The Law and Baby P
Following Baby Pís death, on 22nd August 2009 protesters marched to Holloway prison to demand that Baby Pís mother be stopped from appealing her minimum 5 year sentence. Healthcare and local authority professionals have also been criticised for their handling of the matter. To understand how the system let Baby P down it is necessary to look at the facts of the case and the legal procedure involved.
On 1st March 2006, Baby P, now named as Peter Connelly was born. 4 months later his biological parents separated. Baby Pís mother, Sarah Connelly, who herself had a troubled background, remained with Baby P. Unknown to the local authority, in December 2006, Sarahís new boyfriend, Steven Barker moved in. At around the same time a GP noticed an injury to the babyís head and bruising which was suspicious. In line with normal procedure a case conference was called.
Normally where there are significant concerns for a childís welfare the local authority conduct an investigation and a strategy discussion takes place between the agencies involved. If it is believed that the child is still at risk then a child protection conference is called, as was the case here.
The child protection conference comprises of a group of professionals involved in the childís welfare, such as social workers, health care professionals, police, teachers and itís purpose is to gather information and decide what steps are needed to safeguard and promote the childís welfare. Parents are also invited to attend and are normally allowed a legal representative. A decision will then be taken whether or not to place the child on the child protection register.
Baby P was placed on the Child Protection Register. ďThe Child Protection Register is a list of children who are at continuing risk of significant harm and in such cases a child protection plan should be put in place.Ē
In Baby Pís case in January 2007 he was returned to his mother. Four months later hospital staff noticed more bruises and scratches to Baby P.
However, it was agreed he remain in motherís care where a family friend acted as supervisor.
Again unknown to the local authority, another man, Jason Owen moved in to the home in June 2007. There was a further meeting in July 2007 where it was decided that care proceedings should not be brought. In such a case it is likely that a care order application would have been considered.
The threshold criteria has to be satisfied and the court convinced that a care order is the most appropriate order before a care order will be granted to the Local Authority. A Care order gives the local authority the normal rights that a parent has for a child- known as parental responsibility and allows the local authority to place a child with a person other than a parent. A care order would have allowed the local authority to remove Baby P from motherís care. Mother would be entitled to legal representation in such a matter.
On 30th July 2007 the social worker visited Baby P. On 1st August 2007 Baby P attended hospital, bruising was noted but no full examination was performed. On 3rd August 2007 Peter died. His many injuries included a snapped spine and 8 broken ribs. Steven Barker, Sarah Connelly and Jason Owen have all had sentences of imprisonment.
Last year, a review found that Haringey childrenís services department was inadequate. The director of childrenís services was sacked. In 2009 a social worker and 3 managers have been sacked and a GP suspended. A second review has found the relevant child protection staff should have stopped the abuse at the first serious incident.
To conclude, the systems and legal procedures exist, but there appeared to be a lack of thorough implementation by professionals