Council takes possession of property following homophobic bullying

By on 11/12/2009 in News

Birmingham County Court has handed down an Anti Social Behaviour Injunction (ASBI) to a council tenant and granted Birmingham City Council a 56 day possession order of his home, bringing an end to a reign of homophobic abuse and anti social behaviour that has blighted the lives of Erdington residents since May 2009.

Mr Richard Leonard (57) of Baldmoor Lake Road, Erdington has been given a 2 year ASBI which bars him from harassing or intimidating local residents and causing damage to their homes and vehicles. Once he has given up occupation of the property he is forbidden from entering or remaining in his former residence.

The ruling, which was passed on 9 December 2009, was a result of the efforts of locally based Erdington housing officers, who specialise in tackling anti-social behaviour. They worked in partnership with West Midlands police to address residents' complaints about the behaviour of Mr Leonard.

Mr Leonard had been both verbally and physically abusive towards residents, particularly one resident who was subject to countless verbal homophobic rants. He had also caused serious damage to his own home, which had fallen into a significant state of disrepair. Mr Leonard voluntarily signed over ownership of his dog in October this year after serious concerns about the welfare of the dog were raised.

Mr Leonard's accomplice, Mr Brian Sibley (42) of Portland Road, Erdington, would often visit Mr Leonard's home and was also handed down an 18 month ASBI which will bar him from assaulting, verbally abusing, harassing or intimidating residents at Mr Leonard's former residence. Mr Sibley has a string of previous convictions including battery.

Local residents and officers from the housing team at the council gave evidence against Mr Leonard and Mr Sibley, who have been subject to interim ASBIs since September 2009.

In response to the verdict, a witness who gave evidence at court said, “My advice to anyone suffering from homophobic bullying is that you don't have to put up with it and you shouldn't. The support mechanisms are in place and the council has been absolutely fantastic in supporting me. I'm so glad I can now move forward with my life. To other victims I would say, don't hesitate to get help.

“I would like to thank everyone who has supported me during this difficult time and helped to bring this spiteful bullying to an end”.

In response to the verdict, Cllr John Lines, Cabinet Member for Housing said, “I'm delighted by court's ruling. I will not tolerate anti social behaviour of any kind from my tenants and the behaviour of these two was completely unacceptable. Let this be a clear signal to others that I will not hesitate to take swift legal action should the need arise. The safety of my tenants and local community is my priority.

“I'm delighted by the efforts of my Housing officers, who worked in partnership with the police to restore community safety and bring this pair to account.”

Cllr Ayoub Khan, Cabinet Member for Local services and Community Safety added, “This is a landmark case for the city and I am pleased with the outcome. It demonstrates that individuals have trust in both the police and council to tackle difficult issues and I am particularly pleased that the suffering encountered by the individual concerned should now come to an end.

“The Safer Birmingham Partnership is determined to tackle hate crime and this case demonstrates to residents that we will do everything we can to put an end to it.”

Earlier this year, the Safer Birmingham Partnership launched its 'Hate Crime Reduction Strategy', which sets out the vision for reducing hate crime across the city.  Its aim is to give victims the support they need in coming forward to report incidents and confidence that action will be taken against perpetrators.

At the beginning of December, a public awareness campaign was launched to encourage reporting and reinforce the message that 'hate crime will not be tolerated in Birmingham'. If you or someone you know is affected by hate crime, call the helpline on 0121 303 1111, in an emergency, always dial 999.

Ends

Further information from Belinder Kaur Lidher on 0121 303 6969

Notes to editors
1. Safer Birmingham Partnership is a multi-agency partnership that brings together agencies including Birmingham City Council, West Midlands Police, West Midlands Fire Service and others who are all working together for a safer city.
2. Anti Social Behaviour Injunctions. Local authorities can apply to the civil courts for injunctions to restrain antisocial behaviour that constitutes a public nuisance. Injunctions can prohibit the individual from entering the area where the nuisance has been committed and may also contain other prohibitions designed to restrain the type of anti social behaviour which has caused the public nuisance. Penalty for breach of conditions of an injunction can result in up to two years’ imprisonment and/or unlimited fine for contempt of court.

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