The death of David Askew: Hate crime ordeal lasted 40 years


A disabled man’s hate crime ordeal, which lasted nearly 40 years, has been laid bare by a report into the circumstances that led to his death.

The serious case review was set up by Tameside Adult Safeguarding Partnership (TASP) following the death in March 2010 of David Askew.

Askew collapsed and died soon after police received reports that youths had again been harassing him outside his home.

A summary of the review was published on the same day that the police watchdog criticised Greater Manchester Police for its serious failings in the case.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission’s report concentrates on events from 2007 to 2010, but the serious case review (SCR) reveals that the “teasing and taunting” of Askew started shortly after his family moved into their home in Hattersley, on the edge of Manchester, in 1971.

The SCR summary describes how Askew, who had learning difficulties, was a repeated victim of thefts, assaults and “tormenting” when out in the local community, and burglary, harassment and other “anti-social” incidents in and around his family’s home.

Between 2007 and 2010, 26 named young people were identified as taking part in this targeted campaign of hostility.

During 2007, there were 46 incidents recorded by various agencies involving Askew and his family, including two burglaries, bricks thrown through the window on three occasions, while his glasses were broken, and he had his cigarettes and money stolen. The following year there were another 34 incidents, with another 14 in 2009.

One professional said the harassment became “normal” to the family, who were “subjected to so much abuse that they learned to tolerate all but the worst”, with Askew’s mother only calling the police “when things escalated beyond a certain point, eg if once again she was showered in broken glass”.

The report describes how Askew “could get very upset and frustrated over the harassment” and would “get agitated, shout and bite his hands until they bled”.

There were more than 90 incidents between 2007 and 2009 that could have been reported to the council’s safeguarding adults team, but the agencies involved with Askew only ever made one “alert” about the risk to him or his family.

Although Askew was known to Tameside council’s social services department, and received some employment and “day activity” support, he never received the support he needed to ensure his protection, the review concludes.

Among its recommendations, the review calls on the council to review its guidance on access to support for adults who need “safeguarding”, while it says TASP should review its training programme, and ensure all its partner agencies review how they collect and share information about anti-social behaviour and harassment.

It also says TASP should organise an event to bring residents and professionals together to “share the learning” from the review and focus on how they can “work together to stop the inheritance of the behaviour that created so much torment for [Askew] and his family”.

Stephanie Butterworth, Tameside council’s executive director of adult services, said the council was “determined to learn from the events so that others are protected in the future”.

She admitted that all the agencies involved needed to “work more closely together to identify vulnerable people within our communities and ensure that we are effective in protecting them from harassment and hate crime”.

She said: “We will endeavour to work alongside our colleagues from all agencies in achieving the recommendations made within the serious care review.”

22 March 2011