Vexatious, persistent and abusive behaviour policy

Dealing with abusive and threatening behaviour

Our officers accept that people under stress or who are feeling angry or upset may react in an abusive or aggressive way to the person with whom they are dealing. However, a balance must be drawn between the ability and desire to assist a complainant and what can reasonably be achieved in the circumstances.

The following sections explain how officers should deal with such behaviour based upon the method of customer contact. In all instances of abusive and threatening behaviour, the service manager, should on
notification of such contact, consider whether the matter should be handled under the councils Staff Protection Policy.

Over the telephone

In situations where the language and content of telephone calls becomes abusive or threatening to officers, it is acceptable for a council employee to terminate a telephone conversation.

In all cases the officer should remain polite and, wherever possible:

  • Provide the complainant with the opportunity to modify their behaviour by informing the complainant that unless they do so, the call will be terminated.
  • If a call needs to be terminated as a result of the complainant’s conduct a file record must be kept and the service manager advised immediately.

Face to Face

The personal safety of the council officers is of paramount importance and if during face to face meetings the customer’s behaviour becomes aggressive, abusive or displays high levels of distress the meeting should be brought to an end as quickly as possible.

The decision to end a meeting should (if possible) be explained clearly and politely, so that the customer does not feel that they are being dismissed or their mattercomplaint ignored. Unless it is clearly inappropriate to do so, they should also be informed that it may be possible to continue the conversation at a future meeting when they are less distressed.

If an officer feels their personal safety is in immediate risk, an officer will end the meeting without explanation and if deemed necessary without warning. Where a meeting is terminated because of the conduct of the customer a file note of the incident will be made and the matter brought to the attention of the service manager immediately.

Other correspondence (email, letter etc)

Officers in receipt of abusive or threatening correspondence need not reply to this other than to acknowledge its receipt. All such correspondence should be brought to the attention of the relevant service manager.

The relevant service manager will review the case and may decide to respond to the customer explaining that the tone of their correspondence is unacceptable and that no further correspondence will be entered into unless the complainant amends their tone. (More detail is provided in Section 7).