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Thursday, 6 December, 2001, 14:00 GMT
Firm tackles 'neighbours from hell'
Anti-sicial behaviour in Stafford
An eviction order was secured against a Stafford family
Two West Bromwich women have set up a private company to help local authorities and housing associations evict "neighbours from hell".

Claire Castle and Dawn Wilson are using their expertise to prepare cases to go to court and to win the confidence of tenants to be witnesses.

The company, Anti-social Behaviour Operations (ASBO), takes on cases from across the country and has already succeeded in evicting a family in Stafford, which had been causing problems for 30 years.

All the cases it receives are referred from local authorities.

'Support meetings'

Claire Castle, who was an anti-social behaviour coordinator at Castle Vale Housing Trust, said the company's success is down to working closely with witnesses.

She told BBC Radio WM: "We operate a 24-hour helpline where witnesses can contact us for support and not speak to a machine but a member of staff.

Claire Castle
Claire Castle: "Witnesses, not victims"

"We also have regular witness support meetings where witnesses support each other and I think that's the most important thing.

She added: "Witnesses have to live with this every day.

"We call them witnesses because we don't work with victims. Once someone starts to stand up and be counted, they are no longer victimised."

On average, the company receives around half a dozen calls from witnesses across the country a day.

'Specialist service'

Ms Castle said: "Unfortunately, a lot of people are subjected to a lot of intimidation and harassment from neighbours, especially if they call the police or make a complaint to a housing association.

"People will call our helpline sometimes just to talk or to report quite a serious incident."

Stafford Borough Council was ASBO's first client.

The company helped the council secure an eviction order against a family who had been causing problems in Stafford for 30 years.

Provide evidence

Donal Hughes, the council's head of housing management, said: "To secure an anti-social behaviour order, you have to get a conviction.

"ASBO are exceptionally good at working with witnesses and building up confidence so that they actually turn in court and provide evidence."

He added: "Before we worked with a number of agencies but until ASBO came along, none of us were succeeding.

"They bring in a very good specialist service with the right mix of skills."


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See also:

02 Aug 01 | UK
Nuisance mother and son ban
16 Mar 99 | UK Politics
Children targeted by anti-social order
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