Tag Archives: Fiona Pilkington

Suffering in Silence

We believe there are many victims of anti-social behaviour who are suffering in silence in the UK at this time.

I read with interest a while back this article in the East Lothian Courier: http://www.eastlothiancourier.com/news/tranent/15200968.Residents__afraid_to_call_police__over_youth_gangs/ which clearly highlighted the issues when someone experiences anti-social behaviour.

Gangs of up to 30 youths were gathering at a local park leading to cars being vandalised and anti-social behaviour.  The police reported that they had only received three calls about incidents which took place.  However, on social media many more incidents were being highlighted and it was this which led the police to investigate the scale of the problems.

People were frightened by the prospect of police visiting their homes and being seen to do so by the youths.  They feared they would then become a target of their anti-social behaviour.  So instead, in fear, they chose to go on suffering in silence.

The Scale of the Problem

ASB Help has an online survey and one of the questions we ask is whether the respondent has reported the anti-social behaviour they are experiencing.  If they answer No, we ask the reason for that.  Sometimes it is because they did not know who to contact, others felt it would be a waste of time or didn’t want the hassle of going to court.  However, over half of respondents who have not reported the ASB, say that it is because they are worried it would make the situation worse or are too scared due to intimidation.

Our survey indicates only 84% of respondents have reported the ASB.  So 16% haven’t, half of those because of fear.

If we were to take this figure and apply it to the national statistics it produces some very concerning numbers of those potentially suffering in silence.

In the last Crime Survey of England and Wales, approximately 1.8 million incidents of ASB were reported to the police (note this does not include other incidents reported only to the local council or housing associations).  If you are experiencing anti-social behaviour and report it to the police, it is probably pretty serious.

If this only represents 84% of total incidents, then the 16% not reporting it would amount to around 340,000 incidents.  If half do not report it due to fear of retaliation, could it be possible that 170,000 people in England and Wales are suffering in silence every year?

The Most Vulnerable Suffering?

Let’s remember this number represents only incidents reported to the police, not including the council.  If you are going to the police, you can be sure these are the more serious situations (not fly-tipping, dog fouling etc).  We can be sure that those who are too scared to report it are probably experiencing some of the most concerning incidents.  This is extremely important.

The government wants to put victims first and looks at high risk cases and helping the vulnerable.  Yet nothing is done to identify vulnerable victims who do not report the problem.  The police are less likely to spot issues now.  This story in East Lothian Courier illustrates my point perfectly.  Thankfully the police became aware of the Facebook activity by concerned residents – with police strapped for resources, they are certainly less likely to simply stumble upon a problem whilst on the beat.

What about if the victim is not part of a community, does not have access to the Internet at home and/or chooses not to communicate through social media channels?  Where can they turn when they are too scared to call the police?

We know what can happen when a vulnerable person contacts the police and does not get proper protection nor a proper response – Bijan Ebrahimi was one of these people and was eventually murdered by the perpetrator of the ASB; Fiona Pilkington was another and her despair led her to take her own life and that of her daughter.

People in our society, especially the most vulnerable, must be able to have confidence in their local authorities to act to stop the ASB and to protect them in the process.  Until we see this more clearly, including a transparent and effective Community Trigger process, I fear many more people every year are going to be suffering in silence, terrorised and tormented, often in their own home or immediate vicinity.

Don’t suffer in silence – agencies can only act if you report it, but let them know your fears.  

Victims being Failed

Stalking victims being failed, say watchdogs” (BBC on 5th July 2017)

Bijan Ebrahimi: Police ‘failed’ murdered man for years.” (BBC on 5th July 2017)

There is a familiar theme here in these 2 reports that came out last week.  One report was published by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, the other by HMIC (Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary).  Both contain worrying conclusions of how victims are not being listened to and not properly protected.

This was also a message that came out of the tragic death of Fiona Pilkington and her daughter Francecca.  The Independent Police Complaints Commission concludedthat the police’s error in not identifying Fiona Pilkington and her children as a vulnerable family “lay at the core” of their failure to provide a cohesive and effective approach.  Incidents were too often dealt with by police officers in isolation and with an unstructured approach.

Victims being failed.  It is what we are hearing from the Grenfell Tower residents. Last week we heard it about victims of stalkers – that many victims are being failed with poorly run investigations and insufficient protection given to victims.  We also see how badly one vulnerable victim was treated in Bristol, with such a lack of support that he ultimately ended up losing his life as he sought to get evidence and find someone who would believe him and act to stop the anti-social behaviour he was suffering.

How many more Bijan Ebrahimis and Fiona Pilkingtons do we need to have before change is made?  What would that change look like?

The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 was designed to put victims first.  However, in practice, much of that seems to be just in word rather than deed.  Our biggest concern is that whatever powers are put in place in theory and through legislation to protect victims or give them a louder voice, in practice individual victims can still be ignored, or as in the case of Bijan Ebrahimi told to ‘Shut up’!

A victim or group of victims who are being ignored now have the ability to insist on a case review through the Community Trigger process.  Yet we know of a victim of stalking who felt she was being failed by the authorities and when she activated the Community Trigger was simply told a review had happened and ‘that all processes had been followed’.  However, she is still suffering and not receiving any support or protection.

The Appeal process for the Community Trigger often goes to the same agency that managed it in the first place.  This is a problem but there should also be no need for genuine victims to have to jump through so many hoops.  In some areas of England and Wales, the Police and Crime Commissioner’s office is involved in managing Appeals.  When the Government’s White Paper: Putting Victims First was written, PCCs were specifically mentioned as people to whom victims could go for help.

In practice, and in our experience, the reality is far different.  Police and Crime Commissioners have no mandate to act in the area of anti-social behaviour so many do not.  Even when we have asked a PCC office about an individual, we are only told that they have called the local police and been assured that all necessary support has been offered.  Everything is taken at face value and no checks are done.

Without checks, how will we know who is being failed?  Only when the failure has been severe and the investigation done.  This is a serious problem in the whole system – not just in anti-social behaviour but across many spheres of public life. When members of the public cry out for help, what confidence can they have that their small voice will be heard when up again big organisations like the Council and the Police?  The solution cannot be more red tape and requiring more of already cash-strapped public services, yet there needs to be some better way of empowering victims in an effective way.

Independent Chair?

If someone in a situation like that of Bijan Ebrahimi approached us today, we would recommend they activate the Community Trigger which has been set up for victims who feel like they are being ignored by local agencies.  However, it is worth mentioning that in Bijan Ebrahimi’s case, the Community Trigger probably would not have yielded results unless there was an independent member of the panel.

If he was known to the main agencies, including the police and the Council, it is easy to see how they might skew a case review right from the outset by saying that the victim is a persistent complainant.  We believe the Community Trigger (also known as ASB Case Review) would have so much more potential power if it was chaired by someone independent from the whole case, trained to critically challenge the evidence and any bias.  To have that independent perspective could have shed crucial light onto the situation and made a real difference.

 

Fiona Pilkington

Police failed to investigate her 33 complaints of harassment. Such failings contributed to her death when she gave up on getting help and killed herself and her 18 year old disabled daughter by setting their car on fire. With reference to Fiona Pilkington, Leicestershire

Fiona Pilkington and daughter Francecca

Fiona Pilkington and daughter Francecca

Fiona Pilkington from Leicester killed herself and her 18 year old disabled daughter Francecca in 2007 after Leicester Police failed to investigate her 33 complaints to them about harassment. Her daughter, who had developmental delay, was the target of a group of yobs, some as young as ten. The 38-year-old also complained to the police, council and her MP in a bid to stop nearly a decade of abuse of her mentally disabled daughter Francecca Hardwick,18, and dyslexic son Anthony. The group of youths, some as young as ten, threw stones and eggs at her home in Barwell, Leicestershire, urinated on a wall, invaded the garden and pushed fireworks through the letter box. Anthony was beaten up in the street and locked in a shed at knifepoint.

The final call to police came on the day of Miss Pilkington’s death in October 2007, when she was told to ‘ignore’ girls trampling over her hedge and mocking Francecca. The police felt she was over-reacting and did not connect the various calls to assess how vulnerable the family was. They felt it was not worth prosecuting for. The jury at the inquest into her death 2 years later ruled that Fiona and her family had been failed by the local councils in the area as well as the police and that those failings had contributed to her death.

The case of Fiona Pilkington is seen in the sector as a turning point in agencies being more responsive to vulnerable victims of anti-social behaviour. However, some areas do a better job than others.

[Source: historic newspaper articles including http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1214393/Police-dismissed-30-pleas-Fiona-Pilkington-killed-disabled-daughter-escape-yobs.html , http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leicestershire-13504618]