Page last updated at 11:08 GMT, Friday, 18 December 2009

Bullying on family deaths street cut dramatically

By Michael Buchanan
Radio 4's PM programme

House with Christmas lights in Bardon road
Some residents say it is now much quieter on Bardon Road

Bardon Road in Barwell, Leicestershire came to national attention as the street where Fiona Pilkington and her disabled daughter Francecca Hardwick suffered years of abuse before their deaths.

Relentlessly tormented by teenage neighbours, Ms Pilkington killed both herself and her daughter by setting fire to their car in a lay-by in 2007.

An inquest jury concluded that "the stress and anxiety regarding her daughter's future and ongoing anti-social behaviour" led to the deaths, as well as the failure of the police and two local councils to deal with the family's complaints.

Just days after the jury returned their verdict, Carol Sainsbury and her partner Dean were returning to their home on Bardon Road from the pub.

"There were about 10 of them outside, all shouting and bawling," says Ms Sainsbury.

"We turned round to them and said 'we don't want the noise tonight as my grandson is staying with us' and we just got a load of abuse."

Kids are not allowed to do what kids do. They're not allowed to stand outside the front wall without being penalised
Steven Simmons

The police were called and arrested her partner for public order offences.

"I said [to the police] you are having a joke. We're trying to move them on, these are yobs who terrorise people, harass people.

"We're not in the wrong here. We've had them swinging off our fence posts, we've had them spitting outside, we've had nails under our cars, we've had lots and lots of harassment."

Dramatic change

Dean was released after a few hours with a caution. As a result of further inquiries, four local youths were arrested and issued with interim anti-social behaviour orders.

The effect of that action on Bardon Road has been dramatic, said Ms Sainsbury.

"It's brilliant. You can hear a pin drop at night. There is no one hanging about on the streets at night."

One family on Bardon Road were identified by neighbours as being responsible for at least some of the harassment that Fiona Pilkington and her family suffered.

The Simmons - mother, father and their four sons - still live on the street despite efforts by a few to get them evicted. They deny harassing the Pilkington family.

Fiona Pilkington (l) and daughter Francecca Hardwick
Ms Pilkington and her daughter died in a car fire

Leaning on their garden wall, Steven Simmons says life will never go back to normal for them.

"Kids are not allowed to do what kids do.

"They're not allowed to stand outside the front wall without being penalised. If the council have such an issue with a big long street like this one, why don't they put cameras up?"

Listening to our conversation is Steven's 16-year-old son, Alex.

"You are lucky if you can walk up the road here without being reported," he says.

"All I have to do is walk up to my nan's and people will say something I haven't done. [I spent most of my time] at home, mainly in my bed."

Bardon Road is not some sort of delinquent's drive - most homes are well kept, most hedges have been trimmed and most residents are law-abiding.

"People put things in the paper and they twist them," continues Steven Simmons.

"I've been stitched up, I'm a scapegoat, there is no doubt about that."

Leicestershire Police, who were heavily criticised for their response to Fiona Pilkington's numerous complaints of harassment, say they did initially put extra resources into Barwell and Bardon Road.

But Insp Rich Ward says police now feel they have got to grips with the area - despite this year's village Christmas tree being chopped down by four youths.

Carol Sainsbury
Carol Sainsbury is delighted with the change seen in her road

"Barwell has average levels of anti-social behaviour," he says.

"It's no different to any other place. There aren't any particular problems there at the moment. That is a picture we are consistently monitoring to make sure we tackle any issues that come up."

But move one street along, and you hear a different story from Hazel Smith.

A local parish councillor and the neighbourhood watch co-ordinator, she spoke up about the problems on Bardon Road at the time of the inquest. But she has had to deal with the consequences.

"I'm rudely spoken to. I've had my house targeted, door-knocked late at night, I've had rubbish thrown on my garden, one or two anonymous letters.

"Sometimes I'm frightened to come out the door because you don't know what's going to happen.

"People have been really, really unkind. Not pleasant at all. So I know now what Fiona [Pilkington] felt like."

A 16-year-old youth has been charged with harassing Hazel Smith and is due in court next month.

Listen to the full report on the PM programme, 18 December 2009 at 1700 GMT, BBC Radio 4 and afterwards on BBC iPlayer.

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