Where The Sun Don't Shine

There is little room for doubting the extent of professional negligence displayed by Sharon Shoesmith in her management of the child protection scheme in Haringey. The helpless and vulnerable were abandoned to the perverse designs of their tormentors. The Baby P case demonstrated that prisoners have a greater degree of protection than children at risk. It is inconceivable that someone detained in Belmarsh would be visited 60 times by professionals supposedly concerned about allegations of ill treatment at the hands of prison staff only for the prisoner to be later murdered by the same staff. And if, four days before he died, prison officers were to present him to professional visitors unconscious, his face smeared in chocolate, claiming that he was only asleep, it would be just as inconceivable that the professionals would walk away after a cursory wave.

Because of the endemic incompetence that reigned under her leadership the dismissal of Sharon Shoesmith from her post as director of children’s services is to be robustly defended. That she may feel unfairly treated because up to now she alone out of all the culpable has been forced to walk the plank is no reason to sympathise with her predicament. That others should make the same journey is indisputable. Yet, if the other five, six or whatever who should go, manage to avoid that fate, there is no reason for her to be spared. The uneven distribution of justice is no reason for withholding its application. Absolving her would only accentuate the injustice of allowing others to get off the hook.

Sharon Shoesmith’s punishment is all the more severe for her having incurred public wrath through an incredibly myopic defence of her record articulated with such arrogance that it had all the resonance of ‘let them eat cake.’ That she should use her strident voice in her own defence but failed to use it on behalf of a voiceless baby undergoing unimaginable suffering drove the public apoplectic. Through her actions she powered the voices already baying for her blood; the author of her own wretched denouement. Whether she realises it or not she will forever carry the brand of Baby P. If she possesses the slightest humility her anguish will be great.

Currently Sharon Shoesmith is subject to a witch hunt by the Sun. Since the trial of those involved in torturing and murdering Baby P the redtop has manufactured a duck shoot, igniting incandescent societal rage beneath her feet. Not satisfied with having mobilised intensely hostile public opinion against her, the paper is intent on kicking her when she is down. She is unable to walk to an Italian restaurant in the company of three friends without her picture being emblazoned in the paper. As far as the Sun is concerned she should be allowed neither to eat nor have friends; sackcloth and ashes her lot until the end of time. The public is being urged to hound her. There have been claims that her life is under threat and that one of her children has also received threats.

Such behaviour mirrors the activity it ostensibly opposes. It is the injustice that poisons and pollutes any justice campaign. Most assuredly, it will contribute nothing to the enhancement of a public understanding without which the type of systemic failings that condemned Baby P to his fate are unlikely to be eradicated.


  1. Anthony,

    A very thought provoking piece. My worry is not so much what happened to baby P as the fact that it appears that this type of scenario is not uncommon (albiet not quite as bad). Totally agree that those in power must take responsibility for the failures.

  2. Rog T, thanks for this. The Baby P case annoyed me beyond belief. I can think of other things like the 1981 hunger strikes or the Hillsborough Stadium disaster which also had a deep and lasting impact. But the sheer level of cruelty here was stunning. As was the incompetence. That, as you say, it is not uncommon is what makes it really harrowing.