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Saturday, November 15, 2008 

War on personal freedom, Baby P and weekend links.

Paying for sex to be criminal offence, says the headline, or rather paying for sex with someone "controlled" by someone else is to be made a criminal offence. Ignorance will not be an excuse, and presumably neither will be the person saying they aren't controlled by anyone else before someone hands over their money. This seems to be a part of this government's apparent master plan: first they remove your civil liberties, watch you everywhere you go through the world's largest number of surveillance cameras, capture as many people's DNA and fingerprints as they can and create the world's largest database of such material, creating all the structures necessary for a very modern police-state, ready for any party with such tendencies to take control, then while waiting for that to happen they get bored with just removing political freedom and move on to personal freedom as well. Not only is paying someone to have sex with you going to become a criminal offence, but the government (and the opposition) both want to censor the internet, much like the Australians are apparently planning to do. Meanwhile, the Home Affairs Select Committee suggests banning happy hours, and the Home Office is gearing up to reclassify cannabis from Class C to Class B. Sure, they've let a few concessions through, such as dropping 42 days, mainly because the House of Lords would never have let it through, and scrapping SATs for 14-year-olds, but they carry merrily on their way with the rest. Meanwhile, we're distracted by witch-hunts, first against television presenters and then social workers.

The government's potential "naming and shaming" of ISPs that don't take down offensive material quickly enough they seems like an excellent idea to me. I'll be the first to join up with any ISP that refuses to give in to government censorship, or the one that comes bottom. Just remember, it's all for the children.

Speaking of which, the clamour surrounding Baby P is still undoubtedly the story of the weekend. First the more thoughtful comment: Freedom from Choice and Five Chinese Crackers both target Littlejohn's take, Janice Turner says that "Lurid images and salacious details distance us from suffering by turning tragedy into a modern penny dreadful",Chris asks some questions, Tom Freemania notes the move from Guardian-bashing to welfare-bashing, Catherine Bennett juxtaposes the Jersey non-murder child's home with Baby P, Deborah Orr warns against a rush to judgement, while Sophie Heawood puts the left-wing case for saying that what surrounded Baby P was wrong. Mike Power, married to a social worker, gives his take in response to a comment of mine:

The Maria Colwell case and its aftermath was extremely significant in a way that the present case and, indeed, Climbie, were not. The problems with Climbie (which have been largely underplayed) were largely to do with extreme management dysfunction, partly caused by serious mental health problems, inexperience, together with cultural relativism and inverted racism. Any experienced senior social work manager could have seen what was wrong and sorted it out in an afternoon had they been allowed to.

Most of Laming does nothing to address those issues and in the view of most experienced child protection specialist Laming hasn't saved and will not save a single life.

The real point here, as I have stated before, is that there simply is no story. This case is a little more horrific than usual (although there have been plenty of nasty deaths since Climbie that have never been reported beyond a short piece in the local paper) and it happened in 'loony left' Haringey. Beyond that there is little to distinguish it from many other child killings that happen (on average once every 10 days). It's a moral panic + political opportunism + classic tabloid tub thumping.

I had to laugh when I heard Brown say he will do 'everything in his power to ensure that another innocent child is not tragically killed'.

Yeah, I thought, maybe in Haringey, but certainly not in Iraq or Afghanistan.

From the other side, Peter Hitchens claims that if Baby P's family was middle-class he would have been taken into care (obviously hasn't read the report which states that there was attempts made to do that but the legal threshold for doing so had not been reached, while PDF mentions the rumours that the mother was privately-educated), Dominic Lawson hilariously combines welfare with feral to make familiar points, and Lorraine Kelly, veteran of the worst tabloid comment piece of the weekend award, claims that Baby P's plight should have been obvious to anyone.

The nastiest stuff of the week on Baby P though comes not from commentators but from the readers themselves. Not satisfied with being told that one of the social workers involved is suicidal, they naturally wish to provide the rope:

What you waiting for, you have a chance unlike that little boy!

i AM A GOOD READER OF FACES AND WHEN i LOOK AT THIS WOMEN,SOMETHING TELLS ME SHE HAD NO INTEREST IN HER JOB OR PROTECTING THIS CHILD ONLY IN HER BLOODY WAGES,SHE ALSO SHOULD BE BROUGHT TO TRAIL WITH THE REST OF THIS SICK COUNCIL.FOR THIS TO HAPPEN TWICE IN THE SAME BOROUGH IS UNBIEVABLE,SACKING IS TO GOOD FOR THEM,THEY JUST GO ON WITH THEIR MISERABLE LIVES

well whats stopping you i am sure 99% of the population would buy her a rope you are all a disgrace i bet your children will have a good christmas on the money you earn for doing nothing

GIVE ME HER ADDRESS AND I SHALL POST HER A NICE LONG ROPE TO HANG HERSELF, OR ANYTHING ELSE SHE NEEDS, I AM CERTAIN ME AND FELLOW SUN READERS ALSO THE GENERAL BRITISH PUBLIC WILL BE GENEROUSE WITH OUR DONATIONS, BELIEVE US WE SHALL GLADLY CONTRIBUTE ANYTHING SHE NEEDS TO END HER VILE EXISTENCE..............VILE BITCH LIKE THE BEAST WHO BORE THIS BEAUTIFUL CHILD

There are however a few pleas for reason, including one from someone who claims to know the woman involved:

I know Maria too, she is extremely caring, diligent and competent - how can you judge her without knowing the outcome of any enquiry? Even mass murderers and terrorists get a fair trial. As a social worker myself, I am ready to quit this work where we are 'damned if we do, damned if we don't'. I am not trying in any way to justify or excuse any poor practice, but this witch hunt is an absolute disgrace. What you won't hear no doubt, is about the many children's lives that have been saved or improved by Maria's dedication - the stakes are terribly high in social work but who out there hasn't at some time made a terrible error of judgment - none of you ever injured anyone in a car accident that was your fault? Never made a mistake in a job where you're working 8-7 (no extra pay or time off given or asked for) where every one of your clients is at equally at risk? Shame on you all - I am absolutely devastated at baby P's death but wish his natural father had been as concerned about his beautiful son's welfare during his life as he is now - and wish doctors and police would take more notice of social workers when they express concerns instead of dismissing us as time wasters - believe me, there is more than one side to this absoultely terrible story.

Oh, and there was this:

I think some of you are being a LITTLE harsh! 'Eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth' springs to mind. She DOESN'T deserve to die! Sacking, fined, possibly even jailed or whatever but killing herself wont bring Baby P back! This is a horrible case but the main people to blame are the sick horrible disgusting mother and step dad and the other man. The Social Services are partly to blame BUT they were tricked by the mother. Yes they should of done better but death is a bit extreme

Death is a bit extreme.

Away from all of that, Laurie Penny writes of her meeting with the Poppy Project, Chris (again) imagines himself as George Osborne, Justin discovers that Ed Balls doesn't hate the poor after all, the Heresiarch talks Prince Charles and his desire to be defender of all faiths, Paul Linford celebrates the reversal on the Post Office Account and Matt Foot relates how there is no justice for those brutalised in Genoa during the G8 summit back in 2001.

No contest this week in the worst tabloid comment piece of the weekend, although the The Times' blaming of the welfare state came close, with its sister paper scooping the crown for its emotionally pornographic demand for (no) justice editorial.

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Thanks for linking me. Means a lot as I'm completely new at this.

Against the Social Worker Witch Hunt?

Sign the Petition:
http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/swan/

and read about it here:
http://www.socialworkfuture.org/?p=31

I'm a bit conflicted about the first issue you raise. Surely it must be a good move to criminalise those men who knowingly use trafficked women?

Mephitis: Well, that's the point. How are you meant to know whether a woman's been trafficked or not? It's not as if you can go by the fact that they're either foreign or can't speak English; there are hundreds if not thousands of sex workers that are legitimately here and working of their own volition in prostitution that are both of those things. This isn't a black or white issue, and pretending it is or criminalising it will both cause untold suffering for no great benefit whilst only forcing prostitution further underground where abuse is only more likely to take place.

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