Feature Medicine and the Media

Who should we blame for the death of Baby P?

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g6643 (Published 05 November 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g6643
  1. Emma Parish, editorial registrar, The BMJ, London, UK
  1. eparish{at}bmj.com

A recent documentary showed the media and politicians gunning for hardworking, stretched professionals. They may have made mistakes, but they didn’t kill Peter Connelly, writes Emma Parish

Some cases of child abuse are so awful that they indelibly mark the public’s consciousness and force us to review our whole approach to safeguarding children.

Victoria Climbié and Peter Connelly were both from Haringey in north London. Both were killed by their families. Both had had contact with healthcare, the police, and social services on many occasions. Understandably, such cases call into question the role and competency of professionals charged with identifying vulnerable children and protecting them from abuse and violence.

Last week’s illuminating BBC documentary Baby P: The Untold Story showed how social services bore the brunt of public loathing after Peter Connelly’s death, overshadowing the roles of the police, health workers—and indeed the perpetrators (www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04n6sm0).

Sensational newspaper headlines—for example, the Sun’s “Blood on their hands” with its campaign calling for the sacking of all the social workers involved—fuelled the frenzied blame game that followed the announcement of Peter’s death.1 Misconceived comments by politicians didn’t help.

David Cameron, then leader of the opposition, remarked at prime minister’s questions in 2008, “This is a story …

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