Gran who suffered years of antisocial abuse from Edinburgh neighbours says she ‘will never get over it’

An Edinburgh grandmother who was subjected to years of abuse by her neighbours, including threats to set her on fire, says she ‘will never get over it’ and hit out at the council for its handling of her case.

By Joseph Anderson
Tuesday, 27th October 2020, 12:35 pm
Victim: Elizabeth Hume
Victim: Elizabeth Hume

For over five years, Elizabeth Hume, 72, of Broomhouse Grove, was the victim of a pair of neighbours who intimidated and threatened her, as well as allegedly assaulting her family.

Ms Hume said: “I’ve been accosted in the street. I’ve had folk clap behind my head and saying that they’ll be coming through my door.

“I’ll never get over it. I’m anxious all the time and have a horrible feeling in my stomach.

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“They stood at the gate and threatened to torch me, I was terrified.

“I’ve made the decision to never again go into my garden, and leave myself open to abuse. I never go out or into the garden, or go to the shops. I’m a recluse now because of this.

“I used to shut my blinds if I heard people.

“The council offered to move me and I said no, because I’m the victim not the perpetrators.”

Ms Humes’ daughter, Linda Hume, eventually moved into the property to help protect her mum, and spent hundreds of pounds on a CCTV network to gather evidence.

Despite being made aware of the antisocial behaviour of the neighbours for years, Edinburgh City Council bungled the investigation by failing to record incidents and take appropriate action, leaving Ms Humes and her family at the mercy of her abusive neighbours.

Last year, the council changed the personnel heading up its adult support division, which led to officers taking a renewed look at the case.

Ms Humes’ son, Alexander, also complained to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO), which forced the council to apologise.

Explaining its decision to uphold Mr Humes’ complaint, an SPSO officer wrote: “The council had accepted in their complaint response to Alexander Hume that there had historically been a failure to appropriately record and take action on reports of anti-social behaviour, and we considered this failing to be unreasonable. We therefore upheld the complaint.

“We noted that following the case being taken over by a new officer and a new manager, the council had acted appropriately, including meeting with Mr Hume and their family and taking action on the reports of anti-social behaviour.

“We considered that much of this, potentially, could have been done at an earlier point, however, we acknowledged that things now appeared to be being handled in line with relevant guidance and took this into account when making recommendations.”

Both Elizabeth and Alexander Hume expressed disappointment that the apology actually came from Kathy Evans, the council officer who had since taken over the department, and had done the most to help the family.

Mr Hume said: “The apology came from Kathy Evans, head of adult support south west, and I wasn’t too impressed it came from her, as she’s the person, who after taking over the department about a year ago, started to take action on our behalf.

“The person who has done the most to help has been made to apologise on behalf of others.

“The apology didn’t cover everything I had wanted but it did admit that they had failed to record the events or take appropriate action.

“The officer in charge now has been great, she has done the most to help us and they made her apologise on behalf of people who told us we didn’t have a complaint to make.”

A City of Edinburgh Council spokesperson said: “This was a complex and challenging neighbour conflict case which is now closed, following an agreed exit strategy discussed and agreed with the victim and subject of the antisocial behaviour.

“Although we cannot go into the specifics of the case, as to do so would require disclosing third party and therefore potentially private and confidential information that could be used to identify the individuals involved, we have accepted the SPSO’s conclusions regarding failings in our case management, and have apologised for these failings, which we had also identified through our own internal investigations.

“We have and will continue to review our case management procedures to ensure we deliver the best possible service to our communities.”

Joseph Anderson, Local Democracy Service

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