Page last updated at 20:30 GMT, Sunday, 16 November 2008

Councillors meet over Baby P case

Baby P
The first pictures of Baby P were released on Friday.

Labour Party councillors in Haringey have held a closed doors emergency meeting over the death of Baby P.

The 17-month-old boy died in August 2007 after suffering sustained abuse in the north London borough.

A spokesman for Haringey's ruling Labour group said the meeting "was solely to ensure councillors were fully informed on all aspects of the case".

Two men and Baby P's mother have been convicted of involvement in his death and are to be sentenced on 15 December.

BBC News correspondent Jon Brain said that the Labour Party had denied it was an emergency meeting.

However, those attending had taken steps to ensure they avoided the waiting press and public when they left, our correspondent added.

If councils are going to have to think whether they should spend 4,000 before starting care proceedings and taking a child off the parents, then it beggars belief how many children are going to remain with abusive parents
Peter Garsden, Association Of Child Abuse Lawyers

Baby P suffered 50 injuries, and the case revealed a series of failings by social workers, health workers and police.

An internal inquiry by Haringey's Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) blamed legal advice taken a week before the baby's death for the decision not to take him into care.

John Suddaby, head of legal services at Haringey, has admitted it was "of concern" this advice was given.

Shadow children's Secretary Michael Gove told Sky News he hoped the government inquiry into Baby P's death would examine the whole child welfare system.

"There are two tough questions there," he said.

"There's a question about whether or not the right judgement was exercised and there's also a question about whether or not the systems, whether or not the legal capacity to take children into care is right at the moment."

Deputy children's commissioner Sue Berelowitz told the Observer newspaper it was "received wisdom" to keep families together wherever possible, based on the assumption that children did not thrive in care homes.

But, she added, it was time to consider whether taking children away earlier, before they were damaged by years of neglect, might be more beneficial.

People are asking how these despicable acts of evil can happen in this day and age and in Haringey of all places
Ed Balls
Children's Secretary

Old Bailey Judge Stephen Kramer has told Baby P's 27-year-old mother and her 32-year-old boyfriend, who cannot be named for legal reasons, and Jason Owen, 36, that they faced "substantial" terms in prison.

David Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham, one of two MPs in Haringey, said the council and "the other stakeholders" involved "have questions to answer".

Children's Secretary Ed Balls has spoken of "anger" that "crucial interventions" had not been made in Baby P's case.

"People are asking how these despicable acts of evil can happen in this day and age and in Haringey of all places," he said.

"Professionals working with children in this country do a tough job in very difficult communities but I will not hesitate to act on the findings of the investigation into what went wrong in Haringey."

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice has described fears that councils could fail to bring care proceedings because of the withdrawal of a subsidy to help pay for child care court costs as "completely unfounded".

Proceedings previously costing 150 before May, now cost councils at least 4,000.

The government has provided local authorities with an extra 40m to help cope with the increase, but critics say this is not enough.

Peter Garsden, of the Association Of Child Abuse Lawyers, said: "If councils are going to have to think whether they should spend 4,000 before starting care proceedings and taking a child off the parents, then it beggars belief how many children are going to remain with abusive parents."

However, a Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: "Children's services have an obligation in law to protect children. It would be unlawful for them to avoid taking court proceedings for financial reasons.

"For these reasons we do not accept that the new fees should have any impact on local authorities fulfilling their duty to protect children at risk.

"The court fee itself is a small proportion of the cost of bringing proceedings."

Baby P died in the same borough where eight-year-old Victoria Climbie was tortured to death in 2000.

She was starved and beaten to death by her aunt and her aunt's boyfriend - her death triggered a public inquiry which in turn led to a raft of recommendations for children's services across the country.

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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
Telegraph Baby P: Ministers were warned of babies at risk - 50 mins ago
Washington Post Britain in Shock Over Abuse Death of Toddler - 1 hr ago
Telegraph Baby P: Ministers were warned babies were at risk - 1 hr ago
Sky News Whistleblower Warned Of Failings - 2 hrs ago
Sky News Haringey Alert Was Issued - 2 hrs ago



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