Real lessons need to be drawn from the controversial‘Baby P’ child abuse case,thebarrister involved in thehigh profiletrial has told a University of Ulsterconference.
In a keynote address to the‘Safeguarding and Protecting Children in Northern Ireland: Lessons from the Frontline’eventin the Titanic Building, Dr Fiona Wilcoxsaid:“In high profile cases like Baby Peter there is a kneejerk reaction topoint the finger andblame someone,but we’re not getting to the root of the problem.
“We needa common sense approach-someoneneedstobe able tostep back, look at the case and say‘this childhas beento see a doctormore than twice or three times, with injuries- something is wrong here.’”
Theconference was organised by the University’sSchool of Law in conjunction with the School of Sociology and Applied Social Studies.
Conference organiser,Dr Esther McGuinness from the School of Law, said: “As Fiona Wilcox’s paper demonstrates, the aim oftheconference is to promote understanding and learning among those agencies involved in child protection.Other speakerswill argue that the approach being highlighted hereis a co-ordinated public health approach to child protection.
“As far back as the 1970s, high profile cases of child abuse such asMaria Colwellin Brighton caused public outrage. But despite this more deaths have followed such as Victoria Climbie and Peter Connolly, which becamealandmark in social care. The public inquiries followingeachof these deathsled to major changes in the systems designed to protect children from abuse.
“It would be wrong to say these inquiries have made no difference - as a result of their recommendations practices have been tightened up and multi agency co-operation improved.
“Sometimesthe systems do work and thisconference hopefully reflects those changes and help inform our practice in the years ahead.
“Against the backdrop of increasing allegations against Jimmy Saville in the UK, and the announcement of the establishment of the Inquiry into Historical Institutional Abuse dating back to 1945 in Northern Ireland, the subject of child abuse once again resonates in the public consciencethroughoutNorthern Ireland andthe UK.”
Dr Fiona Wilcoxwas appointed Senior Coroner for Westminster last year. Shealso talked about the challenges facing coroners'investigations in an address to the Law Society in Belfast.
She has delivered a number of important decisions including those cases where the death concerned has involved some aspect of state security forces.
Most recently, she was the presiding coroner in the inquest into the controversial death of MI6 employee,Gareth Williams, whose body was found in a bag in his London apartment.
Caption: Dr Fiona Wilcox