Disability hate crime campaigners have welcomed a judge’s decision to jail two members of police staff whose failures allowed the murder of a disabled man who had begged officers for protection.
Avon and Somerset police constable Kevin Duffy and community support officer Andrew Passmore were jailed at Bristol Crown Court this week after being convicted of misconduct in public office.
Duffy was jailed for 10 months, and Passmore for four months, as a result of their failures in dealing with Bijan Ebrahimi in the hours and days before his murder in 2013.
Ebrahimi had repeatedly begged the police to protect him after he was threatened by his neighbour, 24-year-old Lee James.
James claimed Ebrahimi was filming his daughters because he was a paedophile, when he was actually compiling evidence of anti-social behaviour by youngsters he thought had been vandalising his hanging baskets.
Ebrahimi (pictured trying to persuade officers to take his concerns seriously) was beaten and kicked unconscious and then set alight by James, who lived just a few doors away in Capgrave Crescent, Brislington, on the edge of Bristol.
James pleaded guilty to murder in 2013 and was sentenced to a minimum of 18 years in prison.
Steven Norley, who helped him set light to Ebrahimi’s body, was jailed for four years after pleading guilty to assisting an offender.
Simon Green, a coordinator of the Disability Hate Crime Network, said Duffy and Passmore had “completely failed to recognise that what Bijan was going through was hate crime and ignored it” and that they had “failed to take the actions that could have possibly saved his life”.
He said he had reported disability hate crime himself and had been “ignored and treated as a nuisance” by police, while he had “heard many more horror stories” in his work as a campaigner.
Green said: “Glad to say that more recently the vast majority of officers I come across do have a greater understanding and more awareness, but I am hoping the above sentences will make those less aware and who care less to step up and take action, no matter how they feel towards the victim.”
Steven Brookes, another coordinator of the network, also welcomed the sentences.
He said that Duffy and Passmore had been found to “have failed the victim in a massive way”, while the case showed that too many forces were “quite simply being appalling in their handling of cases relating to anything about disability through massive lack of awareness”, and were therefore guilty of institutional discrimination.
After internal police disciplinary proceedings against 15 members of staff and officers are completed, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) will publish two reports, one covering the events that took place in the weekend leading up to the murder in July 2013, and another examining “dozens” of contacts Ebrahimi had with the force over the preceding six years.
It is believed that Ebrahimi, who was Iranian, had been subjected to a campaign of race- and disability-related harassment which forced him to move from his previous home.
Campaigners have previously drawn comparisons between the case and the kind of multi-agency failings that led to the deaths of some of the most high-profile disability hate crime victims of recent years, such as Francecca Pilkington, David Askew and Steven Hoskin.