Following my latest blog on Ellie Butler, I am saddened but perhaps not surprised to learn that the former Mrs. Justice Hogg has refused to explain her misjudgment. On any view, an indefensible decision.
Attempts to explain Ellie’s murder and whether it could have been avoided are being investigated by Christine Davies, the Head of the local safeguarding children’s Board where Ellie and her abusive parents lived. It is her duty to ensure, in so far as it is possible, that children in her area are not abused and killed, and any help Ms. Davies can be given by those involved in Ellie’s case could prove vital.
What saddens Ms. Davies, and all of us reading the harrowing accounts of Ellie’s short life, is the fact that on Mrs. Justice Hogg’s direct order, the Board were prevented from offering any help or support or supervision when it could have saved Ellie’s life. At the very least, the judge should explain her decision. She obviously got it horribly wrong, but there might be exculpatory reasons for her decision. I doubt it, as on the face of it she made a monumental blunder. But if she doesn’t explain herself, we shall never know, and her silence will simply confirm our worst suspicions as to her competence.
I for one would like to know why the retired Mrs. Justice Hogg ignored the warnings and premonitions of Ellie’s grandparents. Her grandfather is calling for an independent inquiry, I expect Ms. Davies would associate herself with that. As things stand, any inquiry will have to do without Mrs. Justice Hogg’s contribution, such as it may have been.
Social workers have an invidious task, particularly when dealing with vulnerable children who may be at risk. Who can forget the tragic case of Ashya King, who was suffering from a brain tumour and whose parents took him away from Southampton General Hospital against the wishes of his carers? The Hounds of Hell were unleashed upon this unfortunate family as they were pursued to Spain and arrested on an international arrest warrant. Common sense prevailed when it was obvious that Ashya’s parents had only his best interests at heart, and they were allowed to take him to Prague for treatment. The most recent prognosis is very encouraging. A clear case of an ill-judged overreaction from uninformed social workers, and not the first time.
Social workers are regularly called upon to make life-changing decisions which will affect the entire family unit, and if they get it wrong, the consequences are too awful to contemplate. If children are left with abusive parents, their lives are literally at risk. If they are taken away when there is no good reason, the family can find it impossible to rebuild confidence, even where they have been completely exonerated. Nobody, least of all I, would pretend that exercising the judgment of Solomon is easy for underpaid and poorly trained social workers, but when they get it wrong, they need to accept their share of the blame, and try and learn from their mistakes.
Sadly, and all too often, these social workers refuse to take any responsibility for their incompetence, and worse still, try and suppress the truth. I refer to the recent tragic case of Poppi Worthington, who died three years’ ago aged 13 months. The exact causes of her death have yet to be determined, as a fresh inquest has been ordered but not yet held. Was it ever thus as the legal juggernaut trundles along at its own snail’s pace, ignoring the adage that justice delayed is justice denied. The initial findings, which bordered on the absurd, was that Poppi had died from ‘severe constipation’! But bringing some degree of sanity into this insanity, Mr. Justice Peter Jackson ruled that Poppi had died of a penetrative assault by her father Paul. It was also noted that Poppi had two fractures to her leg which were never reported.
And what has been the response of the Social workers to this very tragic case? A total bunker mentality, and not for the first time. Instead of admitting serious errors of judgment, apologising and promising to do better next time, they sought a secrecy order to prevent Poppi and her case being identified until 2029. It beggars belief! Of course they are not alone. Chief Plod of the Metropolitan Police is refusing to apologise for the appalling way Lord Bramall was treated. I say take away his knighthood and reduce him to the ranks where he belongs. This bunker mentality amongst public servants seems to be embedded in their psyche, assuming they have one.
How many years have passed since Baby P, or Victoria Climbie? Have they learned nothing? To them, sorry seems to be the hardest word.
The campaign to increase the number of couples wishing to adopt children and to increase the turn around time between initial contact and placement has been a qualified success, although not without its moments of high fiasco. The Social Services have been instructed to relax the rigid rules formerly in force about cross ethnic adoptions, so that black children can be placed with white parents, and presumably vice versa, but progress is still slow, and some adoptive parents continue to look abroad.
One moment of high fiasco was when one couple were refused permission to adopt because they were too middle class, and other instances of crass stupidity by Social Services are too many to relate. All this means is that vulnerable children who deserve a better life in a warm and caring family environment are denied this chance and are condemned to spending their childhood and adolescence in a care home, sometimes many miles away from their roots.
At the other end of the spectrum comes the report into child abuse in Rochdale, in the Greater Manchester area, and in Rotherham South Yorkshire. In short, girls as young as 10 were repeatedly sexually assaulted, a euphemism for rape, by predatory males of Pakistani origin, and their cries for help were routinely ignored by Plod, the prosecuting authorities and Social Services. In one of the most damning passages of the report, all of the victims expressed frustration with the initial response, describing these services as not listening to them. They had cooperated fully with the police processes and had given sufficient information for these agencies to help protect them, but nothing changed and the abuse carried on.
For at least the last ten to fifteen years, the “caring” agencies have been repeatedly enjoined by successive governments to instinctively believe complaints of sexual abuse from children, but apparently not in Rochdale and Rotherham, where they are all working to a different agenda. Words fail to describe the monumental incompetence and complete indifference of these “caring” agencies over the best part of a decade. I suspect there is a racial element to the total failure to investigate properly, if at all, given the fact that the abusers were, almost to a man, of Pakistani origin. That is no excuse whatsoever.
There is now a ‘blame game’, and ‘pass the buck’ going on following the publication of this report, with nobody willing to take responsibility. To add insult to injury, the Chairman of Rochdale Social Services, a complete dipstick by any measure, was repeatedly asked if those responsible for this travesty of justice would be dismissed. Answer there came forth none.
God help the vulnerable children of Rochdale, because help is in very short supply.
Nothing really eventful this week to get one’s teeth into, or, for the linguistic purists amongst you, into which to get one’s teeth.
The government wants to teach children how to speak ‘proper’, a laudable aim, but too little too late.As one knows, comprehensive education has ripped the heart out of learning, and to most teachers, it’s simply a case of holding the line and escaping without serious injury as one day drifts aimlessly into another.The day when an examiner in a child’s written English test gave the unfortunate gobbler extra marks for spelling “F*** off” correctly, sounded the death knell for the three ‘R’s’ and any pretence at serious formal education.
For my part, it’s frightening to be right all the time, but happily for me, I’ve grown accustomed to it.I refer to my New Year’s prediction, made in December last and set out in my article Quick by Name and Plod by Nature, that Damian Green, the shadow immigration minister, would have all proceedings dropped against him, and guess what?Correct. Perhaps it’s apocryphal that the unfortunately named Quick has now resigned, and was last seen sinking below the horizon clutching his index linked pension and a goody bag of assorted perks.So all Damian needs now is a good lawyer [hint, hint] to draft his claim against Plod for unlawful arrest and detention and invasion of privacy, to name but a few, and that should take care of this year’s family holiday.I don’t know about you, but I’ve never felt comfortable with the name ‘Damian,’ regardless of how it is spelt.Shades of the Omen and the Anti Christ.But back to the plot. I hope he joins the invisible Jacqui Smith as a co-defendant.You remember her?Probably not, but when she’s not claiming expenses from the taxpayer for pornographic films and a bath plug, she is posing as Secretary of State for Home Affairs, and let’s face it, her home affairs make for unpalatable reading.
The ghost of Baby P haunted the corridors of the Old Bailey this week, after the creature responsible for his death was convicted of the rape of a 3 year old girl, and after she, now 4, gave evidence.Unusually for me, words fail me to describe the depths of human depravity to which this creature stooped, but he probably got an A* for his English test at school.Question:How do you cross examine a 4 year old child and suggest that her evidence is a tissue of lies?Answer: Not for 40 minutes.Get in and get out.
Continuing the infant theme, a 10 year old girl suffered serious burns after exposing herself under a pay as you tan sunbed, and will now have to avoid ultra violet light for the next 10 years.And guess what?Instead of blaming herself, her mother blamed the machine, and is calling on the government to ban sunbeds.I can imagine this call to arms, legs and torso will shoot up the list of the government’s priorities, along with the credit crunch, banking irregularities, the war in Afghanistan and how to avoid an electoral meltdown in 12 months’ time.
Question: How do you break the habit of a lifetime?Answer: With difficulty, if at all.News reaches me of a cabal of minor league aspiring politicians, with their roots in Pakistan, rigging votes in a big way by abusing the postal ballot system.It was the same system condemned recently as “not fit for a banana republic.”These aspiring politicians are now serving terms of imprisonment.But spare a thought for them.Back home, it’s par for the course.Corruption in that benighted country is endemic, votes are bought and sold at the drop of a ballot paper, and as the saying goes: “You can take the man out of Pakistan, but you can’t take Pakistan out of the man.”
And finally, on a more positive note, Wolverhampton Wanderers, that iconic football team for so long the bridesmaid and never the bride, have at last been promoted to telly land.They owe their promotion in no small part to the loyal support of my son Rupert, who has stuck by them through thick and thin, so well done Rupert, and come on ye Wolves.
The good news is that I was nominated, yet again, for the Father of the Year Award, and as my children will vouchsafe, the red hot favourite.So in anticipation, I wrote a short acceptance speech, no longer than the maximum allowed of two minutes, and I was ready to howl uncontrollably and sob hysterically into the microphone, whilst thanking everybody from the Head Honcho to my make up artist and hair stylist for making this award possible.But to my amazement and dismay, I was pipped to the post by ‘Sooty’ Muldoon, a rank outsider, and the year before, by ‘Paki’ Patel.There are dark rumours that both are good friends with the Royals, which may have something to do with it.There’s also a racist conspiracy theory to keep honkies like me out of the frame. I don’t want you thinking I’m a bad loser, but I’m calling for a public inquiry at the very least, better still an inquest where I can dress my many fans in supportive T shirts to parade in front of the jury and influence the verdict.
On a more serious note, I wrote as long ago as February last year [see A Child is Born] that birth mothers, and for that matter, birth fathers, have no God given right to bring up their children unless and until they can prove they are fit for purpose.The sad and almost unbelievable catalogue of child cruelty emanating from Doncaster proves my point, over and over again.These parents are incapable of caring for their children, and in Doncaster’s case, the same can be said for social workers tasked with protecting these most vulnerable infants.
The injuries inflicted on these infants simply beggars belief.A three month old baby who died from head injuries at the hands of his 24 year old father whilst his 19 year old mother looked on.A sixteen month old baby starved and beaten before her spine was snapped by her 25 year old father.A ten month old baby who died whilst in the care of his parents, aged 18 and 16 respectively.The list of child abuse goes on and on, and all this in Doncaster.Multiply this several times over as social workers the length and breadth of the land struggle with case loads and miss, time and again, telltale signs of abuse and neglect, even those staring them in the face.
I argued then, and I continue to argue, that children conceived of a quick shag round the back of the Community Centre are as likely as not to be at risk.There is no parental support, as many of these mothers and fathers were conceived of a quick shag themselves, no love, just the carnal act.
Every town and city in the land has these birth parents, or more usually the birth mother, as the birth father is squeezing his spots and looking for the next shag. Still in her teens, wheeling the unfortunate infant around in a state of the art buggy, with a fag in their mouth and an expletive on her lips, and bolstered by all the financial support the taxpayer can throw at her, she glowers at one and all, oozing hostility and rejecting even the most well meaning advice, and we wonder why it goes so dreadfully wrong.
Child care monitoring in this country is entirely reactive, and often too little too late.Social Services should stop blaming everybody and everything except themselves, and start being far more proactive. Until something is done to address parents at risk, to take babies away to a place of safety a soon as they are born if there is the slightest doubt about parental skills, then the lessons to be learned from Doncaster will fall, yet again, on deaf, or perish the thought, dead ears.