence.
“We want a cross-party discussion, with all who should be involved including at least one of our police LGBT advisers and an independent representative of the LGBT community such as from Galop, to consider cases that have gone right and have gone wrong, looking at how they should be managed from now on. This is not, and cannot be, a party-political issue. This is about a very personal and distressing aspect of the lives of residents. We should all be equally concerned.”
Cllr Jo Biddolph, who has been asked to intervene in several cases in Chiswick Gunnersbury ward, is worried about what she calls “escalating downwards” in Hounslow Council.
“Even if a councillor escalates a difficult case asking for high level intervention, it is delegated (escalated downwards) to the level where it was already stuck. It is not surprising that it gets stuck again. Residents say they have reached the point where they can’t take any more abuse,” she said. “They haven’t had the support they expect to stop the abuse, sometimes face false counter allegations that stall the process, then become increasingly fearful as the attacks continue with the council seemingly unwilling to tackle the root of the problem. There are gaps and inconsistencies in what is currently done and a reluctance to take difficult decisions. The council needs a clear, transparent, effective policy, with stated actions to be taken, and to respond faster and decisively,” she said.
Councillor Ajmer Grewal, Cabinet Member for Safety at Hounslow Council, said, “I am saddened to hear of a resident experiencing hate crime; Council staff are aware of this case and are working to resolve it.
“We, along with the Police, take hate crime including homophobia very seriously. It is simply not acceptable. For anyone who has experienced hate crime there are multiple ways to report it and all the details can be found on our website.
“The Council works with internal and external partners, including participating in various panels and boards to address issues of hate crime. We are also currently consulting on a future Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) strategy, working with a number of groups across Hounslow including the West London Queer Project (WLQP). During Pride this year, we successfully supported WLQP with banners and free advertising across the borough and they have recently received £15k in funding from the Council’s Thriving Community Fund. We also painted a rainbow crossing outside the Six Bell pub in Brentford and regularly work in partnership with the West Area Basic Command Unit’s Police lead on hate crime.”
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October 6, 2022