Friday, 25 September 2009

An article from the Guardian that I would have missed had I not heard the reference to the Inquest findings on 5Live:

"Incident diary reveals ordeal of mother who killed herself and daughter

Fiona Pilkington, found dead in burning car with 18-year-old daughter, kept log of harassment by local youths

Fiona Pilkington and daughter

Francecca Hardwick, 18, and her mother Fiona Pilkington, whose bodies were found in a burning car in 2007. Photograph: Leicestershire police/PA

A vulnerable single mother who killed herself and her disabled daughter after years of harassment wrote about sitting in darkness in her house as youths yelled abuse outside, an inquest was told.

Extracts from a "harassment diary" Fiona Pilkington, 38, kept for her local council were read to the hearing at Loughborough town hall . She kept the diary for a short time about six months before her death in November 2007.

An extract from May 12 read: "They were shouting outside the window from 11.30pm until it went quiet at 2.30am." Pilkington had opened the living room curtains to see if she could scare away the gang, who regularly gathered outside her 1930s semi-detached house in Barwell, Leicestershire. This failed and she turned off the light. The entry ends: "Sat in the dark until 2.30am, stressed out."

The gang returned the next day, the diary records, attacking her hedge.

"It's chucking down with rain," she wrote at 4pm. "Fed up. Cheesed off. Why can't they just walk past without doing anything? Why can't they walk on the other side of the road?"

The last entry was written late at night on June 2, another Saturday. Youths had pelted the house with stones. "They then went [next door] to number 57, lit a fag and then tried to set fire to fences between the houses. Really cheesed off. Can't they just walk down the street without doing anything? It seems impossible."

Little more than six months later, after she had abandoned recording the incidents of abuse or, apparently, informing the council about them, Pilkington drove her blue Austin Maestro to a layby on the nearby A47 and set it alight. Inside, fire crews found her severely burned body and that of her 18-year-old daughter, Francecca.

An inquest has been told that the ever-changing gang of around 16 local youngsters seemed unable to leave the family in peace because they were perceived as different and vulnerable, and fair game.

As well as Francecca's disability, Pilkington's son Anthony, now 19, has serious dyslexia. She herself had borderline learning difficulties and had experienced depression, the inquest has been told.

Although Pilkington called the police 33 times, no one was ever charged over the harassment. In the diary she noted that on the night of May 12 she opted against calling the police again. "Know from experience that no one is usually available from Friday to Monday as it is busy elsewhere. This is a low priority."

Yesterday it also emerged that the council failed to pick up on the family's vulnerability, or share information with local police, even though both organisations knew the identities of the children behind the harassment, most of whom lived on the same street.

Tim Butterworth, a community safety officer for Hinckley and Bosworth borough council, sent Pilkington the diary after visiting her at her home in February 2007, and he read the extracts to the inquest. His only other recorded contact with her was a 10-minute phone call in April.

The coroner, Olivia Davison, noted that in a matter of weeks during that period, police recorded three separate incidents involving the family, including youths throwing stones at Anthony as he rode his bike, and that the council was informed.

"Did it not concern you to explore why this was occurring to this family?" Davison asked. Butterworth replied: "At this point no, because I had no concern for the family." He said he had not picked up on Pilkington's slight learning difficulties and knew nothing of her children's conditions.

Had he known the family's situation, Butterworth said, he would have treated the matter as a suspected hate crime and pursued it far more vigorously.

The hearing heard how the police and the council identified the same hardcore group of tormentors, but seemingly failed to share the information. Both organisations particularly picked out children from a household further down Pilkington's road, which was referred to at the hearing only as "Family A". Earlier this week it emerged that this family had persistently refused to cooperate with officials, remained known troublemakers and still lived on the street despite efforts to evict them.

The inquest has heard that members of the gang, some as young as 10, would pelt the house with stones, eggs and flour, and put fireworks through the letterbox. Once a key member of the group was heard to shout: "We can do anything we like and you can't do anything about it."

The inquest is expected to finish on Friday"

I simply cannot understand how something like this could possibly be allowed to go on for so long. Surely repeated reporting of this kind of activity should lead to a more proactive response from the police/council. I'm sure those 'kids' would have found it much less fun if the were constantly being picked up/detained/fined or, in the case of those who are considered below the age of criminal responsibility if their parents were constantly asked to come and pick them up from the station, or fined.

That this situation is allowed to occur is a shaming indictment of the society we live in. A lack of care, a lack of responsibility and an apparently total lack of support/protection for victims. Who will those 'kids' pick on next? How many of them will end getting into more/worse trouble and ultimately causing further harm and costing more money (either in cleaning up or prosecuting further crimes).

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