A British inquest jury ruled this week that years of abuse and terror at the hands of neighborhood toughs had led a despairing single mother to kill herself and her 18-year-old disabled daughter, and that police inaction contributed to their deaths.
Fiona Pilkington had called police dozens of times and written desperate letters to her local lawmaker, but no one intervened to stop the persecution. The inquest heard testimony that a local gang of youths repeatedly urinated on Pilkington’s home, pushed excrement through her mailbox, smashed her windows with stones and spattered her walls with eggs and flour.
Pilkington’s daughter Francecca, who had an intellectual disability, was mercilessly taunted. On one occasion, a mob of more than a dozen youths demanded that she lift up her dress. Her son Anthony, 19, who has dyslexia, was locked in a shed at knifepoint and, on another occasion, beaten with an iron bar, but no one was prosecuted.
Pilkington’s family said the case highlighted problems faced by parents of disabled children, and campaigners and academics said the police’s sluggishness in responding to the attacks showed that hate crimes against disabled people were often ignored.
“The failure to take seriously the ‘drip-drip’ of daily violence against some disabled people is at the heart of the Pilkington case,” said professor Alan Roulstone, who researches disability issues at De Montfort University in central England. He said that while British society had made strides toward tackling religious or racially-motivated hate crimes, disabled people were often “last on the list.”