Police watchdog will investigate whether force failed on hate crime


The independent police watchdog is to investigate Leicestershire police’s failure to treat the ten-year campaign of abuse and harassment against Fiona Pilkington and her disabled children as disability hate crime.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has also launched an investigation, into the possible failure of the family’s local borough council to comply with its legal duties to address disability hate crime.

An inquest jury found that Pilkington committed suicide and unlawfully killed her 18-year-old daughter, Francecca, by setting fire to their car in a Leicestershire layby in October 2007.

The jury had heard that the family were subjected to a vicious hate campaign led by local youths, much of it disablist abuse targeted at Francecca, who had learning difficulties. Her brother, who has dyslexia, was also victimised.

Pilkington, as well as friends and family, made a total of 33 calls to the police, but the harassment was never treated as possible disability hate crime.

The jury said the failures of Leicestershire police, Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council and Leicestershire County Council contributed to Pilkington’s decision to kill herself and her daughter.

Following the inquest, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) announced that it was launching an investigation into the way the Leicestershire force responded to the calls made by Pilkington and her friends and family.

The watchdog later confirmed that the investigation would include whether the force had breached any policies and guidelines on dealing with hate crime.

Meanwhile, the EHRC is to ask Hinckley and Bosworth council to prove it is complying with its legal duty to eliminate disability-related harassment.

Following hate crime research it published earlier this year, the EHRC has already begun a wider review of how public authorities are meeting their legal duty to eliminate harassment of the kind suffered by the Pilkingtons.

The EHRC said it would contact the IPCC before deciding whether to take any further action.

Trevor Phillips, chair of the EHRC, said: “Our research shows that while these deaths stand out because of the desperate course of action Fiona Pilkington took, hate crime is all too common an experience for disabled people.”

29 September 2009