Hate-related antisocial behaviour: I’m a prisoner in my own home

16 October, 2020

Deirdre lives in North West Scotland and has to deal with hate-related antisocial behaviour on a daily basis. She talks about how hate crime is affecting her family and how they cannot escape their current situation.

I moved into a housing association property soon after burying my dad. A Sudanese family moved in below us at the same time. A week later my neighbour got upset about something in our close and blamed my family and the Sudanese family, using shocking racist and homophobic language.

We asked the Sudanese family to help us report him to the police, but they were too scared and managed to get rehoused. We couldn’t afford to move again, so we went to the police.

Two policemen took our statements and arrested my neighbour, but he was let out on special bail conditions which are not enforced.  Since then, he has got his friends and neighbours in our close to harass us by using homophobic remarks and racist names, putting dog waste on our door, and leaving taps running to flood our home many times. His children draw pictures for us and he adds homophobic and racist language and leaves them on my doormat. His girlfriend punched me in the face when I met her on the stair.

My children are mixed race and are getting racist abuse from both his adult friends and his children. Other children in the neighbourhood are learning to use the same racist language when they see my son.

His influence is spreading in the community. Some children dented a Polish man’s car, and when he complained, the guy who harasses us and his friends started abusing the Polish man.

The ongoing impact
I’m a nervous wreck because I’m so worried that one of my family will be hurt. When we meet him on the stairs he is physically threatening, and we’re scared he will throw us down the stairs one day.

My children are so frightened that they hug me as soon as I get home, checking to make sure I’m not hurt.

As soon as we leave the house, we all phone someone on a mobile so we can call for help if he approaches us outside. I let my family know I’m coming home and tell them not to open the door for anyone, because I have keys.

The stress and fear are affecting my family’s mental health. I’m now taking sleeping tablets and antidepressants.

I’m a prisoner in my own home 
We are living in hell. We are stuck in a situation we can’t get out of. No local specialists – racial and homophobic help, no liaison police officer. This is treated like a neighbour dispute, but it’s hate crime. He’s attacking me and my family because of who we are and what we look like. It hurts. I can’t change who I am. The housing association just doesn’t care about how scared we are.

And we’re trapped. We’re on the housing list, but we’re not a priority because we’re not overcrowded or have too many bedrooms. Even if we get new housing, we don’t have any money to move again and pay for flooring and other things in a new home. We applied for a community care grant for this place and so we can’t apply again.

I’ve lost all faith in the police 
I keep reporting him to the police, but when he is arrested, he’s let off on bail and doesn’t fulfil his bail conditions. Many people in the stair call out ‘grass’ when they see us. They hate us for talking to the police. We’re waiting for the case to go to court, but neighbours are being called as witnesses and saying they don’t know anything. They don’t want to be seen as a ‘grass’. Every time we have to go to court or talk to the Procurator Fiscal, we have to think about everything he’s done to us. It makes us feel more unsafe.

Now that we have reported him to the police, we can’t move out of our home. We’ve been told we can’t get a new home until the court case is finished.

I wish I had never reported the hate crime to the police. It hasn’t stopped him and we might have been able to ignore him and eventually get another home.

Things need to change 
Victim Support Scotland has helped us. They’ve given us panic alarms and will explain what happens in court when we have a trial date. But more needs to be done.

I think the local police should take every matter seriously. It’s not one incident, but lots of small racist and homophobic abuse that all together leaves us terrified. They should also record each breach of bail.

The housing association should do more to support us. They should understand that it’s a hate crime and not a neighbour dispute, and we are really scared. They never check in on us or get back in touch when we write to them or leave messages. There’s no confirmation from them that they know about his arrests and breach of bail conditions. We have a really good antisocial behaviour specialist in the council, but the housing association don’t respond to him. I think it would be good if the housing association had their own antisocial behaviour specialist who would take this seriously and understand the effect it’s having on my family and me.

I think hate crime and people who are scared in their homes should be a priority for housing lists.