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Guest #7: ASB in 2012, by Bonnie

"Public perceptions vs. working realities"

Over the many years I have worked in the area of Anti Social Behaviour (ASB), I find that every so often a few cases hit the headlines that are particularly poignant.  For example, the Baby P and Fiona Pilkington cases.

Not only are these cases shocking because of the tragic deaths of the victims but because their deaths are in part, due to failings by agencies that should have been protecting them.  These cases are so atrocious that they call for changes to be made to ensure that the situation doesn’t happen again.

It’s clear for the wider public to see that the case of Stephen Lawrence, for example, has had a hugely significant impact on the way the Law and the Police manage Hate Crime.  The changes made following the death of Baby P and Fiona Pilkington however, are less visible.

Due to my working in the field of Anti Social Behaviour I can’t comment on Baby P, but I feel I am able to confidently write about the Pilkington Case.

In October 2007, Fiona Pilkington got herself and her daughter in her car and set it alight. It was the result of a prolonged period of targeted anti social behaviour (ASB) that she felt she could no longer cope with.  In 2009 an inquest took place to ascertain how Fiona Pilkington had been failed by the various agencies that she had continually reported the problems to.

It transpired that her family had endured 10 years of abuse at their home. They had repeatedly been targeted by groups of up to 16 youngsters, with stones, eggs and flour thrown at the house. Her son and disabled daughter also received more sinister incidents of abuse.

During the 10 year period, Pilkington complained to Leicestershire Police 33 times regarding the harassment.  The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) published its investigation findings in its report in May 2011

One of the most significant findings the IPCC report listed was that:
“Incidents were too often dealt with by police officers in isolation and with an unstructured approach”
In the past this was common practice and it’s clear that it is both frustrating for victims and unproductive in addressing the perpetrators.

The report also focused on three other very significant failings.  It stated that:

The family was never identified as victims of ‘Hate Crime’, despite the fact that Pilkington’s daughter had learning disabilities.

The authorities failed to identify the area, where the ASB was taking place, as a ‘Hotspot’ location; consequently the area did not receive a proactive response.

The family was never identified as repeat and vulnerable victims in their own right. That is, much of the ASB was specifically targeted at the Pilkington family, but it was not distinguished from the general ASB in the vicinity of their home.

Working in the world of ASB it’s clear to me that the mistakes made in the Pilkington case were not the fault of that specific Police Force or Local Authority, but the way ASB was dealt with at the time. Now that the inquest has been completed and the IPCC report has been published - the question is: has anything changed?

In my opinion, since the Pilkington Enquiry, a great deal of work has been done looking at how resources can be used more effectively to identify and support repeat and /or vulnerable victims of ASB.

Recently, 8 Police Forces took part in a Home Office Field Trial’ to improve certain aspects of ASB management.  Having been part of this trial, I can honestly say that the changes I have seen have been considerable.

The way I (and the team around me) work, has changed completely and our processes are highly ‘Victim Led’. Working this way has enabled us to significantly reduce the number of ASB victims in the area, along with the number of calls ASB victims are making. More importantly however, I feel our resources are finally prioritised to meet the needs of those suffering the most.

Fiona Pilkington should never have been in a position where she felt that suicide was the best option. At least this tragic incident has not been ignored or marginalized – real change has happened as a direct response, which just may prevent it happening again.

Written by Bonnie (@ASBO_Girl)

Note From Ollie: Thanks Bonnie, for being my 7th guest blogger. Anti-Social Behaviour was once looked upon as a mild annoyance, and the effect that it had on some was never really understood. The Pilkington case, and others, have shown us that ASB is often much more than just an can take over the lives of the victim, and isolate them significantly. The way ASB is dealt with has changed dramatically, and a lot of work has gone into providing support via a multi-agency approach. I think we are now successfully tackling ASB effectively and supporting the victims well. It is something we can all be proud of. I chose Bonnie to be a guest blogger because she is part of the new system of tacking ASB, and the more we share good practice the better. Thanks Bonnie, this is a really balanced view of the past, and the future!