Johnson: ‘No excuses’ for Pilkington deaths

By Liz Stephens

Home secretary Alan Johnson has admitted that there were “no excuses” for the catalogue of failings that led to the deaths of Fiona Pilkington and her disabled daughter.

Ms Pilkington killed herself and her daughter by setting fire to their car in a lay-by in Leicestershire after suffering ten years of abuse at the hands of youths on their estate.

It was later revealed that incidents had been reported to the police and other relevant local authorities but no action had been taken as the harassment was seen as “low level”.

Mr Johnson told the Labour party conference in Brighton: “Despair led to the terrible events we’ve been hearing about. It’s an exceptional case but it’s one that should never have happened and there must be no excuses, no complacency, no blaming the media because we don’t like the facts they report.

“This case tragically 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.”

Earlier he had said: “It is the police’s job, along with the local authority and social services and housing and all the rest of it, to ensure that people are not driven to the kind of despair Fiona Pilkington was driven to.”

During the inquest it was disclosed that the council had sought an injunction against the Simmons family, whose children were allegedly partly responsible for the ordeal of Ms Pilkington.

Summing up last night, coroner Oliver Davison told the inquest of her “concerns” about “the process for gathering and recording information from victims of anti-social abuse”.

However, the home secretary called the case was “an exception”.

Shadow home secretary Chris Grayling said: “We need real action to stamp out antisocial behaviour, to get more police out of police stations and onto the streets, and to demonstrate to law abiding citizens that the criminal justice system really is on their side.

“In Britain at the moment, the troublemakers just seem to get away with it.¿”

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is to investigate the handling of the case.