Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Little Stars Nursery case shows how Mandatory Reporting could prevent child abuse.

Paul Wilson - life sentence
The story of the Little Stars Nursery touches every heart string - no pun intended that this story appeared on the Heart FM page after they, together with thousands of other media outlets featured it yesterday - you can read the whole story here.

If Mandatory Reporting was introduced then the chances of this abuser remaining unreported and unchecked would have been much less likely. In simple terms it is not, and has never been, a criminal offence in this country for a professional to witness or suspect that abuse is taking place, yet fail to report it to either the police or the LADO (Local Authority Designated Officer). We are way behind our Commonwealth partners, America, and many other countries round the world, where it is an offence punishable through the criminal courts. I have repeatedly blogged about this already.

The abuse of toddlers is particularly shocking, particularly during a nursery session. How must parents feel, when they know that the very person entrusted to look after their children abused them.

The abuser in this case was quite young - only 23 - one wonders what sort of upbringing he must have had, if he has chosen to abuse children. The statistics show that 95% of child abusers were abused in childhood. I am sure that the criminal court which gave him a life sentence, will have had the benefit of expert psychiatric or psychological evidence to help it.

Locking him up for life without some sort of investigation into his past will keep him away from the public, but we will not, as a society, find out why he did such an appalling thing, unless money is invested into a proper investigation. We need to find out why, so that we can detect the warning signs in others before it is too late.

Obviously the media are focusing on the victim rather than the perpetrator, who does not appear to have been demonised in this case.

The report in the media, however, focuses on the serious case review which has uncovered repeated failings by not only the nursery staff, but also Birmingham City Council, and Offsted. The obvious sanction is a criminal prosecution, but the police are powerless and toothless.

To quote the article,
"The inquiry's found council workers, Ofsted and staff at the nursery in Birmingham all failed to act...knowing he had a 'special relationship' with the child

In a statement, a spokesman for Birmingham City Council said the authority was sorry that it had failed to properly respond to concerns about Wilson.

Wilson is known to have raped the toddler on separate occasions about six months apart during his employment at Little Stars, which began in October 2009."
So what is the answer - change the law to make Mandatory Reporting a criminal offence. Join our petition, now, and invite all your Facebook friends to sign it also. Go to our petition by following this link.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

More training for barristers, judges, and protection of victims of abuse is needed

Snaresbrook Crown Court
It seems that the media's thirst for abuse stories is unquenchable. Every day we hear about another aspect. Sentences of paedophiles are too lenient, and barristers are making insulting remarks to child witnesses in abuse cases. I am about to give an interview to Smooth FM in which I will give my opinion on the story which made headlines this morning.

A 41 year old man who abused a child of 13, denied his guilt, and made the victim give evidence. He was convicted and given an  8 month suspended sentence at Snaresbrook Crown Court.

The prosecuting barrister called her predatory when addressing the court.Charities have made the very good point that if the man was 41 and the girl 13, then there is no doubt who was the predator.

The Attorney General is looking at the sentence, and considering whether it was so lenient that it needs to be referred to the Court of Appeal.

The Bar Council have commented that they hold training courses for barristers to make sure that they behave properly, and respect the wishes of victims, which is laudable.

Victims of abuse find it very difficult to come forward, and the law has moved a long way in this direction since I was first involved in this subject back in 1994. Vulnerable adults now enjoy the same protection as children, which is a move in the right direction.

Why a member of the Crown Prosecution Service should criticise his own witness, and call her predatory, when he is on the side of the witness is difficult to understand. Presumably he must have been asked to comment by the judge?

The Defendant is said to have thought that the girl was older than she was. The judge took into this into account when passing sentence.

At one time it was not possible to refer lenient sentences to the Court of Appeal, whereas now it is. The rights of the individual have become much more important than the interests of the state in an increasingly consumer orientated world.

Human Rights are now much more ingrained in our legal system, despite complaints by politicians, who maintain they interfere with the sovereignty of parliament. Personally I think it provides much needed balance to a previously precedent led system.

What do I think? I am very much in favour of protecting the rights of the victim, who usually has much less power than others, be it their abuser, parents, policemen, courts, government, or school. Balance of power, however is fundamentally important in a civilised society.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Daniel Pelka deserves better. The law needs to change - Mandatory Reporting

Daniel Pelka
Yet another tragic child death - Climbiee, Baby P, and now poor Daniel Pelka. This time the authorities say they were conned by the parents, yet there were obvious signs of abuse which were missed. Both parents were on drugs, and probably didn't know what they were doing.

Whilst cases of child deaths caused by parents are rare - less than 100 per year, inevitably they attract headlines, raw emotions, demands for heads to roll etc.

In the case of Baby P the head of social services at Harringey was dismissed in a rather hurried fashion after the political involvement of Ed Balls, then succeeded in proving unfair dismissal with an award of compensation.

If there had been a mandatory reporting obligation at the time, then it would have been possible to prosecute someone for failure to report signs of the child abuse.

In the USA the law since 1963 has made failure to report abuse a criminal offence. Indeed England is one of the only commonwealth countries where it is not yet a breach of criminal law.

The government are resisting attempts to make it contrary to the criminal law, one presumes because of vested interests in opposition.

One does not want to impose criminal prosecutions on professionals save in the most exceptional cases.

The rule would operate rather like corporate manslaughter in the field of health and safety breaches in factories, where a director of a company can be prosecuted if a death occurs for breach of safety regulations.

There are perilously few criminal cases, but the deterrent effect works.

Hopefully tonight on News 24, I will be able to interest the government in changing the law. There is an opportunity at the moment as the Children's and Families Bill goes through Parliament.

Together with the Survivor's Trust, Innocence in Danger, NAPAC, and Survivors, I am challenging the government to do the right thing.

Our petition needs signing - sign it now