abuse led to suicide

LONDON - Home Secretary Alan Johnson said there could be no excuse for failings that led to the deaths of a vulnerable mother and daughter after suffering years of abuse on their Leicestershire estate.

LONDON - Home Secretary Alan Johnson said there could be no excuse for failings that led to the deaths of a vulnerable mother and daughter after suffering years of abuse on their Leicestershire estate.

The police complaints watchdog is to investigate officers' handling of the case which ended in tragedy when Fiona Pilkington, 38, killed herself and her severely disabled 18-year-old daughter in October 2007.

Pilkington had driven her daughter Francecca, who had a mental age of three, to a lay-by near their home in Barwell, doused clothes in the back of the car with petrol and set it alight.

"It's an exceptional case. It should never have happened. There must be no excuses, no complacency, no blaming the media because we don't like the facts they report," Johnson told the Labour conference in Brighton yesterday.

"This case exposes the insufficient response to public anxiety that still exists in some parts of the country and we need to guarantee consistent standards for dealing with anti-social behaviour everywhere." The Conservatives said the case has horrified Britain.

"In Britain at the moment the troublemakers just seem to get away with it," said Conservative shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown will also address the issue of anti-social behaviour in a speech at the conference.

"We will not stand by and see the lives of the lawful majority disrupted by the behaviour of the lawless minority," he will say, according to speech extracts released in advance.

An inquest jury on Monday said police and local councils had not responded adequately to dozens of pleas for help from Pilkington.

She had suffered more than a decade of abuse and bullying from local youths, who threw stones and bottles at her house and set fire to her gate, as well as attacking her severely dyslexic son Anthony, 19.

Despite making more than 30 complaints to police, she received little response. The Independent Police Complaints Commission is to examine the case.

"We will look at all the reports made to the police of anti-social behaviour, nuisance and abuse, to see how the police responded to them and whether it was appropriate in all the circumstances," said an IPCC spokesperson.

Leicestershire police offered "unreserved apologies" to Pilkington's family.

"We recognise that we need to have a better response to low-level anti-social behaviour," said acting Chief Constable Chris Eyre. - Reuters

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