A neighbourly dispute

The incident

A local authority housing officer was dealing with complaints from an owner-occupier of a ground floor flat about noise being created by a first floor neighbour, situated immediately above.

Initial contacts with the alleged offending party had resulted in similar counter allegations. Over a period of four to six weeks, the situation got worse with further complaints and police being called by both parties, alleging verbal threats of violence and abuse.

The housing officer raised the option of using a restorative practices (RP) approach to help to resolve the situation. Both residents were spoken to and consented to a referral being sent to Voice.

The Restorative approach

The residents in question engaged with Voice staff over a 3-4 week period. After talking with Voice, both conceded that their behaviours could be upsetting and harmful to the other and agreed that a face-to-face meeting would be helpful. Both residents wanted a family member present to support them, which was arranged by Voice, who also explained restorative practices to all involved and how the restorative meeting would operate.

All parties were also offered emotional support and practical advice on reducing any tensions as the restorative process continued.

It became apparent that both residents firmly believed themselves to the victim, but neither had spoken to the other to explain specifically how they perceived the situation and the impact being caused. This was the same for respective family members. A face to face restorative meeting was agreed at a neutral venue with both residents, their supporters and the case supervisor.

The meeting was initially tense and emotional but through careful questioning by Voice practitioners, all parties had an opportunity to express themselves and listen to the impact their actions were having upon others. During the 40-minute meeting the atmosphere changed notably with all present accepting responsibility for causing upset to the other, repeatedly apologising and making suggestions on how matters could be improved in the future.

Both residents helped prepare an outcome agreement outlining how they would behave in future, which was signed at the end of the meeting and copies provided to all present.

The outcome

When all parties left the venue they appeared visibly happier, smiling and there were further handshakes as they left the venue. Since the meeting, there have been no further complaints to the local authority or police from either resident and both have complied with the outcome agreement which has been monitored by the local authority facilitator.

Both residents provided very positive feedback, highlighting the value of the restorative practices meeting and interestingly the importance of speaking to each other and thinking more about the impact of their behaviours on others.

One resident also wrote to the local authority thanking them for the support and expressing how much happier they were after dealing with Voice.

Are you having a similar issue that you think we be helped by a Restorative Northamptonshire meeting? Speak to Voice about what we can do for you – we’re here to help!