Was Fiona Pilkington’s disability covered up?
Virtually all reports, even official ones, say her daughter Francecca, and her brother, Anthony, had disabilities.
Apparently it is said FP had a learning disability. This fact is virtually untouched upon right across the spectrum of news and official reports into the harassment and subsequent deaths of FP and her daughter. I have seen hundreds of reports on FP and only ever seen a tiny sliver of reference in regards to her disabilities.
One associate of the Pilkington family, known as Hazel, does touch upon this subject in Katharine Quarmby’s ground-breaking book on disability hate crime – ‘Scapegoat.’ It is confirmed that “Fiona had mild learning difficulties…:”
If we look through news reports, such as the Leicester Mercury (18th Sept 2009) we are simply told FP had “stress and depression-related complaints:”
The Guardian (24th May 2011) informs us of Francecca’s and Anthony’s disabilities. But of FP’s? Nothing:
Even the EHRC with its comprehensive 231 page report on disability hate crime, doesnt even mention a single fact that FP had a disability – only those of her two siblings:
The Guardian at one point entertains very slightly the idea that FP had disabilities – “she had to cope with anxiety, depression and possible mild learning difficulties.” This from its 29 September 2009 edition:
Seems the ONLY news report that mentions FP’s disability with any definite sense is this made in the Telegraph (30th Sept 2009):
Despite the enormous discussion and subsequent impact upon policing and legislation following the FP episode, it is quite unsettling that FP herself was disregarded in terms of disability. Had this been confirmed perhaps there would have been even more outrage and ultimately a larger compensation settlement sought from Leicestershire Police.
It follows from this that perhaps the FP episode was not only a ‘Stephen Lawrence’ turning point in terms of disability hate crime, but one that also at the same time swept the very essence of the issue itself under the carpet – that of a disabled person herself struggling to make their plight heard. That of a disabled person trying to protect her family.
The IPCC’s report into the contacts between FP and Leicestershire Police (2009) tells us under the ‘No Secrets’ legislation that FP would have not been seen as a vulnerable person:
One wonders what to make of this. Does ‘No Secrets’ expressively exclude FP? Did it indicate Leicestershire’s officers simply had no common sense and saw a sustained campaign against a vulnerable woman (and her children) as a veritable bit of fun?
Renee Martin, writing in Global Comment, says FP was told she was “overreacting” and to “draw her drapes.”
“It is difficult for many to believe that such cruelty is actually intentional, but those that must negotiate ableism face this sort of behaviour on a regular basis.” (Martin)
There was a campaign to create ‘Fiona’s Law’ which would have forced police to act if there were indications of a hate crime or anti social happening (Daily Express 11 March 2012). It never got off the ground – in 2014 the police can still, and do all too sadly, ignore victims:
Clearly the case of Fiona Pilkington has not been brought to a conclusion, and therefore stands as an aspect of disability hate crime that was not even a hate crime and that disability itself was ignored – something that we see again and again (Andrew Young, Scott Blackwood and many others.)
FP was not classed as a disabled victim. The FP episode therefore stands out as one that totally unique in this respect and thus one must question the validity of the police’s ignorance towards FP – was that in itself a hate crime?
Was there any slight towards FP because she was not seen as normal? Has the justice system and its professionals missed this aspect out? Is it because no-one wants to accuse the police of being disability hate crimers? (Take for example, the recent Faruk Ali case, which is ironically being investigated by those who failed FP!)
Ultimately its a further failure in the cumulative work done so far to improve those who are targets for hatred and harassment. In 2014 disability hate crime is still a damning incitement upon that society which classes itself as normal and able-bodied, and whose discontents (namely its scrounger rhetoric, hate criming, harassment, inaccessibility and deliberate obstruction to many aspects of life, and its obscurantist, incomplete legislative systems meant to protect us) are very often un-nerving and still making easy targets of all of us who happen to be disabled.