Homes chiefs rapped over harassment

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Indy Lifestyle Online
A council has rehoused a drug dealer who claimed to have been harassed by a former boyfriend after ignoring complaints from neighbours whom she is said to have terrorised for four years.

In a damning report prepared by Sir David Yardley, a local government ombudsman, Camden council was accused of maladministration in the way that it dealt with the case.

The harassment is understood to have taken place on New Town estate, Highgate, where Diana Conquest and her four children moved in January 1989. The report says that neighbours complained almost immediately that the family played loud music and let rubbish pile up. The children urinated outside.

Letters to the council had no effect. The family slammed doors continually and Ms Conquest swore at her children, who were said to roam unchecked around the estate. There was a constant stream of visitors day and night.

By October 1991, two sets of neighbours found themselves also enduring the bongo drums played to loudly amplified music by Ms Conquest's boyfriend.

In August 1992, she was given a nine-month suspended sentence for importing cannabis. Yet, in July 1993, the council transferred her to another property because she said she was being harassed by a former lover.

The neighbours also complained at noise from another family near by. After that, they had their fence broken, dogs' mess smeared on their wall, and were threatened in the street.

One woman partly blames her divorce on the noise, which woke her youngest child and led to arguments with her husband. She gave up bothering with her garden after children visiting the family picked the flowers and pulled up her plants.

The ombudsman criticised the Labour-controlled north London council for failing to act soon enough to stop such constant intimidation.

Sir David recommends that three sets of neighbours be paid pounds 1,250-pounds 2,000 each in compensation for the nuisance and harassment they suffered.

The leader of Camden's Conservative group, Judith Barnes, said: 'The only people who get well-treated in this borough are drug dealers.'

A council spokeswoman admitted that a mistake had been made and said it had accepted the report: 'We didn't take action against her and we have suffered the consequences.

Chris Holmes, council director of housing, said the case was extremely complicated and had gone on for years. 'Officers dealing with it in the 1980s had no clear guidance or training on how to deal with severe neighbourhood harassment.

'Since 1985, when this case began, we have made many changes to ensure that we are better equipped to deal with nuisance and harassment. New procedures were agreed in 1991 and housing staff have received training to deal with harassment.'

The council now runs a mediation service for residents wanting to resolve neigbourhood disputes without resorting to the courts and warns tenants that they could be evicted for harassing neighbours.

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