Page last updated at 19:16 GMT, Friday, 1 May 2009 20:16 UK

Trial offers Baby P dignity of a name

Drawing of courtroom scene
Baby Peter's mother and her boyfriend saw the girl's video evidence in court

Baby P - the abused toddler who died of more than 50 injuries - has finally had the dignity of his real name, Peter, being released at the request of his family.

But one of those who took the 17-month-old's life has now been found guilty of abusing another child.

For the last two weeks, Baby Peter's mother and boyfriend have been on trial at the Old Bailey, unknown to the public. Their names were changed to ensure a fair trial.

The boyfriend, an unemployed 32-year-old who cannot be identified, has now been convicted of raping a young girl, then aged two-and-a-half. Her video testimony was played in court.

Peter's mother, who was with them at the time, was cleared of causing or allowing the abuse of the girl.

Doll and teddy

Baby Peter suffered terrible abuse behind closed doors at his home in Haringey at the hands of his mother's boyfriend.

It is now clear the man responsible was a serial abuser. The victim in this case was a girl less than three years old.

I think most people will be shocked, but at the same time very pleased that a conviction has occurred
Carolyn Hamilton
Children's Legal Centre

The girl, who cannot be identified, first reported the attack to another woman.

In a special police interview room, she used a doll and a teddy bear to recreate what happened. Her evidence was recorded for the court jury.

The girl, now four-and-a-half, was cross-examined by video link - the youngest child ever to appear at the Old Bailey.

Her tiny voice was sometimes indistinct, but her evidence compelling, in what has now become a landmark case.

Professor Carolyn Hamilton, director of the Children's Legal Centre, which promotes children's rights, welcomed the court verdict.

"I think most people will be shocked, but at the same time very pleased that a conviction has occurred," she said.

"It does show that even though a child is small, and it is difficult for that child to give evidence, that they [abusers] can't escape having committed such heinous crimes."

Questions to answer

While High Court orders prevent the naming of the couple, the end of the trial means both they and their lodger, Jason Owens - also convicted over Baby Peter's death, can now be sentenced.

However, there will be new questions for the authorities.

It has emerged the two-year-old girl had herself been on Haringey's at-risk register when she was raped - an independent review will now look at whether mistakes were made.

And a report into Baby Peter's death will also be published soon - it is understood to have uncovered more failings not yet revealed.

Sharon Shoesmith, the London authority's former children's services director, was sacked in December and this week four other social workers and managers were fired over what the council called gross misconduct.

While the death of Baby Peter was shocking enough, it is becoming clear this case is even more disturbing than many had realised.



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