Real lessons need to be drawn from the controversial‘Baby P’ child abuse case, the barrister involved in the high profile trial has told a University of Ulster conference.
In a keynote address to the ‘Safeguarding and Protecting Children in Northern Ireland: Lessons from the Frontline’ event in the Titanic Building, Dr Fiona Wilcox said:“In high profile cases like Baby Peter there is a kneejerk reaction to point the finger and blame someone, but we’re not getting to the root of the problem.
“We need a common sense approach someone needs to be able to step back, look at the case and say ‘this child has been to see a doctor more than twice or three times, with injuries- something is wrong here.’”
The conference 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 of the conference is to promote understanding and learning among those agencies involved in child protection.Other speakers will argue that the approach being highlighted here is a co-ordinated public health approach to child protection.
“As far back as the 1970s, high profile cases of child abuse such asMaria Colwell in Brighton caused public outrage. But despite this more deaths have followed such as Victoria Climbie and Peter Connolly, which became a landmark in social care. The public inquiries following each of these deaths led 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.
“Sometimes the systems do work and this conference 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 conscience throughout Northern Ireland and the UK.”
Dr Fiona Wilcox was appointed Senior Coroner for Westminster last year. She also 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.