Baby P and the need for a ‘reasoned’ debate…

Over at Brassneck I’ve a piece on how the politicisation of the Baby P case is likely to be detrimental to finding a solution to one of the most intractable forms of homicide in Britain… Jennie Bristow has another angle on the politicisation of the Victoria Climbié case that’s worth reading in conjunction…

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  • Big Maggie


    Only this morning I came across this American case from 2007.

    A Colorado Springs mother who admitted killing her baby by throwing her to the ground was sentenced Monday to 68 years in prison.

    Tracie Preston, 37, had pleaded guilty to child abuse resulting in death and child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury for repeatedly abusing her 8-month-old daughter, Bianca Limerick. Prosecutors agreed to drop a first-degree murder charge in exchange for the guilty plea.

    Limerick died in March 2006 of severe head injuries. El Paso County Coroner Dr. Robert Bux testified Monday it was the “worst case of fractures I’ve seen in 22 years” after testifying that both of Limerick’s arms and a leg had been broken repeatedly.

    Fourth Judicial District Judge Robert Lowrey could have sentenced Preston to up to 75 years in prison under the plea agreement. He decided on 68 for both charges, saying it was a “horrible crime that deserves substantial punishment.”

    They sure do things differently on the other side of the pond don’t they? Baby P’s mother thinks she’ll be out before Christmas. Jesus wept.

  • Mick

    Good piece, the comment that followed it typifies the gross ignorance of what exactly social workers do and what responsibilities they have. Without the work they do, many people within this society would find their lives a much bleaker place.

    All the best

  • I’ll also jump on the social worker defence bandwagon. Some social workers are terrible – most of those in the Baby P case were, although some did try to blow the whistle. But let’s remember why – ordinary social workers are badly paid given the type of shit they have to deal with; in somewhere like London they have no prospect of buying a home anywhere near where they work, even if both partners are working. It’s no wonder that many London boroughs have social worker vacancy rates as high as 40%. Those that do the job are a combination of those who are effectively unemployable elsewhere and those with a genuine vocation and commitment – like whistleblower Nevres Kemal – who are often totally overworked.

    Battering children to death is hardly a uniquely 21st Century phenomenon, sadly. I won’t die in the ditch over it, but I seem to remember seeing figures that parental murder of children – while mercifully vanishingly rare – was slightly but definitely more common in Britain the first half of the 20th Century than the second half.

    There are no easy answers or quick solutions here. It really is a horrible situation.

  • Harry Flashman

    No doubt there will be an enquiry which will make recommendations which will then see stricter supervision of British parents and the criminalisation of more aspects of British parenting just as there was with the Climbie case.

    Oddly enough however Victoria Climbie was not abused by British parents nor were the shocking lapses in her care caused by ordinary British parenting but in fact all the way down the line it was British government officials who failed spectacularly in their duties, from the immigration official who allowed her into the country in the first place to the police officers and social workers whose job it was to look after her to the doctors and nurses who couldn’t provide the wee girl with a decent standard of care.

    And yet the response will be more registers, more snooping, more intrusiveness on blameless families and more power taken away from parents and given to the very idiots of government officials who were responsible for the whole damned mess in the first place.

  • Big Maggie


    Good and valid points there.

  • Rory

    In an article in The Sunday Times in 1985, Social Affairs correspondent, Brian Deer commenting on recent similar cases, concluded:

    “But social workers didn’t kill Jasmine, Tyra or Heidi, a fact which their spokesmen laboured last week to little effect. It is true that their failings allowed these killings to take place. But forgetting to see a child, leaving a baby in a dangerous home or pushing a file to the bottom of the stack, are all-too-human failings. It does not make it any easier or any better for social services to swing the policy from the extreme of taking very few children into care to the opposite extreme of taking almost every endangered child into care.

    Somehow we have to arrive at the correct balance between social care and family life. The central issue, the risk to children, is not going to change. Valerie Howarth, social serves head for Brent, where Jasmine Beckford died, says: “What people don’t understand is that we deal with those risks on behalf of the community, and whatever we do, those risks won’t go away.”

    Full article here:

    It is a sad and chastening fact of life that abuse of children, like the poor, will always be with us and we can but simply attempt to curtail it as much as is possible and alleviate its worst effects as we are able. That social services departments have retrenched into ineffective, under-functioning units driven by paranoia and a PYA (Protect Your Ass) mentality is hardly surprising given the hysterical, hostile reception it receives from the press and broadcasting at every failure and the subsequent government U-turn on an existing policy which is in itself a consequence of a previous U-turn and so backwards ad infinitum. Resources for running a competent child protection unit in an inner city borough like Haringey with its wide variety of ethnicity and culture and much poverty are simply not there and its no good the Tories having fun rattling the bones of Baby P unless they can make a firm commitment to provide the necessary resources if they take office and we know the answer to that.

  • Let’s face, the UK has to become much more of a nanny state when it comes to the killing and seriously injuring defenceless infants, and children despite what people may say about such officialdom, and the sanctity of family life.

    The fact that almost 200 cases of this sort have occurred during the last few years, and only 30 some were even recorded on the overall register is simply unacceptable.

    And whatever the state does to the offenders after the fact is hardly a solution.

  • OC

    Infanticide: Retroactive Abortion.

  • Rory

    In law, the killing of a child under 12 months old, and more generally, any killing of a newborn child.

    So not infanticide then in the case of Baby P who was 17 months old. Nor indeed murder, manslaughter nor any act of the wilful taking of Baby P’s life. But rather death caused through appalling lack of care and probably wilful abuse. But not infanticide, and not murder and not manslaughter.

    Now some of us might not like these fine distinctions – whatever we call it, a child remains dead following ill-treatment by those charged to care for him and neglect by the authorities charged with monitoring that care – but the distinctions are nevertheless important and necessary.

    Big Maggie reports a case from Texas (where else?) where mercy is shown to a 37-year old mother by reducing her sentence from 75 years imprisonment to 68 years – a decision which I am sure will be applauded by all those active in penal reform in the Lone Star State and compares it to the expectation of the mother of Baby P that she will be “out by Christmas” She won’t of course, but her folorn hope is more expressive of a terrible naivety, of inadequacy rather than the symptom of ‘evil’ the red-tops would wish to foster.

    The salving of public conscience by emulating a version of Texas’s old-testament retribution does not even begin to address the problem faced in these matters. Nor, dare I say, does scapegoating someone deemed to be ‘responsible’. Some Japanese some years ago, when Japan was in the ascendancy, said to me that Britain’s problem was that when encountering failure they sought to fix the blame rather than fix the problem.

    As the problem here is an acute lack of resources we can be sure that the recrimination bus is already revving up and will soon be driving a cargo of blame-fixers towards their destination.

  • Big Maggie


    I was debating with myself whether to respond to Trowbridge’s assertion that punishing the offenders won’t solve the problem. Now you seem to be in agreement.

    My view is that sentencing for this and other heinous crimes has become ludicrously lenient. Sure, we don’t need to adopt the Texas model but I do feel that the threat of a very lengthy spell behind bars will deter at least a few of the monsters who otherwise believe they can perpetrate such gross acts with impunity.

    At present I see no other solution. Bad people will do bad things.

  • OC

    In law, the killing of a child under 12 months old, and more generally, any killing of a newborn child.

    Posted by Rory on Nov 15, 2008 @ 06:22 PM

    “In law, the term minor (also infant or infancy) is used to refer to a person who is under the age in which one legally assumes adulthood and is legally granted rights afforded to adults in society.” – Wikipedia

    So infanticide could cover those minors that even La Leche deem too old to breast feed.

  • Harry Flashman

    Fix the problem? Fix the bloody problem? We know how to fix the problem, here’s a start and it won’t cost a ha’penny in “resources” it will in fact save a fortune in welfare; the government makes it clear that the absolute best environment for a child to grow up in is one in which it lives at home with both its married parents.

    The social services, the Guardian, the BBC, the universities all admit that their reordering of society for the past forty years has been an unmitigated disaster and it’s time to maybe try and go back a bit to a saner time, maybe it’s already too late but it might be worth a try.

    In the same way that we now treat smoking and drink driving as anti-social can we now try to make serial fatherhood with multiple women none of whom you ever intend to marry anti-social or shacking up with multiple “partners”/”boyfriends”/”uncles”/”stepfathers” while your children are still young and vulnerable is anti-social?

    Can we start getting just a teensy weensy bit “judgmental” again? Can we start saying that not every lifestyle is “valid” that in fact some are positively, shambolically disastrous?

    And when we’re at it can we start pointing out that drink and drug fuelled debauchery is not conducive to good child rearing or indeed society in general?

    In other words after four decades of hopelessly failed liberal left social policy can we try implementing some small “c” conservative policies for a change and see if they work?

    It couldn’t be any bloody worse.

  • Good post, Rory.

    Another abysmal one, HF – i. e., let’s not finally fix the problems of abortion, infanticide, and family life when it comes to unwanted children and/or unqualified parents or keepers, let’s remake the last half-century or so in all of society, and all in the name of conservative values!!!

  • frustrated democrat

    What a load of BS, people were paid to do a job they patently didn’t do, the rate of pay is totally irrelevant.

    This was not a failure of investment, 60 visits were made, it was a gross failure of reponsibilty and judgement on the part of many people and the sooner we find out who and they are dealt with the better. Then others in similar jobs can understand exactly what to expect if they do not do their jobs.

    It is apparent that many parents are not up to their responsibilities and are incapable of bringing up children, we need to act in these cases to protect the children and nurture them – there are forster and adoptive parents available who can provide the care and in other cases homes.

  • Harry Flashman

    “It is apparent that many parents are not up to their responsibilities and are incapable of bringing up children,”

    99 times out of a hundred it isn’t the parent, as in actual father or mother of the child, who does the killing.

    But we mustn’t draw attention to such a blindingly obvious fact because that might be ‘judgmental’ and we could never have that now could we?

    It’s better to let the wee’uns die than ever admit the disastrous failure of liberal/left social policy.

    Come back in five years time, it’ll still be the same, another horribly abused child will die and no one will deal with the root cause, so much easier to wring our hands and say “something should be done” than actually deal with the real problem.

  • Rory

    Oh, hooey. Harry! A return to the Victorian values you so cherish would more than likely lead to a return to the appalling levels of child abuse that were then prevalent. The mistreatment of children is in general seen as absolutely beyond the pale today while in Victorian and Edwardian society and indeed until much later it was considered the norm. The “Spare the rod and spoil the child” mentality did not just stop at corporal punishment it also reflected a cavalier attitude towards children’s welfare in general..

    That things are so much, much better today is precisely because what you call the left-liberal agenda has won out and children are afforded protection under the law.

    But low as child abuse is today compared to the Golden Era you would have us return to (and it is about as low as it’s likely to go)there will always be failures, there will always be mistakes. The question we must ask ourselves is, “Are we learning by these mistakes in order to offer better protection to children hereafter?”

  • Harry Flashman

    As sure as the sun would rise tomorrow I knew that Rory would attempt to present an utterly warped version of what I am saying, kindly point to where I said we should return to Victorian or Edwardian times?

    I said go back to a saner time, a time before the ultimate victory of those on the liberal left who always sought to destroy the traditional family (I note in all our discussions Rory you can never bring yourself to concede the very simple point that it [b]was and still is[/b] a primary objective of the Left to destroy the traditional family). The traditional family with a mother and father living at home was a bastion of stability, were there problems? Of course there were, but there wasn’t the societal breakdown that we have today. The almost Hogarthian debauchery of the late eighteenth century (curiously enough ended by radical reformers of the much maligned Victorian era) where anything goes, and squalor and Gin Lane dependency are the norm are the deliberate outworkings of the desire of the Left to destroy the traditional, conservative, family unit which they rightly saw as an obstacle in the way of their ongoing cultural revolution.

    Baby P is an unfortunate victim of the long march of the cultural left, she is merely the collateral damage of a war declared on traditional society by the Left forty years or more ago.

    Rory spare us your crocodile tears, we know that you on the Left have never given a fiddler’s fuck about people like Baby P, they and their ill educated “parents”, turned out illiterate from the state schools, are part of the client state dependent on the State and Left wing social administrators that the Marxists have sought to establish, they are the future.

    You sir, are the one talking hooey because you are the one who isn’t even honest enough to admit that the destruction of traditional British society and traditional British families have been a key stone of the agenda of British Marxists for generations. When you have the honesty to admit that I am right about how the Left has set out from day one to undermine traditional families then we can at least have an honest debate about how to clear up the resulting mess.

  • Rory

    I have just read Harry’s latest conspiracy theory above and I would stop to give a reasoned reply but that might take all the fun out of it and besides I have rather a full agenda today and I must busy myself finding some happy traditional families so that I can break them up and turn the individual members onto crack cocaine and prostitution.

    That’s the thing about following Moscow’s orders – it sure keeps a fellow busy.

  • Harry Flashman

    Rory, it’s always the same with you, I challenge you to deny the fact that the destruction of the traditional family was and still remains a keystone of the Marxist agenda in the UK, it is in fact so glaringly obvious of course that it is actually now accepted as a commonplace but once again when confronted with this fact you retreat behind a smokescreen of attempted humour.

    The fact remains that the utter destruction of stable, normal, dare one say it ‘conservative’, families was and still remains a major objective of the Left in Britain, the horrendous breakdown in society and family life in the UK in the past four decades has not been some inexplicable phenomena but the actively sought after objective of those who now fill the ranks of the senior management of social services and academic instruction in the UK today.

    Rory you can pretend that you are sorry for what happened to Baby P, actually you are a decent person so probably you are sorry for what happened to him but until such times as you confront your colleagues who worked hard for and actively sought the very breakdown in traditional family values (you call it a “conspiracy theory” yet you can never bring yourself to deny that precisely such a breakdown in traditional morals was long an objective of British – not Soviet – Marxism) that allowed Baby P to be murdered in such squalor then I am afraid your sympathies ring very hollow indeed.

  • Harry

    What most people would regard as the political right have governed Britain since 1979, true in a more liberal manner since 1997, but Blair was a man of the right all the same, hence he saw a kindred spirit in GW Bush. Thus Marxist’s of any type have not been near any levers of power since 79. I am puzzled just why, if as you claim the family plays a less prominent part in what you call British life, you place the blame on marxists. Your argument just does not stack up.

    Indeed up until 1945 the family was in decline, it was only the introduction of the welfare state and an extension of state education that stopped that decline. Incidentally, when was this golden age of the family you talk about?

    If we look at the USA, it is the same story, most people accept GW Bush’s administration is the most conservative government in the post WW2 period, yet under that government over all the family in the USA has declined, more single parent families, divorces etc etc. Some might suggest this fact has nothing to do with marxists but the dog eat dog society the USA has become.

    The only experiment of any real value in the western world which looked at doing away with the family, was the kibbutz movement in Israel, but even that is on its last legs today. If you are being serious, and I’m never quite sure with you, but if you are, you have lost me.

    Take a look closer to home, all the party’s in Stormont are conservatives on social issues, are you really telling me they are carrying out an ultra marxist program, worthy of Pol Pot without the Gulags; and before them the NIO was at the same game and before that all the mini PMs that governed the north.

  • Rory

    I challenge you to deny the fact that the destruction of the traditional family was and still remains a keystone of the Marxist agenda in the UK,…

    OK, Harry, I accept your challenge. I deny your ridiculous assertion completely, never was such a strategy ever broached at any of the thousands of meetings of the left that I have have attended or participated in throughout the course of my life. Indeed I would say that there was a higher than average number of stable relationships among comrades than among the general population and of course I always had Herself to contend with.

    So there. Are you happy now?

    But if you want to roll back time to the ‘good old days’ (when where the good old days, precisely, Harry?) then be my guest. See how far you get. Start with your own children and see the reception your mad proposals meet with.

  • Nice try, guys, but no one will get get HF to alter, much less change, his mind about anything.

    His views are articles of faith, set in concrete, and nothing will change them, so just give up trying.

    He has all the answers.