22 Oct 2012

A legacy to stand on? Tormented for being disabled

As Channel 4 News begins a week of special reports into disability, one victim tells of having his mobility scooter set on fire and of youths trying to tip him out of his wheelchair.

Michael Bailey is a man who spends every hour of the day worrying when he will next be attacked. He’s too frightened to go out after dark. He doesn’t visit the shops closest to his Belfast home. And at night, he often sits in his kitchen in total darkness.

That’s because Michael is being tormented by groups of youths who hang around outside his house and abuse him. He’s had his mobility scooters torched, his bin set on fire and most recently he was set upon by four youths who demanded money and tried to tip him out of his wheelchair.

Channel 4 News gave Michael a video camera to record what happens to him, night after night. In it, he describes being called a “freak”, he looks panicked as youths shout outside and at one point he breaks down, begging someone to “Please help me, I can’t take anymore.”

A legacy to stand on? A Channel 4 News special report

Tomorrow (Tuesday) is the fifth anniversary of the death of Fiona Pilkington and her daughter, Francecca Hardwick, who had severe learning disabilities.

Her mother called the police more than 30 times because her family was the target of a campaign of abuse by youths. But her cries for help went unanswered and five years ago tomorrow, Fiona Pilkington set her car on fire, killing them both.

An IPCC report was heavily critical of the police for the way they handled the case.

The Home Office said then, this should never happen again.

Failure on hate crime

Channel 4 News has been given a preview of a report to be published tomorrow (Tuesday) by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The EHRC criticises some police forces for their continual failure on disability hate crime.

On the eve of Fiona Pilkington’s death, we ask whether police forces are still failing some of Britain’s most vulnerable people. Michael Bailey says he’s called the police 20 times about the abuse against him.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) told Channel 4 News, it has eight incidents recorded involving Michael, only one of which it recorded as a disability hate crime.

The PSNI told us: “After an examination of the reports concerning Michael, we believe we should have tied the previous incidents as disability hate crime, we would expect that from our officers.”

They pointed out that since identifying him as a vulnerable disabled person in August, they have put in place measures to protect him, including a number he can call at any time.