There are enough ways for people to get killed without inventing new ones. It appears that being 9 years old in America is actually quite mature for handling guns, with tales now emerging of 5 year olds doing it. The name of the place
where the killing happened just about sums things up: Burgers And Bullets. I’m surprised the guns weren’t painted pink or blue to make them more “child friendly”.
Of course I live in a country far away from where this happened. I can’t vote there and I doubt that many Americans will be influenced by anything I say. I just thank whatever power exists in the universe that I live in a country where this sort of death couldn’t happen. We’re sane enough not to put weapons into the hands of children. At least not legally.
But then again we don't need guns for people to die. We have Social Services for that, which brings me to the other thing that happened. Well of course it was the report into child abuse in Rotherham between 1997 and 2010 which reveals that over 1,400 children suffered systematic abuse at the hands of a gang of men and NO ONE THINKS THAT THEY SHOULD TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR IT.
There are two organisations that don’t come out of the report very well. One is Rotherham Social Services and the other is South Yorkshire police who failed to act on the claims of abuse made by the victims. This would be the same South Yorkshire Police who are implicated in wrong doing following the Hillsborough football stadium disaster; not that the two events are linked.
Newspaper front pages have displayed the photographs of police and council officials that think that they have done nothing they need to answer for. This includes South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright who was responsible for child protection at Rotherham Council while much of the abuse was taking place. Home Secretary Theresa May, Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper and local MP Sarah Champion have all called for Wright’s
resignation, but he is resolutely refusing to go, though he has been forced to resign from the Labour Party over the issue.
However, Mr Wright is not alone. What of the actual police officers who failed to act on the reported crimes? Why are
they still receiving their pay checks? Anyone who has ever worked in a bureaucratic organisation like the police knows that every decision has to be signed off by someone more senior, all the way to the top of the organisation. Meetings will have been held to discuss these reports and these will have been minuted. So identifying those who are culpable shouldn’t be a problem, but South Yorkshire police seem to be having difficulty in doing that. It’s understood
that the Home Secretary is ordering a police investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission into the whole affair so we can only hope that in due course prosecutions will take place, but don’t hold your breath.
It was wong when the Metropolitan Police failed to investigate the Steven Lawrence murder properly because the victim's skin was black. It is therefore just as wrong when the police fail to investigate sex abuse complaints by vulnerable teenagers just because the perpetrators' skin was brown. Law enforcement must be colour blind or it isn't the law enforcement any more.
There is something essentially wrong in our society when it comes to the care of vulnerable children. In 1990 Margaret Hodge was head of Islington council when scandals emerged about the sexual abuse of children in the council’s care. Her Head of Social Services requested additional resources to deal with problems that had been identified and Margaret Hodge refused to provide them. A victim of the abuse publicly blamed Margaret Hodge, holding her ultimately responsible for allowing it to happen. She became Minister for Children in 2003. Did no one see the irony of this, not
least Ms Hodge?
Social Services failed to investigate the appalling abuse of Victoria Climbie. That failure eventually resulted in the death of the child. The official inquiry conducted by Lord Laming concluded that the race of Victoria's parents was a factor in the failure to investigate. In another superb bit of irony Laming had been Head of Hertfordshire Social Services when it had failed to protect a vulnerable child and had been found negligent.
In 2008 Sharon Shoesmith, Head of Social Services for Haringey, was in charge when the Baby P case caused a huge scandal following the conviction of his mother and her boyfriend for his murder. Shoesmith refused to resign and the Minister responsible at the time, Ed Balls, dismissed her from her job but she has since been awarded a six figure pay-out for wrongful dismissal. You couldn’t make it up. The government are appealing the decision but the fact that the award was made in the first place is a scandal.
It was the failure of people on the public payroll (I include the BBC, the NHS and West Yorskhire police) that allowed Jimmy Savile to get away with his crimes until after his death. Ditto for Cyril Smith. How many more of these scandals are waiting for someone to die so that they can be uncovered? Where are the prosecutions for negligence or misconduct in a public office? Answers on a postcard to your MP.
Does nobody in public office ever take responsibility for anything anymore? It is the responsibility of Social Services
to protect the vulnerable and the Head of Social Services for the relevant council is accountable for that. It is the responsibility of the police to investigate crime and it is the Chief Constable who is accountable for that. I’m
not a believer in casting blame around like confetti, but ultimately someone is accountable for whatever happens within public bodies. If they don’t feel that they are accountable then they shouldn’t be drawing the salary and we shouldn’t
being paying them. End of.
So why are the accountable people in Rotherham Council and the South Yorkshire Constabulary still being employed at council tax payers expense? People who don't feel that they can be sacked will never feel they are personally accountable. They don't have to. We have to make it clear that if it happens on their watch then their job is forfeit and that, if they have been negligent, they will be proescuted. Then perhaps they might do their jobs properly.
Every time something like this happens we’re told that “Lessons have been learnt”, but clearly they haven’t. It’s time for a root and branch overhaul of child protection in this country – or are we just going to wait until the next Baby P dies or the next child sex abuse scandal breaks? If you feel the same way then please e-mail your MP to tell him or her. Demand that they raise merry hell over the issue of child protection. And remind them that as your elected representative in Parliament they are accountable to you – and there’s an election in less than nine months’ time where you can and
will hold them accountable.
You can find out who your MP is and their official e-mail address here: Find My MP and if you live in the Daventry constituency then it is Chris Heaton-Harris and his e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are feeling as angry as me then please also share the link to this page so that others can do the same. If enough of us do something then perhaps things will start to change.
I'm taking a short break so there won't be a blog next week, but I'll be back on 13th September.