Help pledged for disabled hate crime victims

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The Independent Online

Prosecutors and police said today they needed to do more to help disabled victims of hate crime.

Joanna Perry from the Crown Prosecution Service said the organisation had to "raise its game" and secure more successful cases in the area.

And a senior police officer said agencies needed to work together more to combat the problem.

Their comments follow the case of Fiona Pilkington, who killed herself and her disabled teenage daughter after suffering years of abuse from a gang in Barwell, Leicestershire.

And earlier this month a man with learning difficulties collapsed and died in Greater Manchester after allegedly being harassed by youths.

Ms Perry, from the CPS's equality and diversity unit, told the BBC: "We know that disabled people probably think enough is not being done in this area.

"We think that the CPS could raise its game and that we could better identify where there is hostility against disabled people - in other words, where there's evidence we can bring to the courts' attention that shows that this crime, for example, was not just a robbery, it was a disability hate crime robbery."

Chief Constable Steve Otter, from the Association of Chief Police Officers, added: "There's no doubt we can do more. It's very challenging - we have to make sure our officers are trained properly so they can identify disability and mental health issues.

"We have to make sure that we can get the evidence into court in an admissible way and we have to make sure that we are working really hard to prevent these things from happening in the first place."

Ms Pilkington, her 18-year-old daughter Francecca and her severely dyslexic son Anthony, suffered more than 10 years of abuse from a gang of teenagers living in their street.

The 38-year-old set light to her family's Austin Maestro in a lay-by near their home on October 23, 2007, while she sat in the driver's seat alongside her daughter.

Police and the local council were subsequently heavily criticised for not handling complaints from the family properly.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is looking into how police handled a string of complaints of anti-social behaviour targeted at David Askew, who died in the garden of his home in Greater Manchester after his family reported a disturbance on March 10.