Four accused of Pilkington failures

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The Independent Online

Four police officers will face misconduct proceedings over failures to stop a gang terrorising a woman who killed herself and her disabled daughter, a watchdog said today.

An inspector, a sergeant and two constables will be quizzed over their actions after investigators ruled that Leicestershire Police should have done more to identify Fiona Pilkington and her 18-year-old daughter Francecca Hardwick as vulnerable.

The mistake "lay at the core of their failure to provide a cohesive and effective approach to the anti-social behaviour the family suffered", an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) inquiry found.

Ms Pilkington, 38, torched her Austin Maestro car at a lay-by near her home in Barwell, Leicestershire, while she and her disabled daughter sat inside.

Their deaths, in October 2007, followed 10 years of torment at the hands of yobs who taunted them and pelted their home with stones, eggs and flour.

A 180 page report published by the IPCC today concluded the police officers had systems in place which should have highlighted the problems the family were suffering.

The report lists 33 recorded incidents between November 1997 and October 2007 when the family had contact with officers.

Ms Pilkington also wrote once directly to police and twice to her local MP, who forwarded the letters to the force, complaining of harassment and anti-social behaviour.

"Incidents were too often dealt with by police officers in isolation and with an unstructured approach," the report added.

IPCC commissioner Amerdeep Somal said the family could not have done more to highlight their plight as police missed "several opportunities" to intervene.

She added: "Fiona, her mother, her neighbours and MP had all contacted the police to inform them that she had repeated and justifiable concerns about her family's predicament.

"Yet, no one person gripped these reports and took charge to strategically manage and oversee what should have been a targeted police response.

"There was nothing in place to ensure the Pilkington family were considered by police as vulnerable or repeat victims, contrary to the force's own strategy.

"Systems were in place for officers to have linked the catalogue of incidents but these were not well utilised. Police missed several opportunities to take robust action, inadequately investigated criminal allegations on some occasions and failed to record information on their own intelligence system."

The report comes after an inquest attacked the force for failing to properly respond to dozens of pleas from the family to intervene.

Relatives welcomed the IPCC findings, saying they hoped the case would help other vulnerable people.

Ms Pilkington, her daughter and her severely dyslexic son Anthony, 19, suffered years of torment from a gang of up to 16 yobs, some as young as 10.

Family solicitor Jocelyn Cockburn, of Hodge Jones & Allen, said they hoped "it will lead to improvements in the way that victims of anti-social behaviour and hate crime are dealt with by the police".

She added: "The family know first-hand the terrible impact of such behaviour on vulnerable people and they dearly hope that other victims will be helped by this case.

"The family are still struggling to come to terms with the loss of Fiona and Francecca and therefore they ask the Press to respect their privacy and not to make any approach to them directly."

The family's ordeal included stones, eggs and flour being thrown at their home, while the mob once shouted at Francecca, who had the mental age of a four-year-old, to lift up her nightdress.

On another occasion, Anthony was marched to a shed at knifepoint and locked in by the gang.