'Naming and Shaming' in late-Victorian and Edwardian Britain
Andy Croll on how publishing anti-social behaviour is a trick we have copied from the Victorians.
Wandsworth Borough in south London is no place for the owners of pets who foul the footpath. In November 1996 the Tory council introduced a policy of 'naming and shaming' any of its tenants found guilty of anti-social behaviour. The first batch of miscreants to have their crimes publicised included twenty-three such dog-owners, three residents guilty of noise pollution and four families who had been deemed to be 'bad neighbours'. A list of their names and addresses was displayed prominently in council literature and circulated to local newspapers. Margaret Mervis, chair of the housing committee, was happy enough with the decision remarking that 'This is what decent tenants want'. Others were less impressed. One dog-owner threatened the council with legal action, whilst the National Council for Civil Liberties was concerned that the policy infringed on civil liberties and could lead to vigilante attacks.