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Please can anyone give us some advice on a student v neighbour dispute? (long)

(15 Posts)
Solopower Thu 04-Aug-11 10:07:56

As briefly as I can: My niece has just moved into the house she is renting next term with a group of 8 friends. On their first night they went out and came back at 2.00 am.

Two people were smoking in the garden, when the neighbour’s daughter asked them to stop whispering. She was angry and she got a hostile reply. The rest of the students were in the house, but the windows were open and they had music on.

Her dad then pushed his way into the house and started shouting at the students for making a noise. They were quite shocked, and tried to calm him down, but after challenging some of the young men to come outside for a fight – which they declined – the neighbour grabbed my niece on the shoulder, hurting her collar bone. She fell back and injured her ankle. He also pushed and hit out at two of her friends.

One of the students then said he was going to call the police. The neighbour had already done so before he came round, and as he was speaking the police arrived. The neighbour accused my niece of assaulting him by kicking him in the neck. (She is not very athletic, btw, and this would be physically impossible for her).

The police asked them what had happened, but they did not interview them separately and did not seem to be writing down what they told them. They got the impression that the police were quite hostile towards them.

Later in the day, the three people who had been assaulted by the neighbour told the police that they wanted to press charges and were given a crime number, but were not asked to sign a statement.

That's what my niece told me. Obviously, I haven't heard the neighbour's side of things.

What should we do? My niece is now very scared of the neighbour, and worried that he might come round and threaten them again, or wait until she is alone. His reaction to the noise they were making was so extreme, and so immediate, that there feels as if there is something obsessive about it. She does not feel secure in the house and is extremely upset by this incident.

Should they ask for the neighbour to be cautioned by the police against coming near them in the future?

Should she and the others press charges against him, for trespass and assault?

What happens if the neighbour does accuse my niece of assault? Does it matter that the police haven't taken any statements from them?

Finally, my niece has been warned that this will go down on her academic record and could harm her future career. (She was told by the person in charge of student discipline to 'eat a slice of humble pie' and go round and apologise to the man - for him hitting her, presumably. confused) Do you know of any way of preventing this going into her records? Does she have the right to see her records at Uni?

Btw, this all happened in the Midlands.

Thank you for ploughing through all this. We are all very anxious about it, and would be very grateful if you could answer some of our questions.

scurryfunge Thu 04-Aug-11 10:19:59

There is clearly a lot more to this. If your niece is adamant that she has been assaulted then the police have to investigate. If the neighbour has made a complaint of assault against her then she will be interviewed about that too.

Either the police are in the middle of investigating the whole incident (which will take time as it sounds like there are plenty of people to interview and it seems there are counter allegations) or no one has given enough information to establish any offences have taken place.

If she ends up being arrested for the assault it may well affect any future crb disclosure.

nocake Thu 04-Aug-11 10:26:23

I would suggest that your niece and her house mates write down exactly what happened, while it's fresh in their minds. It may take some time for the police to interview them so having it written down now will help. If they are interviewed and asked to make a statement they should only do so with a solicitor present to advise them. Seriously, DO NOT speak to the police without a solicitor present. Assault is a criminal offence which will appear on future CRB checks so they should take every precaution.

Solopower Thu 04-Aug-11 10:55:17

Thank you, Nocake. We have written it all down. I shall make sure she takes your advice about having a solicitor present. I hope it doesn't matter that they have already spoken to the police without one.

Yes, Scurryfunge, we do think there is something more to this. Several things strike us as very strange about their neighbour’s behaviour.

The first time he met them, in the afternoon before the incident just after they had arrived at the house, they invited him and his wife round for a cup of tea. They chatted for about an hour and he gave them advice about how they should behave - not have loud speakers in the garden, for example. A bit odd on a first meeting?

He had already called the police before he came round in the night to complain. Remember, all that had happened before he came round was whispering in the garden and noise at 2.00 am (which anyone would be annoyed at, but I'm not sure I would call the police before asking them to be quiet).

When he arrived, he was incandescent with rage and did his best to provoke a fight. Had they responded, this would undoubtedly have resulted in them being blamed and taken into custody, judging from the unsympathetic attitude of the police. Was he just seething with frustration and out of control, or trying to set them up?

Finally, we have learnt from the owner of the property that there have been disputes with the students who rented their house before my niece and her friends. So if this is true, the police will have it on their records - which might account for their unsympathetic attitude towards my niece and her friends. Or it might work in the their favour, if they can prove that this man has a grudge against all students. At any rate, it sounds as if there is a history here.

So we wonder if their neighbour has an agenda. He certainly has a very hostile attitude towards students living next door to him. It has occurred to us that he may well have planned a campaign to get them evicted, before he had even met them.

However, maybe we are just panicking and going a little OTT.

Fizzylemonade Fri 05-Aug-11 16:20:09

Personally having been a student I would not want to live next to them, he has clearly been suffering for years and your niece rolled back at 2am. I am assuming they had been drinking, so the noise level could well have been unacceptable.

The neighbour was totally in the wrong for storming in there though but I can see why years of noise and interrupted sleep would send you crazy.

I would back up the whole do not talk to the police without a solicitor present.

My best friend lives in a semi-detached house and the other side was rented out to students and the noise level was awful in the early hours, music, shouting, slamming doors, bounding up and down the stairs.

When I was a student we had a semi-detached house but both sides were student properties with the same landlord. I bet we would have been awful to live next door to if they were 9-5ers.

fluffyanimal Fri 05-Aug-11 16:28:54

Solo can you find out who the student discipline person was that told your niece to "eat a slice of humble pie"? I mean, whether they were someone from the university? Because your niece should be able to go to the students union where there will be trained advisors to help her in such cases and will fight her corner fairly, or advise if she really is in the wrong, and they might be more sympathetic than someone from student discipline.

fluffles Fri 05-Aug-11 16:33:14

sounds like the man had trouble with the previous students and hasn't given this lot a fair chance because he expects them to be the same as the previous lot (he might not even have noticed they've changed).

an 8 person student house would be hard to live beside, no matter how nice the students (i say this as a person who shares a stair with students now and have been a student myself)

i second the person who said go to the student union (students association) and speak to them about the property and whether there was trouble last year and how they can manage their relationship with thier neighbour.

Solopower Sat 06-Aug-11 10:11:57

We hadn't thought of going to the union, but we did think we would contact the accommodation office to find out if this man is a known menace. We will also ask the (private) landlord if this neighbour has form wrt threatening behaviour, and get more details from the previous tenants.

I think my niece has two choices: Moving is not an option, so, as far as I can see, the most important thing for her safety and peace of mind is to stop him coming to the house again. I don’t think that her pressing charges against him for assault will achieve that, because even if he was convicted (very unlikely as she doesn’t have any bruising) he wouldn’t be jailed for grabbing her by the shoulder, or even for headbutting her friend. It’s not at all fair that he should get away with such despicable behaviour, but it really is a case of his word (upstanding member of the community?) against a group of (noisy? drunk? antisocial?) students – and the police are not on their side.

However, it might be an idea to take out an injunction against him. That is what is done in domestic violence cases, when it’s one person’s word against another’s, and at least that would make sure that he won’t come near her again.

The discipline person (who was from the uni, btw, Fluffyanimal) who advised my niece to go round and apologise (unfair as that is!) does have a point in that they do have to live next door to each other. If my niece doesn’t take out an injunction, then it might be an idea for her and the others to write him a letter along the lines of ‘We realise we were making a noise in the early hours of the morning. This is unacceptable, and we’re sorry. We will make an effort not to disturb you again. However, what you did was totally OTT and amounted to trespass and assault. We have decided not to press charges this time, but if you ever set foot in our garden or house again, we will call the police.’

The main problems, as far as I can see, would be firstly if he presses charges against her (which surely (!) would not be successful anyway, but would be very scary for her), and secondly if he is on a mission to rid the house of students.

Solopower Sat 06-Aug-11 10:16:53

Btw, I totally agree that living next door to a house full of noisy students could be very unpleasant!

However, people need to talk about these things, not go bursting into students' houses and attacking them. I'm pretty sure it is sheer thoughtlessness and immaturity on the part of the students. The minute they think about it (and remember how hard it is to study when others are partying), They would at least try to mend their ways. The university, parents and neighbours all need to address this.

fargate Sat 06-Aug-11 12:01:49

I live in a very studenty area and anti-social student behaviour has been a real problem in the past.

This has vastly improved since the uni has taken a more active role in the local community. I suspect the assaultative neighbour was responding to last terms frustrations - the combination of end of year exhuberance, warm sunny evenings and moving on and not having to consider the neighbours make for the worst time of the year.

The uni and her landlord will know if this man is an unreasonable, aggressive, serial complainer. It might be worth a more in depth conversation with student services?

Solopower Sat 06-Aug-11 12:11:51

Agree that unis should take a more active role in promoting good relations with the public. A section in their prospectuses, maybe? Also sixth forms, careers officers, etc. A lot could be done that isn't.

fargate Sat 06-Aug-11 12:46:00

There is 'lots to be done'

After years of increasing hostility to the student population here, it's been quite remarkable how quickly things have changed for the better - once the uni put it's mind to it couple of years ago.

It's also exposed the hidden non-student anti-social behaviour.

I do feel very sorry for your neice. What a horrible experience of living away from home for the first time.

Solopower Sat 06-Aug-11 13:33:14

Thanks, Fargate.

Solopower Sat 06-Aug-11 22:28:41

Apparently the police have been round again and have taken statements from two of my niece's friends. They also said they would issue the neighbour with a written warning and go to the discipline person at the uni to explain the situation and get the students' records cleared.

So - if that all happens, I think that's the best we can expect - and a big relief that the police do believe the students.

Thanks for your help. smile

fargate Sat 06-Aug-11 22:30:27

Great news, solo!

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