David Askew: bullied to death for having a learning difficulty?

Anybody who watches the news will surely have seen this story; it was widely reported both on TV and in the press (see the Daily Mail coverage here). It concerned the case of David Askew, a 64-year old man with learning difficulties who was apparently ‘tormented to death’ during 17 years (17 years!) of abuse by ’gangs’ of children – some as young as 8. And you can clearly see, in the news report I have taken from Youtube (below), that these were young children involved in this tradegy.

This case has obviously put Greater Manchester Police force under the spotlight for it alleged failure to act as neighbours said “they were in no doubt”  the campaign of bullying led to his death and blamed police and the local council for failing to do enough to protect him.

A similar case made national news headlines only a few months prior to this news story. The coroner in the case of Fiona Pilkington, who took her own life and that of her daughter’s Francecca Hardwick after constant taunting by youths, also blamed the council for “extraordinary” failings which allowed teenage bullies to drive a mother and her disabled daughter to their deaths.

And there are plenty of other cases that have made the national press. No doubt there are many more that may have made the local press but not the national press, and probably still more cases that never made the press at all.

Certainly there will be many examples, on a daily basis, of bullying that whilst less severe in outcome are still none-the-less upsetting for those concerned. I can very clearly remember walking along the main road near our house some years back with my son a few yards ahead of me when 4 ‘youths’ drove past and yelled some mindless insult at him. He was oblivious to the whole thing but for me it still smarts to recall it – who the hell were these narrow-minded idiots who throught it ‘clever’ to abuse a child with downs syndrome!

During my son’s time in mainstream school bullying by his peers was something I did worry about. Fortunately this never seemed to be a problem – almost the opposite in fact. The kids seems to adore him to the point where they would almost smother him with kindness. But I did recently come across a story from the Belfast Telegraph about  a report claiming that children with disabilities and special educational needs experience high levels of bullying at schools in Northern Ireland. You can read the report from Ulster’s Staff Commission for Education and Library Boards and the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) as two downloadable pdfs:

It’s Good to Listen Report
It’s Good to Listen Report- Child Friendly Version

If I’m honest I don’t know where I’m headed with this. I suppose bullying is a fact of life and not just for people with special needs. But of course that does not mean we should accept it as inevitable. All I can say with certainty is that those organisations charged with reponsibility for caring for the vulnerable sections of our society really do need to step up to the plate if we are not to see any more cases like David Askew or Francecca Hardwick. Sadly I think the standards fall someway short at the moment.

1 comment to David Askew: bullied to death for having a learning difficulty?

  • As you say, bullying can be a fact of life. (I was bullied in my last job, for obtuse reasons of internal politics. And I’m hardly a weak person.)

    But to bully people who blatantly have special needs should be as offensive as racism or religious bigotry. It’s for all of us to react against when we can.