Baby P’s death “could and should” have been stopped

The awful news about the second case of child abuse involving someone Haringey Council was meant to be protecting – with the conviction of the boyfriend of Baby P’s mother for raping a two-year-old – has rather pushed to one side the publication of the second Serious Case Review into Baby P’s death.

The original Serious Case Review concluded that essentially nothing too significant was done wrong by those involved in protecting Baby P. But this was rapidly discredited once its findings were publicised. This new review paints a very different picture, including the key conclusion that the death of Baby P “could and should have been prevented” (BBC).

It is perhaps reassuring to know that – for all the heinous and deceitful behaviour involved – a well-run social services system should be able to protect children in such circumstances. It also rather undermines those who have sought to defend Haringey Council on the basis that, “evil happens and you can’t stop it” or variants thereof. In this case, the conclusion is that it could and should have been stopped (especially if there had not been such a glib reliance on indicators say things were fine).

That conclusion makes the judgement of Tottenham MP David Lammy – who initially defended Sharon Shoesmith and her record at running Haringey’s social services, despite having been warned six months earlier by a whistleblower – look all the poorer.

As The Times reports:

Rape verdict strengthens call for Haringey public inquiry
The failings of social workers at Haringey Council have again been exposed in a criminal trial.

The local authority, which is still reeling from the criticism it received after its failing in the Baby P case, confirmed the two-year-old rape victim was known to social workers and was on its “at risk” register…

Lynne Featherstone, Liberal Democrat MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, said that more questions about the performance of the council needed to be answered. “We desperately need a public inquiry to get to the bottom of this,” she said.

One final detail is worth highlighting. This conviction has made clear why the names of those involved in the trial over the death of Baby P were kept secret. It was (at least in part) in order to ensure that this second trial could go ahead:

The Attorney General investigated an internet ‘name and shame’ campaign which risked derailing the trial and led to the defendants being given false names. [Daily Mail]

An ironic footnote indeed that those who were demanding names to be named in the interests of justice would in fact, had they had their way, have derailed justice and most likely caused the man to receive a lighter jail sentence than he now will with these two convictions.

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