Fiona Pilkington report: Police praised for learning from mistakes


A disabled people’s organisation has praised the police force at the centre of a highly critical report into its failings over disability hate crime for taking positive steps to learn from its mistakes.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission’s (IPCC) report this week criticised Leicestershire police for its repeated failure to deal with the years of harassment suffered by the family of Fiona Pilkington, much of it aimed at her disabled daughter Francecca.

Pilkington killed herself and Francecca in October 2007 after years of abuse targeted at their family, who lived in Barwell, Leicestershire.

After an inquest in 2009, Disability News Service reported that Leicestershire Centre for Integrated Living (LCIL) had been pleading with Leicestershire police to take disability hate crime seriously for at least five years before the deaths.

But LCIL has now praised Leicestershire’s new chief constable, Simon Cole, for his efforts to turn around the force’s performance on disability hate crime since his appointment last summer.

Dee Martin, LCIL’s chief executive, said she believed Cole’s attitude towards disabled people and hate crime was one of the reasons he was appointed, and that the changes he had implemented had been a direct result of the Pilkington case.

She said: “I believe that the force – certainly from the top level down – is taking hate crime more seriously.

“Steps are being put in place. There is still a long way to go and it will be absolutely critical that the police continue to talk to disabled people to ensure the changes that are needed are totally embedded.”

Changes introduced include the introduction of a specialist team set up to work with victims of hate crime, and new training for officers and other staff in recognising those who may be at risk of harm.

Martin said it was too early to see any direct impact on disabled people in Leicestershire, but added: “I am more positive now than at any stage over the last 15 years. Over the last 12 months, the fact that I am seeing things that are all moving in a positive direction is something that is positive and we should applaud that.

“The question now is whether they make a difference and an impact.”

A Leicestershire police spokeswoman said other measures taken included a campaign to encourage the reporting of hate crime, and organising police presentations and workshops aimed at raising the profile of hate crime.

25 May 2011