A disabled people’s organisation pleaded with Leicestershire police to take disability hate crime seriously five years before a woman was driven to kill herself and her disabled daughter after a sustained campaign of harassment.
Leicestershire Centre for Integrated Living (LCIL) has been trying to persuade them to stop ignoring disability hate crime for the last seven years.
Further concerns were passed on by LCIL in 2005/06 as part of a consultation on the force’s first disability equality scheme (DES).
Dee Martin, chief executive of LCIL, said: “This is not new for us. This is something we have been raising for a number of years.”
Her organisation has supported several victims of disability hate crime, including one case that is “nearly as bad” as the victimisation suffered by Fiona Pilkington’s family.
She was speaking after an inquest jury found Pilkington committed suicide and unlawfully killed her 18-year-old daughter, Francecca, by setting fire to their car in October 2007.
The family, from Barwell, Leicestershire, had been the victims of a ten-year hate campaign led by a local gang, much of it directed at Francecca, who had learning difficulties, and her brother, who has dyslexia.
Despite 33 calls to the police, Pilkington’s concerns were not taken seriously and the harassment was never treated as a disability hate crime.
The jury partly blamed the police, Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council and Leicestershire County Council for her decision to kill herself and her daughter.
Martin said the tragedy proved again the urgent need for centres run by disabled people where victims could report disability hate crimes.
She said: “If there had been somewhere like that available to Fiona Pilkington, this might never have happened.”
LCIL sent a hate crime report to the police in 2008 and has since reissued the report to the police and the two councils.
The report “highlighted the fact that disability hate crime is being ignored” across the country, and called for authorities to work with disabled people.
Martin said only 12 disability hate crimes have been reported in Leicestershire in the last year, which was “clearly only the tip of the iceberg”.
Part of the problem, she said, is too many cases being written off as mere “anti-social behaviour”.
She said: “Unless and until the issue of disability hate crime is totally recognised and responded to in the way other crime is responded to, then this issue will continue to be pushed under the carpet.”
A Leicestershire police spokeswoman said: “We can confirm that [the] way that [we] recognised disability hate crime was brought to our attention by the LCIL at our disability and consultation events which they were commissioned to assist in.
“As a result of this, this was included in the disability action plan within the equality scheme [for 2007] and measures have been progressed to train officers within the [police] to understand disability hate crime and be able to categorise it accordingly.
“Work is still ongoing in communities to identify to people what disability hate crime is.”
The spokeswoman could not confirm whether the issue was also included in the 2006 DES.
1 October 2009