Grant Woodward: This wretched catalogue of failure to protect children

Isn't it time the so-called professionals in charge of our child protection agencies were hauled before a court?

Thursday, 2nd June 2016, 5:00 am
Two-year-old Liam Fee was found dead at his home after being beaten so hard his heart ruptured.

WHEN you see stories about children who have been beaten or starved to death, what’s your first instinct?

Is it to devour every harrowing word, or is it to hurriedly turn to another page of the newspaper or flick to a different TV channel?

My own response is invariably the latter. And it’s entirely the wrong one.

Because if we continue to look away due to finding the details of the deaths of children such as Liam Fee – the toddler battered so hard by his mum and her partner that his heart ruptured – too appalling to bear, we’re simply ensuring that such tragedies can be repeated.

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We are essentially letting those responsible off the hook. And I’m not talking about the parents whose wickedness condemned their children to an early grave, but those who are meant to be looking out for them.

You might think that after so many recent cases of children dying in such terrible circumstances we would be almost desensitised to it.

Then you catch the snatches of detail and one’s mind boggles at the wretchedness of it all.

At the time of his death at the age of two, little Liam had more than 30 injuries, including a fractured upper arm and thigh.

His mother Rachel and her partner Nyomi were able to carry out two years of sustained attacks on him and two other boys that included imprisoning one in a cage made from a fire guard, using cable ties to bind his hands behind his back.

Another boy was tied naked to a chair in a dark room with nine snakes and several rats, forced to eat his own vomit and told a boa constrictor ‘ate naughty little boys’.

The pair’s actions were truly despicable, but they are not the only aspect of this distressing case that should incense us all.

Instead, it is the consistent and inexcusable failure of those whose sole professional purpose is to do everything humanly possible to ensure such atrocities do not happen.

Time and again social services were alerted to people’s concerns for Liam’s welfare.

A childminder said she was so worried about him she couldn’t sleep. A nursery recorded every bruise and told the authorities they were worried for his safety.

Another woman got in touch with social workers after she saw Liam in his pram and wasn’t able to tell “if he was drugged or dead.”

And yet a social worker and police officer sent to visit the family were all too easily fobbed off with the cock and bull story that Liam had simply bumped his head.

Then the social worker who had been dealing with the case went off sick – and, as a manager admitted, he simply “fell off the radar”.

Left at the mercy of the monsters who were meant to nurture him, they tortured the poor wee soul before bludgeoning him to death.

No doubt we will now be treated to the same tired old soundbites that have lost their impact because of their misuse.

The authorities will tell us that “lessons will be learned”.

There will likely be a serious case review that results in a string of impressive-sounding recommendations and warnings that it must never happen again. Then it will happen all over again.

Baby P was meant to be the watershed moment. Following the conviction in 2009 of Peter’s mother Tracey Connelly, her boyfriend and his brother Jason, three inquiries and a nationwide review of social service care were launched.

All very impressive, the only trouble was that they didn’t stop it happening again. They didn’t save Daniel Pelka in Coventry, Hamza Khan in Bradford or Liam Fee in Scotland.

Rachel and Nyomi Fee are now going to jail for what they did to little Liam.

Many will hope they rot in hell for what they did to him.

But isn’t it time the so-called professionals in charge of our child protection agencies were also hauled before a court and ordered to explain themselves?

Cross words for Cellino

I’D never heard of Crosswater Holdings before this week, but I found myself agreeing with every word of the email sent by company boss David Hance to Leeds owner Massimo Cellino.

In it, he informed the Italian of his decision to withdraw sponsorship from Elland Road.

“After 10 years supporting the club as a true fan, and longest-serving sponsor, I have had enough of how you run our famous club,” wrote David.

“For my brand to be associated with Leeds United is now an embarrassment to both me and my customers. As always, I will follow the club all over the UK but until you exit the club I or any of my employees will not return in a commercial capacity.”

Strong words, but every line was justified. Under Cellino’s ownership, Leeds have gone from Greek tragedy to Billy Smart’s Circus.

Garry Monk (at the time of writing) looks set to be the seventh coach at United since Cellino took over three years ago.

The Italian’s treatment of his employees – from Lucy Ward to Steve Evans – is extraordinary.

Of course, Cellino won’t pay a blind bit of notice to this latest criticism and who knows how many more managers he’ll get through next season.

But you can see why long-term fans like David Hance have had enough. Perhaps more should now do likewise to hasten the regime change United so desperately need.

Should gorilla have been in zoo anyway?

HARAMBE the gorilla’s native habitat is the rain forests of central Africa. Yet he ended up being shot dead in a zoo in Cincinnati.

When three-year-old Isiah Dickerson fell into his enclosure, the zoo’s management decided the only option was to kill Harambe to ensure the boy didn’t come to any harm.

Many are asking how Isiah slipped from his mother’s grasp and over a barrier to get within Harambe’s grasp.

But the bigger question is not whether the kid should have been in the enclosure but whether Harambe should have been in the zoo at all.

Yes, there’s a conservation argument, with gorillas an endangered species.

But having seen these magnificent animals looking bored as they pace around a not particularly big enclosure at London Zoo, I can’t help thinking we should be doing more to preserve their natural environments rather than shipping them off to zoos for us to gawp at them.