Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Blame Game

This is one game you don't want to be a participant in. Three convictions today for causing or allowing the death of Baby P. Not for murder because there were probably three no comment interviews.

Now will begin the real hunt for who failed the baby. Is it social services, the police or even the CPS who did not proceed with assault charges against the mother? The usual suspects.

After the Victoria Climbie case several recommendations were made, including the sharing of information between agencies. Of course everybody will have an audit trail attempting to cover their backs.

One of my officers dealt with a missing 14 year old boy several years ago. The boy eventually returned home himself and the PC went round to see what the score was. This was in the days prior to misper debriefs. What the lad told him was quite disturbing about him feeling suicidal and depressed. The officer a good sort who heard the alarm bells ringing decided to write the whole story down on the relevant form. In the finest traditions there was insufficient space on the form so he typed out a continuation sheet on plain paper. This I supervised and he faxed the whole lot to the relevant department. This would have been disseminated to social services and beyond.

The original form with the fax receipt was placed in the Grid OB, a folder where there was a running reference number. Unbeknown to us a few weeks later this lad committed suicide.

I think at the inquest questions were asked about police involvement. It would appear the fax went astray or was not acted upon. Luckily the officer could produce the original copy and fax receipt. I think they were looking to pin the blame on him by first off saying he never completed the form and then that he shouldn't have typed up a continuation sheet because it wasn't the right format. He had done all he could and more but something went wrong with the system. Somebody was definately looking to shift the blame his way.

Nowadays everything is computerised and we have to input all dealings with children. The problem being we put on so many reports that somebody has to read them all and make a judgement call. My worry is that something is always going to slip through the net.

I went to the cemetery on the anniversary of the death of one of my grandparents. They turn the pages of a book and there is a memorial inside with the name. I wandered into a public side room where they kept the ashes of people. On a shelf were the ashes of the lad with a name plague. It was a family tragedy and who knows if he would have gone on to kill himself if the form had been disseminated. I always remember this one and how the PC covered his back. If he'd cut corners the buck would have stopped with him.

So systems have been improved but these deaths are still occurring. We'll have to wait for the inevitable enquiry to see what happens and what recommendations are made. The blame game will remain the same.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

How hard is it to read a fax? Gross incompetence, if you ask me.

Damo Mackerel said...

Hello Stressedoutcop,

I've just read an article in the times by Theodore Dalrymple. Here it is:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article5133966.ece

Damo Mackerel said...

Sorry, here's the full address:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article5133966.ece

Damo Mackerel said...

Ok, it won't allow me to print the full address but if you do a search for Theodore Dalrymple on the Times online site you'll find the article.