Many years ago I read Emlyn Williams book about the Moors Murders – Beyond Belief.  And it was beyond belief that people in our society could have done such things.  The reaction at the time was mostly that this happened because those that did it were evil; they should be hanged or locked away for ever.  There was no suggestion of failure by the various authorities to protect the children.

Since then we have had a series of other terrible crimes against children with the latest reaching its judicial conclusion yesterday.  These more recent cases carry not just disbelief that such things could be inflicted on a child but disbelief that the various authorities allowed it to happen.  After each enquiry we learn of a catalogue of mistakes by these authorities and see that time and again intervention could have happened but did not.  Each time the enquiries make recommendations to prevent the next failure to safeguard the vulnerable.

It is also often said that it is simply not possible to prevent parents abusing their children if they are clever and manipulative.  This links to the outcry there is whenever the authorities do intervene and it turns out that their suspicions might not have been justified.  We know any system of identification which errs on the precautionary approach will throw up lots of false positives.  True but …..

One lesson which appears to emerge from each such enquiry is about how all the necessary information suggesting abuse was available if only someone somewhere had been able to put it together and have the courage to act.

Perhaps it is in part our fault.  We have fragmented and denigrated public service; cut back on budgets and enforced savings and set different parts to compete with each other rather than cooperate.

I still think it beyond belief that we could not do so much better if we really cared enough.

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One Comment

  1. Jonathan Swift says:

    This is what Olive Stevenson wrote in the enquiry report concerning the death of Maria Colwell – “Those who have worked in child care social work have learnt of the
    impossibility of predicting the future (para. 2.62).” That was in 1974.

    The crimes against children have not gone away – new guidelines will be produced and previous ones restated for all those concerned with child protection and yet we can predict that the crimes will continue. We are able to predict too that more enquiries will follow. Essentially there is no way these crimes are able to be prevented and will still happen even when the past of practice is in place.

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