Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Baby Case Laws Put Limits on Judges; Last Week a Couple Accused of Causing Appalling Injuries to Baby Twins Escaped Jail after Neither Admitted Responsibility. Today, MAGGIE ATKINSON, President of the Association of Directors of Children's Services, Tells the Chronicle How She Agrees Something Must Change

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Baby Case Laws Put Limits on Judges; Last Week a Couple Accused of Causing Appalling Injuries to Baby Twins Escaped Jail after Neither Admitted Responsibility. Today, MAGGIE ATKINSON, President of the Association of Directors of Children's Services, Tells the Chronicle How She Agrees Something Must Change

Article excerpt

Byline: MAGGIE ATKINSON

"IT seems to me the judge in this case wasn't frustrated at the work the children's services were doing, he was frustrated with the limits of the law.

"I think we have a job to do in explaining how far the law will and will not let you go.

"After the Baby P case in London, there was a flurry of stuff that said 'just take them all into care, like they do in Denmark'.

"Well, Denmark has a higher child death rate than we do. Just taking them into care on the Danish model is altogether different to just taking them into care here.

"What we have to do is work with the media and with each other as professionals to get to the stage where it is okay to have the debate in a mature, calm, learning way.

"Do we upturn all the laws and rewrite them?

Well, you'd only replace them with laws that won't work.

"There is no such thing as the perfect law because it is all about interpretation.

"You take court action as a last resort when children and young people with families are involved because it is serious stuff. You could end up with an incarceration at the end of it.

"Any dysfunction or fracture in the family is not healed necessarily by sending someone to prison.

"In some cases it will be, because you are taking the danger or the violence or the abuse out of the picture. But in some cases, interventions prior to court are your absolute aim.

"In this case, you have two protagonists blaming each other. Had the children died, they would both have been found guilty.

"Each case is so different.

In a tremendous number that have been very high profile and come to court in the last 12 months, it's been the influence of one partner on the other that has led to either concealment or the death of the child.

"In the case of a little one who died, up to the final nine weeks of her life, right up to that point, everyone had thought her mother was a good mum. Then the boyfriend arrived nine weeks before her death and all the injuries were in those last weeks. …

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