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Hate Crime on Polish family.

Long period of racial harrassement on behalf of a member of the British National Party culminated in a burglary into the victim's house. Police have turned out to be unable to provide safety to a family with 2 children who sought their help in dealing with the situation. This is an interview with the father of the Polish family.

What happened in the life of your family? How did the situation start?
We moved to our current address about a year ago. It has been 9 months since the harrassment started. The perpetrators are two English families who are also members of the British National Party. These unjustified attacks have been directed at us as well as at our friends who happened to visit. In January this year our perpetrator threatened that British National Front would come for us to „sort us out". We reported this to the police but three days later it was me who got arrested as a result of accusations made by the person who had threatened me and my family. The police did not believe that those were utterly false claims and started investigation into them. Two weeks later a builder renovating our house was also arrested cued by the same fictitious accusations. As the police took these seriously, he was also subject to investigation. At that time we were living in an unberable situation, under pressure from the two families who continued their hate campaign against us. Other neighbours refused to talk to us after hearing made-up stories coming from them, we felt isolated and mistreated. The signs of hostility were all around us, starting from furtive looks, gestures and breaches of our privacy, through eggs smashed on our car, finding rubbish tipped in our garden and on our roof and finally my car being scratched and surrounded with nails. We reported all these incidents to our housing association, Yarlington, but unfortunately no-one was able to help us at that stage. Following the accusations made against us, the police scheduled Community Justice Panel, where the conditions were agreed between my family and the neighbours as for living and interacting. Three months later one of these people, who in such a conspicuous way had shown their hostility towards foreign nationals, burgled into our house taking some of our possessions with them. Still, the police refused to treat this crime as racially motivated or indeed in any way connected with the broader context of our situation. The officers working with our case bluntly dismissed our suggestions of connecting our earlier problems with the burglary; it was only after a very sharp letter sent to the police officer responsible for dealing with hate crime that our case was acknowledged as falling into that category. However, the case remains unresolved, and the person responsible has yet to be charged.

What was the impact of these events on your and your family's life?
We were absolutely distraught. We feared for our safety on a daily basis, we never knew what the next day would bring, it was a situation of constant stress and worry. We started to think about going back to Poland as we felt we could not trust our neighbours or the institutions that were supposed to protect us. We felt helpless and glum. Although we reported the incident to South Somerset District Council, no help or support was ever offered to us. The only people who really supported us were the members of Somerset Racial Equality Council, whose help we are immensely grateful for. They believed our story and tried to communicate our problems to other institutions. The light at the end of the tunnel appeared after burglary. Yarlington Housing Group took action against our neighbors and logged possession order at Court of Justice. We do not know the final decision of the judge but it looks after the neighbor was sentenced for 12 months suspendent prison, that perpetrator has got more rights in this country than a victim.

What for you was the biggest let-down? Where did the people dealing with your case let things go wrong?
I think the worst moment of bitter disillusionment and disappointment came after I got arrested and the police sergeant questioning me defended BNP and their views. He said they had nothing against Polish people. Apart from that, I was intimidated during the questioning; I was told that if failed to relax my fingers while my fingerprints were being taken, I would be put in a cell for six hours. I felt then as if all my human rights were taken away. At that moment I started believing that institutional discrimination is very much alive within the police in Somerset.

What do you think could be changed within the existing police operational procedures in order to make treatment of people in situations similar to yours better?
From our perspective, the investigation into our case against the family harrassing us was not conducted properly. The witnesses for our case were not questioned and evidence not gathered which points to a serious lack of objectivity in the actions of the police officers.
The way we see it our case was not given anywhere near the importance it called for. We fell victim not only to racial abuse but also to the flawed system that completely failed us. The existing procedures do not allow for a logical and just analysis of the allegations where the other party makes counter-accusations (however false) against the victims. The situation is then treated as a neighbour dispute and expected to be solved by the parties themselves.

How would you like to see this case solved ideally?
At the moment, we do not know what is going to happen and feel very insecure about the outcome. We are awaiting a preliminary hearing for our case, but what we would like to happen- which is for the person we believe is responsible for the burglary into our house to be moved from our vicinity- is not at all a guaranteed resolution. Our situation is very complex, and the worst thing about it is that we have been made to feel guilty about the whole thing. This is the attitude communicated to us indirectly by the organisations involved, as if we are to blame for what has been done to us. How can that be the case, is it just because we are Polish?