Thursday, 12 February 2009

Institutionally Incompetent

A mother conducted an “horrific” campaign of abuse against her two-month-old son, who died despite the involvement of health workers from two London boroughs.
No! Surely not….
In a case that echoes that of Baby P, Claire Biggs, 27, was found guilty yesterday of child cruelty. She had already had one child taken into care when she repeatedly crushed the chest of her son Rhys.
It echoes the case on quite a few aspects, more so than just the eventual, tragically preventable, death:
When he was a month old he suffered “severe side-to-side squeezing”, which broke ten of his ribs. Two weeks later he suffered three further rib fractures as a result of “severe front-to-back squeezing”. Four more rib fractures were inflicted on May 8, 2006 – the day he died. His right wrist and shoulder were also broken.
Not a single instance of a mother losing her temper, but real, sustained abuse. Torture.
But Biggs and her live-in partner, Paul Husband, 33, escaped the attention of health workers from Newham and Camden by failing to turn up for appointments.
During Rhys’s short life Biggs lived at various addresses, including women’s refuges, before moving in with Husband.
And that rang no alarm bells?
On one occasion, after ten of Rhys’s ribs had been broken, a health worker saw the injuries but described him as being “active and alert” .
And were the injuries reported, even so…?
Inner London Crown Court was told that because the cause of Rhys’s death could not be established, both Biggs and Husband were charged with child cruelty.

After three hours’ deliberation the jury unanimously convicted Biggs on the basis of “wilful assault” after deciding that she was responsible for her son’s injuries. Husband was convicted under “wilful neglect”, for ignoring Rhys’s obvious pain and failing to get him medical assistance.
It took them three hours?!
Biggs first came to the attention of the authorities in 2001 when, aged 19, and with a crack habit, she became a mother. Her daughter, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was taken into care.
So, why wasn’t this child?
The three-week trial was told that in 2005 Biggs began an affair with Rhys’s father. They split up while she was still pregnant. Not long afterwards, and before she had her son, she began an affair with Husband. Eleven days after Rhys’s birth a family support worker called the midwife to say that Biggs had not received a visit. Biggs was telephoned and insisted that the baby was healthy and she had “no concerns about him”.
That’s all it takes to throw the SS off the scent? ‘Nope, baby’s fine, no need to see him’…?
She kept one appointment on April 12 when Rhys, despite having broken ribs, was said to be fine. Later that day he was seen by a senior paediatric physiotherapist who checked his club foot. No “abnormal marks” were noted.

Two days before her baby died, Biggs was contacted to arrange another health visit. After saying that she was at her boyfriend’s home, Biggs was told she would be contacted again in two to three weeks’ time.
So he had a known birth defect, was born to a known drug addict and serial bedhopper who’d already had one child removed, and had previously been seen with injuries by one of the healthcare ‘professionals’, yet the continual evasions by the mother rang no bells at all?

Bell? What am I talking about? These weren’t bells, these were big, flashing, neon signs, spelling out ‘Danger Ahead!’…
Ian McDonald, QC, for the prosecution, said that the first hint of tragedy came in a 999 phone call that Biggs made at 8am on May 8, 2006.
Well, no, actually. The ‘first hint of tragedy’ came when a drug addict who’d already had one child taken into care was allowed to keep the second and move in with another yet sperm donor…

So, let’s see if we can summarise this case, shall we?

Patently unfit mother? Check
Previous history of child abuse? Check
Unsuitable relationship with man not the father of the child? Check
Multiple address-hopping to throw authorities off the scent? Check
Healthcare professionals put off doing their duty? Check
Inability by healthcare professionals to see what was before their eyes? Check
Legal system unable to appropriately punish the people responsible for this child’s death? Check
Sacking of all social workers and healthcare ‘experts’ responsible for this failure?

Mmm, I’m betting ‘Not a chance’…


Anonymous said...

Yes Julia but the thing is we live in the world of common sense.
The stupid pathetic excuses who are even worse than the mother is live in a different universe from us and so can not realise what we take for granted.
No one TOLD them that there was a problem they are only doing the job for the money and quite frankly what the rest of us take note of in one glance does not matter a damm to them.

Letters From A Tory said...

What the **** is wrong with these professionals? I'm willing to bet a large amount of money that even I could detect when a child has had numerous bones and limbs shattered.

Oldrightie said...

"What the **** is wrong with these professionals?"

Most of them are socialist placements stuffed to the gunnals with Labours' brilliant education system. That is to say, bloody thick, useless, rubbish. Wait until they take over operating theatres, that should sort over population out double quick!

Anonymous said...


The misused word is "professionals". These people are not "professionals" in any meaning of the word which used to attach to lawyers, doctors, accountants, architects, engineers, teachers etc etc. Members of these professions were given extraordinary latitude in their dealings with their clients because they were expected to absorb - during a long professional training - the ethos that the client's welfare was more important than theirs and that there was an expectation that they would do the best for their clients come what may.

No longer: the "professional" label attaches to sportsmen who play for money and anybody with a certificate torn from a roll of absorbent paper, stamped with the word "qualified" and counter-signed by the principal of Chav University.

Anonymous said...

Ironic, isnt' it, that the abusive (murderous, in fact) boyfriend has the surname husband?

As usual in these tragedies, all the parties involved have different surnames.

But you understand, traditional families are just one among many possible ways of living, all equally valid.

Dr Evil said...

Ah, but social workers believe in diversity and multi wotsits and are never, ever judgemental. So a crack addict slut with a baby already taken away and has another who sustains injury. Well, it's society to blame innit? Can't be the poor chavette can it? Perish the thought, and baby. I think a few of these social workers in a pillory given a public thrashing is what is required. Just to focus the attention of the rest.

JuliaM said...

"The stupid pathetic excuses who are even worse than the mother is live in a different universe..."

Truly, a world of their own...

"Ironic, isnt' it, that the abusive (murderous, in fact) boyfriend has the surname husband?"


"Perish the thought, and baby."

Oh, you are awful! But I like you... ;)

Anonymous said...

Unsuitable relationship with man not the father of the child? Check

Sorry lass, you are going to have to prove that one.

WHY was it "unsuitable"? No different at all to millionms of other single Mothers that have a boy friend....or do YOU know different?

Von Brandenburg-Preußen

JuliaM said...

"WHY was it "unsuitable"?"

Oh, I was initially going on my instincts, crack-addicted underclass mothers not normally proving to be the best choices of character. The 'Telegraph' article didn't really mention him, did it?

The 'Sun', however, was a little more forthcoming about his background yesterday...

Anonymous said...

A very helpful checklist. In the meantime, the Websters, who did not tick any of those boxes except that they could not explain how their child came to have serious fractures (which were long splits in the bone rather than cross-breaks) had three children forcibly adopted.

Let's just remind ourselves:

*Patently unfit mother?
No. Model family.
*Previous history of child abuse?
No. Exemplary childcare.
*Unsuitable relationship with man not the father of the child?
No. Long-standing stable marriage to father of the children. Exceptionally stable extended family.
*Multiple address-hopping to throw authorities off the scent?
No. The family is so stable it's surname, Hardingham, is a geographical name from an ancient estate. They've been there for hundreds of years.
*Healthcare professionals put off doing their duty?
No. Completely standard record of health care, the parents raised the alarm about the child, the health visitor and the GP have never had the slightest concern about them. The GP is a character witness, the health visitor says she was leaned on to get her to change her opinion.

*Inability by healthcare professionals to see what was before their eyes?
Check They didn't check vitamin deficiency. This is particularly damning as there is a race element in it. If the child had been in the west midlands and of colour, it would have been immediately asked if vitamins D or C deficiency was a factor. The Webster's child was white and so it was never remotely thought this could be a problem, despite the GP and health visitors knowing that the child had a lactose intolerance and was slow too wean on to solid food, and a number of papers showing that C&D deficiency is more widespread than thought. The health visitor and the GP both fell down badly, the paediatrician (a Cleveland true believer) was always looking for the case that abuse lurks unseen in the most respectable white married households.

*Legal system unable to appropriately punish the people responsible for this child’s injury?
Check. Not just unable, but unwilling. The judge (Lord Wall) is going out of his way to protect them from being called to account. The parents have never injured any child, but the health professionals have violated the childrens' right to their own family.

*Sacking of all social workers and healthcare ‘experts’ responsible for this failure?

Mmm, I’m betting ‘Not a chance’…

Nobody would take your bet.