Council's compliance with Disability Equality Duty to be checked following inquest findings

Commission to review role of public authorities in tackling disability hate crime

29 September 2009

The Commission is to ask Hinckley and Bosworth Council to provide evidence it is compliant with its legal duty to eliminate disability related harassment, following the Coroner’s Inquest into the deaths of Fiona Pilkington and her daughter Francecca.

Following research into hate crimes it published earlier this year, the Commission has already set in train a wider review into how public authorities are meeting their legal duty to eliminate harassment of the kind suffered by the Pilkingtons.

The Commission has statutory powers to ensure that public authorities comply with the Disability Equality Duty, which specifically lists elimination of harassment due to disability.

The Commission will also be contacting the Independent Police Complaints Commission to find out the scope of its Inquiry before deciding whether to take any further action.

Earlier this year, the Commission published a report into disabled people’s experience of violence and hostility. It found that those with learning disabilities and mental health conditions were particularly at risk and suffered higher levels of victimisation, as well as a prevalence of ongoing low level incidents which can escalate into more serious violence.

The report found that while there had been considerable progress in some areas, there was little evidence of the important preventative role that agencies including local authorities could and should play. It also identified a number of barriers to reporting and recording incidents, particularly in relation to the police, the cumulative impact of which can lead disabled people to feel that they are not being taken seriously or being treated as if they are in the wrong.

In December this year many public authorities will be required to publish revised Disability Equality Schemes. The Commission will expect clear evidence of how they propose to address harassment and hate crimes.

Trevor Phillips, Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission says:

"It is clear that serious failings in a number of public bodies led directly to the tragic deaths of Fiona Pilkington and her daughter Francecca. The Commission’s role is to look at how Hinckley and Bosworth Council was using the Disability Equality Duty to provide the right support and services for families like the Pilkingtons. The Commission is also taking a wider look at how local authorities address hate crimes and harassment. Our research shows that while these deaths stand out because of the desperate course of action Fiona Pilkington took, hate crime is all too common an experience for disabled people.”

Find out more about safety and security for disabled people

Find out more about the Disability Equality Duty

 -Ends-

For more information contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission Media Office on 02031170255, out of hours 07767272818.

Notes to Editors

Download the Commission’s report: 'Promoting the safety and security of disabled people'.

Equality and Human Rights Commission

The Commission is a statutory body established under the Equality Act 2006, which took over the responsibilities of Commission for Racial Equality, Disability Rights Commission and Equal Opportunities Commission.  It is the independent advocate for equality and human rights in Britain.  It aims to reduce inequality, eliminate discrimination, strengthen good relations between people, and promote and protect human rights.  The Commission enforces equality legislation on age, disability, gender, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation or transgender status, and encourage compliance with the Human Rights Act.  It also gives advice and guidance to businesses, the voluntary and public sectors, and to individuals.