Carol Sarler's Column: Black Marks for Narks Who Stalk Runaway Couple
Sarler, Carol, The People (London, England)
ON September 20, in the week when they first disappeared, I wrote on this page: "I feel strangely reluctant to condemn, out of hand, Jeffrey and Jennifer Bramley for running away with Jade and Hannah, the two little girls who they were fostering."
And why? Because, I said, "I know that what the Bramleys have done is wrong. But I have yet to be persuaded that it is necessarily bad."
Four months later, I feel exactly the same way. The only difference between then and now is that now - since the case has attracted so much attention - I know that millions of people agree with me. Unfortunately, also thanks to the publicity, out of the woodwork have crawled the knee-jerk narks: otherwise ordinary citizens who have gone out of their way to join in the capture of this poor family...in the process showing all the compassion of the Beaufort Hunt in full cry.
These are the people who have dashed to the phone to report sightings, real or imagined, of the Bramleys; the people who expect a public pat on the back for dobbing them in - even though, without exception, these same people have said that the children looked fine.
What on earth, then, made them take the side of the authorities against that of the Bramleys? What is it, in this day and age, that can possibly persuade anybody that the people who are supposed to look after our best interests are necessarily going to do anything of the sort?
As my colleague David Mellor points out on Page 27, the record of the Cambridgeshire Social Services department, in charge of the Bramley case, is appalling: one of its senior managers is serving 18 years for abusing children, its last director resigned just before a very critical review and of course tragic Rikki Neave was in their "care" when he died. They haven't given us a single reason for their wanting to take the girls from the Bramleys, except to tell us that one of them wasn't allowed a glass of water at night (pardon? …