If you're being harassed or threatened by your neighbours, I hope you don't live in Leicestershire. Fiona Pilkington, who killed herself and her mentally disabled daughter after enduring a decade of abuse from anti-social youths, made 33 unavailing complaints to Leicester police. Joanne Butler, who suffered from mental problems and depression, called 999 twice as she was being battered to death by a neighbour in 2006. Leicester police were too busy to attend, and her body was later found in her burnt-out flat.
In response to highly critical reports following both deaths, the head of police came up with the inevitable emollient claptrap: "We have radically changed our approach to managing public calls for assistance to one which tailors our service to the needs and wishes of each caller." If any of us were being harassed late at night or beaten up by a violent alcoholic neighbour like Joanne Butler, our wishes would be pretty simple. If we called 999, it would be because we needed help – pronto.
Two women are dead, and there's been much official hand-wringing and "lessons learnt", but what is life like for the other local residents of Fiona's neighbourhood where the gang of young men still roam the streets? Two teenagers were last week found guilty of swearing and making obscene gestures to a grandmother; a third was acquitted. Carol Sainsbury had said that the two convicted youths, who cannot be named, repeatedly played loud music and were rude and abusive to her over a three-month period. Another local youth, who described Fiona Pilkington as "Frankenstein", walked free from a separate trial for harassment when the main witness was taken ill in court, and the case was abandoned by the Crown Prosecution Service, to the disgust of the judge. Hazel Smith, a lollipop lady and Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinator, collapsed in court after describing how the boy had called her a "grass" and said Fiona Pilkington "deserved to die". She had caught the boy shooting at her pet guinea pigs.
The Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, accused Leicestershire police of having an unacceptable mindset and attacked their failure to deal with anti-social behaviour. The Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, last week announced a review of the help given to victims of anti-social behaviour, with £8m to be spent on a National Victims Service. For Leicester residents the nightmare continues. While named in court, the youths who have caused so much distress to the neighbourhood remain anonymous.
The Government's stated goal of dealing with anti-social behaviour is still elusive. Are the police really managing to deal with gangs of mouthy teenagers who terrorise estates up and down the country? Expecting ordinary men and women to go into court, take the witness stand and testify against aggressive foul-mouthed teenagers whose parents and extended family continue to live nearby is putting these victims of anti-social behaviour under a huge extra stress.
Meanwhile, the Home Office has given a grant of £10,000 to a Christian policing group who want the public to "adopt a cop" and pray for them. Using prayer and the Bible to combat anti-social behaviour is a controversial approach, and not, I would have thought, one likely to succeed with the unruly teenagers of Leicestershire.
You're so vain: When control freak Tom Ford met his match
Is Tom Ford the vainest man in the world? He's managed to elevate self-obsession to fascinating art form. I remember being at a party where he complained about the unflattering strip lighting in the kitchen where wonderful Italian food was being served. This chap would rather not eat than be badly lit. Just like super-diva Mariah Carey, every picture released of Tom is totally controlled – we get the shades, an artfully unbuttoned shirt, the same smouldering expression. He is the brand, and never forgets it. With his directorial debut, A Single Man, opening any day, Ford has been talking it up to anyone who'll listen. The problem for this control freak is that movie making, unlike designing sunglasses, fragrances and sexy dresses, is a team effort, and to succeed you need great actors and a good script. Critics have praised the end result, although many complain the film (starring Colin Firth and Julianne Moore) is just too beautifully designed for its own good, with the end result rather unengaging. A Single Man is based on a 1964 novel by Christopher Isherwood – and Ford's ego means he can't resist telling us he was a bit hurt that when they briefly met many years ago (Ford was 20 and Isherwood 80), he was a bit miffed the great writer didn't fancy him, as he (Ford) considered himself to be "very attractive". I also met Isherwood several times, 30 years ago, and went to his Californian home for dinner. We got on very well after I correctly identified him in his old school photo (which hung in the guest toilet) from the 1920s. I'm not going to gloat about that – because I would never have the guts to tell anyone I thought I was attractive. Let's admire Ford for his chutzpah, if nothing else.
Curtain up on a theatre boom
The West End had its most lucrative year in 2009, with attendances exceeding 14 million for the first time. People have flocked to straight plays, audiences up a whopping 26 per cent. A quick glance at last week's television schedules demonstrates that once-popular series like Shameless and Midsomer Murders have come to the end of their natural life. Holby City should be put out of its misery. Ditto Casualty. And when the most exciting drama on offer is Mad Men, I'm not surprised mainstream telly audiences are dwindling. Live theatre can be mesmeric. I've just paid my second visit to see Ian McKellen in Waiting for Godot, with Roger Rees, Matthew Kelly and Ronald Pickup. It's a huge hit, despite critics whingeing that it's "too funny". There are plans to take the production around the world, so don't miss it.
Second-class delivery for ITV
Well done, Adam Crozier, on your appointment as ITV's chief executive. Now our main commercial broadcaster has two people in charge (Crozier, and chairman Archie Norman) with absolutely no media experience. Crozier might be brilliant at treacly PR statements littered with jargon about objectives, profit margins and delivery targets, but he's hardly gifted with people skills. During his time running the Royal Mail, it's been crippled by appalling labour relations. My experience of Crozier's wonderful modernisation of the postal service can be summed up as follows. Monday, no post at all. Tuesday, post arrives 1.40pm. Wednesday, post delivered to the pub by mistake. Thursday, post arrives around noon. Friday, post eventually arrives around 1pm. I can't wait to see his impact on television schedules: News at Ten should air around midnight.Reuse content