The Persistant Caller
This isn't because this is how we deal with allegations of serious sexual abuse and rape. It is because the woman was Patricia Levy and she calls the police three or four times a month to report the same thing. She usually makes the calls in batches of 30-40 in a day, and she's usually drunk. Patricia Levy was indeed abused as a child - at least that is what her mental health worker believes and he's probably right. She is now an alcoholic with learning difficulties and an obsession with sexual activity. She thinks it's happening to her everywhere, all the time. If that was happening to you, you'd call the police 30-40 times a day too.
The trouble is, Patricia is always drunk, so the mental health team can't/won't treat her. The alcoholics' programme won't take her on because she has mental health problems, and they can't deal with her sex abuse allegations. It used to be the case that the police was the one service who always had to help her, but now even we have a 'Patricia Levy policy'. The policy isn't all-encompassing: if Patricia reports a recent sex offence a detective will be sent to speak to her. She usually shouts abuse at them when they arrive, or denies ever calling the police.
I don't know anything about Fiona Pilkington other than the fact she killed herself two years ago along with her daughter and her rabbit. I suspect she didn't have quite the array of problems that Patricia Levy has. But I also suspect that Patricia will end up meeting a similarly grisly end, and I am sure the police will be blamed when she does. One thing I do know is that anyone who torches themselves and their child to death in a car is mentally ill, and that has nothing to do with kids harassing them (although it probably doesn't help).
Alex Simmons: yob who drove a woman to suicide, or normal kid blamed for someone else' vulnerabilities?
It's not about eschewing responsibility - I'd be horrified if someone I went to visit about harassing antisocial behaviour was found dead the next day, week or month. God forbid they take out their innocent child at the same time. But it's complex. You have to work out whether the antisocial behaviour is really that harassing, or whether it's being perceived that way by someone who is vulnerable. You have to figure out if there's a way to reasonably protect someone from a group of kids they're scared of, when there is no evidence of criminal offences. You have to consider what will happen if you put the kids before the court, how soon they'll be walking free with their fistful of community hours and unenforceable ASBO.
It's all very well calling the police 30 or 40 or 100 times. As long as you realise that only the police will even pick up the phone every time. The rest of society's infrastructure just isn't bothered, until it all goes wrong.
One final point: the coroner asked ,"Why did no one sit and chat to her over a cup of tea about her problems?"
If he's aiming that question at the police, the answer is to be found on this and all other police blogs, as well as here.
'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.