Killer clown craze hits Bristol

The Police warn the public not to take matters into their own hands following reports of  “killer clowns” in Bristol.

The phenomenon originated as a prank in the US. People dressing up in creepy clown masks and roaming the streets in an attempt to scare the public.

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Reports on social media said that some of the sinister clowns have been wielding knives and BB guns.

There have been sightings across Bristol and Somerset; Charlton Hayes, Bradley Stoke, Stapleton, Brent Knoll, Keynsham and Winterbourne.

The police received several reports of people dressed as the clowns who were behaving in an ‘anti-social and threatening manner’ and have urged the public to report any sightings or behaviour that they are worried about.

In a statement released by Avon and Somerset Police, inspector Julie Knight warned: “Anyone involved in intimidating or threatening behaviour may end up committing an offence, being arrested and having a criminal record and we’d urge them to think carefully about the consequences of their actions.”

The craze has attracted a following by local people on social media with many reports of sightings in the past week. The police have asked people to refrain from taking matters into their own hands.

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Facebook group monitoring clown sitings

“No need to panic”

Shops selling clown masks say they haven’t seen a rise in sales due to the craze.

Dave Gaze, owner of Chaplin’s fancy dress shop in Bristol City Centre said: “I don’t think there is any need to panic. I think it is just a bunch of idiots who have just decided to use clown outfits as a disguise when trying to intimidate people. They could’ve just as readily used something else.”

“Clowns feature every year because people try to imitate the Pennywise character in Stephen King’s book and film ‘It’. Some years are more popular than others. It is just this time of year that people dress up stupid for fun but some people have taken it too far this year” said Mr Gaze.

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Killer clown craze hits Bristol

Restorative Justice campaign brings together victims of crime and offenders

Restorative Justice week kicks off in Bristol. The aim: to repair the harm done by crime and help victims get closure. 

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Picture credit: jeanbaptisteparis Creative Commons licence

November 21-25 2016 saw a number of events across Bristol to raise awareness about the campaign which organised by Restorative Bristol – an umbrella organisation that includes Bristol City Council, Avon & Somerset Police and Bristol Lighthouse Victim care.

The aim of the partnership is to promote the campaign and make restorative approaches the first option for dealing with disputes.  They provide Bristol’s communities with advocates and champions who are well informed of the availability of restorative approaches.

“It is really important that people don’t see restorative justice as an alternative to a conviction –  that’s really not the case” Stephanie Todd, Lighthouse and Avon and Somerset Police.

Within the criminal justice system, restorative processes are completely voluntary and give victims the chance to communicate with their perpetrators to explain the real impact of their crime.

It aims to empower victims by giving them a voice and it also holds perpetrators to account for what they have done and helps them to take responsibility and make amends.

The scheme, launched in December 2012,  is available to all victims of crime across Avon and Somerset.

Stephanie Todd, Restorative Justice Coordinator for Bristol said: “It can work for low-level offences and it can work for more serious crimes as well”

restorative-justiceOn Tuesday 22 November representatives from Restorative Bristol held a special information stall at the Citizens Service Point at 100 Temple Street and there was an evening talk at the Watershed on Wednesday 23 November.

Guest speakers included PC Mark Brain of Avon and Somerset Police, Marian Liebmann of the Road Sharing Scheme, Dr Nikki McKenzie of UWE Bristol, Stephanie Todd of Lighthouse and Avon and Somerset Police, and Michelle Windle of The Green House.

Listen to more about Restorative Justice from Stephanie Todd:

In a recent survey by the Restorative Justice Council only 28% of people had heard of Restorative Justice. The survey showed 80% of the public believe that victims of crime should have the right to meet their offender and the figure rose to 85% when victims of crime were asked.

Interested? Follow for more info on Restorative Justice:

Restorative Justice campaign brings together victims of crime and offenders

Stoptober: Free ‘quit smoking’ support for hospital staff

Hospital staff in Bristol are getting free one-to-one support to help them quit smoking.

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The University Hospital Bristol NHS Foundation Trust (UH Bristol) has appointed smoke-free expert Nichola Woodacre to encourage staff to quit and run 12 weeks of one to one sessions.

Employees working in a high pressured environment and those who have smoked for a long time may find it harder to quit, according to Nichola.

She said: “It is important staff can set an example to patients and visitors, to promote healthier living and good practice at our hospitals.”

The work coincides with the Stoptober campaign for October which is spreading the message that if you stop for 28 days you’re five times more likely to quit for good.

The response to the sessions have seen some success from staff including Rachel Hartles, a reception and print supervisor at UH Bristol, who said: “I was given a wealth of information about the health benefits of quitting, financial savings and methods to achieve my goal without having to go cold turkey.”

“It’s been two weeks, I’ve smoked one and a half cigarettes, used and inhaler and patches and I can already notice a difference in myself.”

“My chest feels more open and I feel much more alert. I am now at the same level as someone who doesn’t smoke and I couldn’t be more proud.”

26 of the 50 employees seen in the sessions by UH Bristol are now smoke-free.

Stoptober: Free ‘quit smoking’ support for hospital staff

The ‘unseen homeless’ of Bristol

Women’s’ rights activists disrupt a Bristol City Council meeting in protest of the council’s proposal to rehouse domestic violence survivors and demand an increase in social housing across the city.

The Bristol branch of Sisters Uncut attended a full council meeting on 13 December 2016 and revealed a banner whilst shouting and setting off rape alarms. The Sisters were protesting after the council failed to grant priority housing to all victims of domestic abuse in their draft proposal.

Watch the video:

The council’s draft proposal has suggested that they will prioritise high-risk victims of domestic abuse by awarding band 1 (the highest priority) to those who have been through a MARAC (multi-agency risk assessment conference). Bristol Sisters Uncut condemn the proposal as ‘totally inadequate to support victims of DV’.

Picture credit: Nina Napier
Charlotte Gage of Bristol Zero Tolerance Picture: Nina Napier

Charlotte Gage, who works for Bristol Zero Tolerance, a gender-based violence project, agrees with Sister’s Uncut that the proposal does not go far enough. “Only 10% of domestic abuse cases receive a MARAC assessment which means only 25 – 50 women per year would receive priority banding in Bristol on the council’s current proposals”.

Gage says that some women choose to stay in abusive and violent relationships to avoid becoming homeless. She believes that there are fewer women on the streets because they are the ‘unseen homeless’ and when confronted with a lack of social housing to support them, this presents a stark choice for women facing abuse.

Charlotte Gage talks about women’s homelessness and the housing crisis:

Bristol Sisters Uncut were escorted from the council chamber during their protest before they could read their full statement.  They later posted it on their Facebook Page.

Molly, a member of Bristol Sister’s Uncut who attended the action said:

“We believe the council is failing in their promise to support survivor’s of DV. When we started to read our statement the council started removing us. The security were quite aggressive, they bruised one member of the group and someone else was grabbed around their ribs.”

Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, promised in the run up to his election to prioritise social housing for domestic violence survivors living in safe houses in Bristol.

Picture credit: Steinsky Creative Commons licence

The Council declined to comment but released a statement in relation to the incident on 13 December:

“During today’s council meeting a protest group unfurled a banner, started chanting and let off an alarm. The Mayor, Marvin Rees, offered to meet them after the meeting to discuss their protest and the action they want to see happen. When they continued shouting they were asked to leave and then escorted from the Chamber.” 

Mayor Marvin Rees added:

“I have prioritised housing for women fleeing domestic violence and abuse. The proposal we have put out for consultation follows input from leading DVA and homelessness charities in the city. We have asked people to contribute to the consultation to make sure that the proposal that comes to Cabinet in the New Year ensures that Bristol is a place of safety for DVA victims, but in a context where 10,000 households are on the waiting list including 500 families in temporary accommodation.” 

“I agree with Sisters Uncut Bristol when they say a major issue is the lack of available homes versus a very high demand. This leaves us in a difficult position because there are all sorts of vulnerable and at-risk groups of people who need housing. We have tried to find a workable solution based on assessing the risk to people.”

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The council’s consultation has been extended until the 6 January 2017, with the result expected on 13 January. Although the council has said that they would like to speak with Bristol Sisters Uncut, they have yet to have a meeting.

Molly from Bristol Sisters Uncut talks about the protest and why they felt it was important to act for victims of domestic abuse:

‘Homelessness Hotspot”

The social housing problem is not just limited to women in domestic abuse situations in Bristol. According to Shelter, the UK’s leading homelessness charity, one in 199 people live in Bristol without a home. They believe the situation has hit crisis point and the chief executive Campbell Robb said: “A modern day housing crisis is tightening its grip on our country. Decades in the making, this is the tragic result of a nation struggling under the weight of sky-high rents, a lack of affordable homes, and cuts to welfare support.” Shelter believe Bristol is one of the ‘homelessness hotspots’ of the UK alongside London and Brighton.

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Picture credit: Nina Napier

On 7 December 2016 Bristol City Council released the annual rough sleeper count figure. 74 people were sleeping rough in Bristol during the annual count, which is lower than the 97 recorded last year (although the 2015 figure was based on an estimate rather than an actual count). Marvin Rees acknowledges that there are unseen homeless people who also need support and are not included in that figure.

David Ingerslev, co-chair of the Rough Sleeping Partnership said “between November 2015 and October 2016 1,100 individuals were supported by the Bristol Rough Sleeping Partnership, led by St Mungo’s and other partners. Around 150 people are being supported by the outreach team and the majority of people being supported will sleep rough only when they have no other option” 

Charlotte Gage says “we are not saying this is worse for one particular group. We are trying to ensure that the most vulnerable groups can access social housing and increase their support.”

The ‘unseen homeless’ of Bristol