Police admit errors in hate crime case

Sept. 18, 2009 at 9:32 PM   |   Comments

LOUGHBOROUGH, England, Sept. 18 (UPI) -- Police in England admitted Friday they failed to see hate crimes in the tormenting that led a mother to kill her daughter and herself in a fiery crash.

Fiona Pilkington, 38, and her daughter Francecca Hardwick, 18, were found in Pilkington's car off a road in Leicestershire in October 2007. Their bodies were burned beyond recognition, The Guardian reported.

An inquest heard police were called 13 times with complaints a gang of youths were tormenting the family, including throwing stones and shouting abuse and obscenities. The daughter had severe learning disabilities and her brother, Anthony, 19, is severely dyslexic. Loughborough police failed to link the complaints with others from previous years and also failed to recognize the harassment was because of the family's disabilities.

The gang members, some as young as 10-years-old, were never charged because Pilkington didn't want to press charges, but police now acknowledge they could have taken the matter into their own hands.

At the time of the attacks, disabilities were not considered the subject of hate crimes, but that changed after the deaths of Pilkington and Hardwick, said Chris Tew, former assistant chief constable of the Leicestershire. Tew, now retired, said Pilkington may not have made the best decision about not pressing charges.

Coroner Olivia Davison said many of the attacks could have been prosecuted.

"It seems to me that, given the history and the context of the abuse, it would not have been anti-social behavior but a crime because we had people being hounded in their own house," she said.

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