Johnson attacks police over suicide mother

As the inquest closes into the death of two women bullied by gangs, the Home Secretary says officials failed them

In a remarkable intervention, the Home Secretary will this week attack the police over the lack of help offered to a mother who killed herself and her disabled daughter after they suffered years of bullying.

A "dismayed" Alan Johnson will tell the Labour Party conference that the deaths of Fiona Pilkington and 18-year-old Francecca Hardwick "should never have happened". He will also insist that police and local authorities have – and use – powers to stop people from being hounded to distraction by antisocial behaviour.

The unprecedented criticism comes after a coroner said the deaths, two years ago, could have been prevented if the authorities had taken complaints from the family seriously. The comments by Mr Johnson are likely to be seen as highly controversial, coming as the the jury in the inquest prepares to return its verdict.

An inquest into the deaths was told that Ms Pilkington, of Barwell, Leicestershire, set fire to her car as she and her daughter sat inside, after police ignored reports of abuse over several years. The inquest was also told that a 16-strong gang of youths would often pelt her house with eggs and stones. Ms Pilkington's son, Anthony, was attacked with an iron bar and locked in a shed at knife-point.

Mr Johnson is said to be "at pains to understand" how the family's calls for help were not taken seriously, how some of the problems were dismissed as low level and "how the family could sustain more than a decade of abuse without the right steps being taken to solve the problems faced by the family". The Home Office maintains the Government has put in place measures such as parenting orders and antisocial behaviour contracts to tackle similar problems – and these can be ratcheted up if they are not solving specific problems.

In his speech on Tuesday, Mr Johnson will make it clear that it is not an option for the police not to use these powers, as "they are there to protect communities, to provide them with relief from the corrosive effects of intimidation and harassment". He will say: "This is about core policing values, which is also core Labour business of looking after communities. It is about responding to people's needs at a time when they most need the police to be there. The Pilkingtons' is an exceptional case, but one that should never have happened."

In a speech designed to underline the Government's hard-line policy on nuisance neighbours, he will insist that antisocial behaviour has to be "tackled, not tolerated" by the police. Mr Johnson has also made it known that he is considering further action to tackle the issues raised by the Pilkington case.

"It is not a question of money, but of mindset," he will tell Labour delegates in Brighton. "We also need local authorities, agencies and police working more closely in areas that do have problems."

An inquest jury in Loughborough last week heard that failings by police and councils meant Ms Pilkington was never assessed by social workers, though they were aware she had "suicidal thoughts". After she died with Francecca, who had severe learning difficulties, Leicestershire County Council began a serious case review. It found Leicestershire County Council, Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council and Leicestershire Police failed to share information about the family, their disabilities and the abuse. The review made five recommendations. These included an investigation into the impact of antisocial behaviour, the sharing of information between authorities and the need to "read the situation from the victims' point of view".

"If somebody had sat this woman down with a cup of tea they could have perhaps helped her," said coroner Olivia Davison. "You need to sit down with people to get information from them and I wonder why that wasn't something that occurred here."

Statements documenting 18 months of abuse and bullying were given to Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council on 22 October 2007 – a day before Ms Pilkington and her daughter died – in an effort to stop the antisocial behaviour of a "problem family", who cannot be identified to protect other victims. Weeks after the deaths an injunction was taken out against the family after attempts by police to control the family failed and the parents "refused to accept that their children had done anything wrong", the inquest was told.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Solution Architect - Contract

£500 - £600 per day: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Solution Architect is requir...

360 Resourcing Solutions: Export Sales Coordinator

£18k - 20k per year: 360 Resourcing Solutions: ROLE: Export Sales Coordinato...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Telesales Executive - OTE £35,000+

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest developer of mobile...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue