Page last updated at 11:48 GMT, Tuesday, 29 September 2009 12:48 UK

What could have stopped torment?

Fiona Pilkington (l) and daughter Francecca Hardwick
Police classified the abuse against the family as "low level" crime

The inquest jury into the deaths of Fiona and Francecca Pilkington criticised the police and two local councils for failing to act against youths who made their lives a misery.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson admits the government has "coasted" on anti-social behaviour.

The government says its tackling this using a raft of tools and powers which can be used by police and local authorities.

These include written warnings, home visits, penalty notices, acceptable behaviour contracts, anti-social behaviour orders (Asbos), dispersal zones, parenting orders and crack house closure orders.

ACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOUR CONTRACT (ABC)

This is a written agreement between a person causing anti-social behaviour and their local authority, police, landlord or youth inclusion support panel. It is designed to get individuals to acknowledge their behaviour and stop it at an early stage. It sets out the consequences if the ABC is breached.

PENALTY NOTICES

Fixed penalty notices (FPN) and penalty notices for disorder (PND) are one-off penalties issued to someone committing anti-social behaviour. FPNs are given for offences like noise nuisance or minor grafitti, PNDs are given for more serious offences like throwing fireworks. They are issued by council officers, police and community support officers.

ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR ORDERS (Asbos)

These are court orders applied for by a local authority, the police and by landlords providing social housing. They ban the individual from repeating the offending behaviour, or entering a set area and last for a minimum of two years.

They are not criminal penalties and do not appear on police records but breaching an Asbo is a criminal offence, punishable by a fine or even imprisonment.

Home Office figures reveal a drop in the number of new Asbos issued. They reached a peak in 2005, when 4,122 were handed out, 1,581 of them to people aged between 10 and 17. But by 2007 when the most recent figures were published, the number of Asbos issued had fallen to 2,299, 920 of them to those in the 10-to-17 age range.

DISPERSAL ZONES

Groups can be dispersed if they behave anti-socially in specific locations. These zones must be agreed by the local authority and the decision published locally.

In the case of the Pilkingtons, Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council sought an injunction against their neighbours, the Simmons family, who are thought to be among those involved in the harassment.

It has since expired as neither the council nor police brought any further evidence against them in the year it was in place.

The inquest into the Pilkington deaths also heard that the council at one point imposed a 300-yard exclusion zone around the Pilkington's home in an attempt to stop youths but failed to enforce it.

DISABILITY HATE CRIME

The Pilkington inquest heard the police admit they treated the abuse as "low level" crime, and did not acknowledge it as a hate crime.

Guidelines on disability hate crime were issued by the Home Office and Association of Police Officers (Acpo) in 2005, but it was not until two months after the death of Fiona and Francecca Pilkington that Leicestershire police rewrote its policies to implement the recommendations.

Had police recognised the abuse as a hate crime, they would have given it a much higher priority than anti-social behaviour.



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