“Neighbours from hell” had their home closed down in one of the worst recorded cases of anti social behaviour in the County Borough.
Following a widespread multi-agency operation, Merthyr Tydfil Magistrates’ Court ordered the closure of 320 Fernhill, Glenboi, Mountain Ash, under the Anti Social Behaviour Act 2003.
The case was led by Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Anti-Social Behaviour Team, following extensive work by a whole host of agencies including the Community Safety Partnership which includes South Wales Police, the local Neighbourhood Policing Team and RCT Homes who own the property.
An extensive investigation was carried out into a total of 97 occurences which took place at the property between October 2010 and July 2013.
Working closely with the police and RCT Homes, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council applied for a Premises Closure Order against tenant Hillary Newell, aged 54, and her son Mark Pugh, aged 23.
It was alleged that, along with a second son, Matthew Pugh, and Newell’s former partner David Newell, they had been involved in a staggering amount of incidents of anti-social behaviour which had a detrimental effect on the quality of life and even health of neighbours on the estate.
Consequently the Court agreed that by closing the premises it would prevent the continued re-occurrence of persistent drunken disorder, nuisance and threatening behaviour exhibited by all four members of the family.
The Court heard that Newell, who has moderate learning difficulties, had started her tenancy at the property in September 2010 after moving from Bristol. The catalogue of incidents had been reported almost immediately on her arrival there.
Their behaviour included threats of violence to neighbours, threats of damage to neighbours’ properties, nuisance being caused by shouting, screaming and arguing at all hours of the day and night, intimidating behaviour, banging on walls, intimidating residents so that they were in fear of making complaints or coming forward to give evidence in court and threats of violence against police officers.
The Court was told how South Wales Police, RCT Homes and RCT Council had spoken and contacted the tenant, her former partner and sons on dozens of occasions since December 2010, including warning letters, one-to-one meetings and interviews in an attempt to resolve the problems.
Consequently.Rhondda Cynon Taf Community Safety Partnership witnessed both Matthew and Mark Pugh sign an acceptable behaviour contract, agreeing to stop the anti social behaviour at the address.
However due to his continued bad behaviour Matthew Pugh, who has moderate learning difficulties, was served a two-year Anti Social Behaviour Order later that month. Pugh has since breached the ASBO and was taken into custody.
His ASBO was now been varied prohibiting him from entering the Fernhill Estate, Mountain Ash and he has since moved to Tonyrefail to live alone..
The schedule of 97 incidents at the property included:
Shouting and screaming throughout the night
Matthew Pugh acting aggressively within his home
Shouting, swearing and banging coming from the property
Arguing and shouting causing disturbance
David Newell physically pushed a neighbour while Hilary Newell insulted her while both appeared drunk
Matthew Pugh screaming and shouting abuse at his neighbours
Verbal abuse directed at neighbours shouted from a window by Matthew Pugh
Screaming from inside the property along with threats to kill
David Newell shouting, arguing and threatening neighbours outside the property whilst drunk and removed by police
Abuse towards RCT Homes staff
Using foul and abusive language to neighbours
Banging on neighbour’s walls
Matthew Pugh exposed himself to a female police officer, picked up a knife and made threats whilst shouting explicit abuse.
Matthew Pugh assaulted a police officer
Hilary Newell intimidating her neighbours and spitting at them
Mark Pugh banging deliberately in the property to annoy neighbours
Newell did not attend the hearing although her son Mark Pugh did and agreed that the evidence produced would not be contested.
He also stated that the majority of the incidents involved his brother although he was not entirely blameless as he may have antagonised him, causing him to become loud and aggressive.
However, Mark Pugh had been issued with a £90.00 penalty notice for disorder and harassment in July 2013. The Court was told he was screaming in the garden after his mother gave him “White Lightening” cider and that he had become an issue since his brother was placed in custody for breaching the ASBO.
The Court heard police evidence of the direct effect the behaviour of the family was having on elderly neighbours and relatives and some individuals with their own mental health problems who were suffering health issues due to the tenants.
Some had been too afraid to go into the garden of their properties due to the level of abuse and harassment from the family. One of the neighbours used to watch television with subtitles on due to the levels of noise coming from the property.
South Wales Police also confirmed that since the family moved into the property they had received 132 phone calls from them – the majority by David and Hilary Newell after they had been drinking all day in Aberdare.
Although the couple were no longer together, David Newell continued to frequently visit the home and would stay over the weekend period.
In a statement read out in Court, Pc Sian Weyman explained, “The effect this family is having on their immediate neighbours is immense. We have elderly and vulnerable persons living at the location, who have been exposed to years of continued noise, banging, shouting, screaming, swearing and recently threats.
Both neighbours have expressed concerns for their personal safety and that of their property. This family will continue to cause disturbances at this address as they have never accepted responsibility for their behaviour or shown any remorse or understanding for the feelings of their neighbours.
”They have just openly displayed contempt towards the neighbours blaming them for the situation they are in today. They have a total disregard for the law and any advice we have tried to give them.”
The Court ordered the closure of the premises immediately to all persons and it will remain closed for three months.
Mark Pugh and Hilary Newall were allowed to remove their personal effects before 4pm on the day of the hearing. The property was then boarded up and a closure order affixed to the premises.
Following court proceedings issued by RCT Homes in June 2013, Newell’s tenancy was replaced with a demoted tenancy by order of Merthyr County Court. This is a special tenancy introduced under the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 to deal with cases where tenants or their visitors cause anti-social behaviour.
Following further incidents, RCT Homes then applied for an Anti-social Behaviour Injunction against Newell. A power of arrest was attached to this order, which lasts for one year, and prohibits Newell form causing harassment, alarm or distress to the residents of Fernhill. RCT Homes are currently in the process of issuing possession proceedings to recover the property.
RCT Homes’ Community Safety Team Leader, Jonathan Tumelty said: “We take incidents of anti-social behaviour in our neighbourhoods very seriously. In this case, the resident and her family has had opportunities to rectify their behaviour, but has failed to do so. We want to ensure that our communities are safe places in which to live, and this is an excellent example of how through close work with our partner organisations we can achieve real results for our residents.”
This is the third Premise Closure Order successfully applied for by Rhondda Cynon Taf Council. The Council was the first in Wales to obtain a Premise Closure Order after it came into power in December 2008.
Once again, the case further highlights the way in which the Council is viewed as one of the leading local authorities in the country when dealing with anti social behaviour.
David Jones, Head of Protection at Rhondda Cynon Taf Council said: “Home Office guidance shows that this measure should be used only as a last resort and that all other options have to be made or considered before such a case is brought to the Court.
“Since 2012 there has been extensive partnership work undertaken to try and prevent the anti-social behaviour that the family have continued to display. Despite numerous interventions and actions against all members of household by a wide range of partner agencies but to no avail.
“The fact that we have obtained the Order in this case shows not only the seriousness of it but also that all the partners have worked tirelessly to resolve this issue for the benefit of the local community using a range of alternative techniques before resorting to this extreme measure.”