Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Baggott stops short of saying sorry for his former force

PSNI Chief Constable and former Leicestershire police boss Matt Baggott has said his colleagues were saddened they could not protect a mother and her disabled daughter.

A jury found on Monday that Fiona Pilkington committed suicide and unlawfully killed her 18-year-old daughter Francecca Hardwick when she set fire to their car.

Following Monday's inquest, which found the force and two councils were partly to blame for the deaths, Mr Baggott said there were lessons to be learned from the tragedy.

The court heard Ms Pilkington, who had borderline learning difficulties, daughter Francecca known as Frankie, and son Anthony, a severe dyslexic, were tormented for 11 years by the 16-strong gang — some as young as 10.

Their home was pelted with eggs, flour and stones, while fireworks and dog excrement were posted through their letterbox.

Anthony, now 19, was locked in a shed at knifepoint and beaten with an iron bar.

But despite receiving 33 calls in 10 years regarding Ms Pilkington, officers from Leicestershire Constabulary only visited her eight times and no-one was ever prosecuted.

Instead the single mother, a full-time carer to her children, was told to draw the curtains and ignore her abusers. On another occasion an officer reported she was “over-reacting”.

“It is wrong to say that nobody cares. Of course people care, police officers are there to protect people and everybody will be feeling hugely saddened that we were unable to do so,” he said.

But Mr Baggott, who took over as the new Chief Constable in Northern Ireland last week, stopped short of apologising for the failure of his former force — despite demands for him to do so by Policing Board member Basil McCrea.

Instead, the police chief insisted the findings of the inquest had also raised questions about other State agencies involved.

“It raises some big questions about how you can manage individual family needs amongst a backdrop of a significant call for police resources over a period of time and it raises questions over the way in which the agencies — the health, the caring agencies, social services — actually understand what is happening within a family when the complexity isn't always apparent on the surface,” he said.

“So there are lessons to be learned, and it would be wrong of me not to say everyone is deeply saddened — huge sympathy for the family — and there will be lessons learned which will be taken forward.”

Mr Baggott was in charge of Leicestershire police from 2002 until this year.

Monday's inquest found that Ms Pilkington killed herself and her daughter in 2007 after repeatedly asking for help with bullying and anti-social behaviour.

Mr McCrea, an Ulster Unionist MLA who sits on the Policing Board — which is effectively Mr Baggott's boss — vowed to question the Chief Constable about the incident at the board's next meeting.

“I would expect him to make a statement on it,” he said.

“I would expect him to offer his own personal apologies given that he was responsible, and I would expect him to tell us what lessons have been learned so that it does not happen in Northern Ireland.”

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