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Is what my housing officer did to me actionable in any way?

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  • Is what my housing officer did to me actionable in any way?

    (I posted this to the Welcome forum a couple of days, but it was getting no replies, and I could not even see it appearing in the list of threads, so I've re-posted it here).

    Hi Everybody

    I joined this afternoon mainly to ask a particular question. It is housing related, so it might need to be moved to another forum, but I will leave that to the people in charge.*It concerns something a housing officer did to me. I want to know if it is actionable in any way. This is rather a long story, but I'll be as brief as I can.

    I live in a housing association property that consists of over 40 flats, all under one roof and with some communal indoor areas. I had always got on well with everyone, until some time ago, when one resident let her son move into her flat while she went to live elsewhere. He made life a misery for me and for my two next door neighbours, whom I'll call Mr and Mrs A. All three of us complained to the housing association (HA) about his behaviour for ten months, but nothing was done. We pointed out that he should not even be living here, not being a tenant, and being in his early thirties when the complex is strictly for over-55s, but that did no good. The HA finally issued an eviction notice, but nearly a fortnight after he should have been gone, he was still here. Then, one afternoon, he lay in wait for me and attacked me at the entrance of the complex. He did not physically assault me, just screamed obscenities into my face, but I was still terrified - I thought he was going to hit me at any second. Mrs A happened to be standing a few feet away, so she witnessed nearly everything. Towards the end, however, she hid herself, because she was afraid that as soon as he'd finished with me, he would start on her, and she was frightened he might actually hit her.

    Several of us demanded a meeting with the HA, and at the meeting, we were told the HA would be applying for an antisocial behaviour injunction against this man. A housing officer interviewed Mrs A separately about what she had witnessed (this will be important later on).

    Unfortunately, this man had become so popular with other residents that once it was known I was instrumental in his being given an injunction, they mounted a hate campaign against me, making all sorts of malicious allegations about me. I alerted the HA to what was being done to me, but its staff did nothing to help me.

    Then, about a year or so after this incident, I made a subject access request to the police to see what it had on me in its files, and I found something called a 'community harm statement' that had been compiled by the housing officer who had dealt with the injunction and who had interviewed Mrs A about the attack. I was shocked at what I saw. It was full of damaging and entirely groundless allegations that had been made by the residents who had mounted that hate campaign. The housing officer had not approached me and asked me if there was any truth in these allegations - he had just taken these people's word. He had not even told me he was going to submit a community harm statement - I had never even heard of the term until I saw the document itself. Worse, he had known that I had complained to the HA that I was the target of a hate campaign, but he still submitted those false allegations.

    But there was something much worse: for some reason, the officer actually added two false allegations of his own, and one, in my opinion, was very serious indeed. First, he claimed that I was very aggressive throughout the meeting that had resulted in the injunction application. This was utterly untrue: I was quiet and polite at every moment of the meeting, and all three residents who were with me can attest to this. But the really serious allegation was as follows. The officer had interviewed Mrs A about the attack she had witnessed, and he actually claimed that Mrs A had told him that I was such an unpleasant character, she had a lot of sympathy with the man for attacking me. I don't think I can get across what a terrible lie this was. Mrs A, her husband and myself became very close friends within days of my moving in, and Mrs A told me that she could not wish for a better neighbour. At the time of the attack we had been close friends for four years. All three of us suffered really badly because of this man's behaviour, and it only served to draw us even closer together, as we felt we were 'under siege'. When this man attaked me, Mrs A was only feet away, and as soon as he was gone, she rushed to help me. She saw I was deeply traumatised, and was extremly concerned about me. Every day, for several days after the attack, she came to me to ask how I was coping. For that housing officer to say Mrs A sympathised with this man because of the sort of person she thought I was - this was about the worst lie he could have written about her, or about me.

    By the time I saw this document, Mr and Mrs A had moved out, so I could not just go next door to ask them about it. When I finally told Mrs A what had been said about her, she was deeply shocked, and told me exactly what I'd expected her to say: that she would never, ever say such a thing about me.

    I complained to the HA about the housing officer but their answer was along the lines of 'he's done nothing wrong' (this HA is notorious for brushing complaints aside like this).

    So, I would be very interested to know if any criminal law or civil tort has been breached here, and especially whether I would have any grounds for seeking civil redress. I think defamation may have been committed here, but apparently suing for defamation is really only for millionaires. Is this perhaps 'misconduct in a public office'? But I don't even know if housing officer is a public offfice.

    I believe this officer did something very bad indeed. He put a serious lie into the mouth of a tenant for the express purpose of convincing the police that I was a man of poor character. Surely housing officers should not be able to get away with this sort of behaviour.

    *

  • #2
    Well there might be a case for defamation but that's down to you to prove and you are right that it is expensive but if you have legal expenses insurance cover they may be able to assist. Or speak to a law firm who might be able to offer a no-win no-fee or damages based agreement.

    Having said that, it's not clear what loss or damage might have been suffered as a result of what the office has said. I appreciate that there might be false or untrue statements but given that the statements were directed specifically to the police and not the wider public, if you are successful on defamation, your damages might not be very much. Also, defamation has a requirement that you must show there has been 'serious harm' to your reputation. In other words, it's not just the words that have to be considered but the impact of them too and the bar is set rather high.

    As for misconduct in a public office, I've never dealt with the issue before but you probably have to do some research on whether the HA officer is a 'public officer' for the purposes of the action. Shouldn't be too difficult to prove that they are, but sometimes the law gives an obscure meaning that people might not ordinarily think about.
    Check out some useful guides below

    A guide to voluntary termination
    Seting aside a CCJ
    Completing an N180 Form (Courtesy of Jaguarsuk)

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    LEGAL DISCLAIMER
    Please be aware that this is a public forum and is therefore accessible to anyone. The content I post on this forum is not intended to be legal advice nor does it establish any client-lawyer type relationship between you and me. Some of the content I post may include example wording, letters, or other similar responses but they are intended purely for informational and educational purposes. Using some or all of the content I post may fail to meet your needs that is specific to your situation. Therefore any use of my content is at your own risk and I cannot be held responsible in any way. It is always recommended that you seek independent legal advice and you can do this through the Law Society's Find a Solicitor database, by contacting your local Citizen's Advice Bureau or legal advice centres such as LawWorks. You may also be able to seek legal advice from your local university who may run a free (but limited) legal advice clinic to members of the public.

    Comment


    • #3
      False complaints to the police are not defamation of character and are protected by absolute privilege

      Comment


      • #4
        Ah yes Des, but playing devil's advocate, the complaint (as I understand it) wasn't actually about the OP, but someone else and looks like the OP caught in the crossfire. I'm not up to speed on absolute privilege and police complaints but I thought that absolute privilege applies to the person the complaint is made against, or is it the complaint as a whole?!

        Anyway even if there was scope for argument, that would be very risky to take on unless there is case law already on the matter.
        Check out some useful guides below

        A guide to voluntary termination
        Seting aside a CCJ
        Completing an N180 Form (Courtesy of Jaguarsuk)

        - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
        LEGAL DISCLAIMER
        Please be aware that this is a public forum and is therefore accessible to anyone. The content I post on this forum is not intended to be legal advice nor does it establish any client-lawyer type relationship between you and me. Some of the content I post may include example wording, letters, or other similar responses but they are intended purely for informational and educational purposes. Using some or all of the content I post may fail to meet your needs that is specific to your situation. Therefore any use of my content is at your own risk and I cannot be held responsible in any way. It is always recommended that you seek independent legal advice and you can do this through the Law Society's Find a Solicitor database, by contacting your local Citizen's Advice Bureau or legal advice centres such as LawWorks. You may also be able to seek legal advice from your local university who may run a free (but limited) legal advice clinic to members of the public.

        Comment


        • #5
          The protection applies to the allegation.
          It is so, because public policy decrees that one doesn't want to discourage people laying information with the police.

          If false or malicious allegations are made it is for the police to bring charges such as wasting police time.

          If OP can raise the matter with the force concerned, first with the local station officer and if that doesn't remove the record then through their complaints procedure

          Comment

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