This blog is mainly about the governance and future of policing and crime services. (Police & Crime Commissioners feature quite a lot.) But there are also posts about the wider justice system. And because I am town councillor and political activist, local & national issues are covered a little, as well.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

We must be careful not to tread on any issues that the serious case review will be looking into

Thus said the Chair of the Police & Crime Panel yesterday as he opened the agenda item on the 'Bullfinch' trial. (The Oxford Mail has done an excellent & detailed summary of the case: link here)

I was struck by these wise words from the Chair. I still have huge misgivings about the statement put out by Mr Stansfeld (click here) as it seems to me to do precisely the opposite of what the PCP Chair was suggesting was appropriate. What do you think?

The discussion that ensued was greatly enhanced by information and wisdom from the Chief Constable on how the police service has begun the process of radically reshaping how child abuse is tackled. If I have this correct, they have gone from being mostly reactive to being mostly proactive. (But please correct me if I have this wrong.)  The CC said at one point: "if you look for this kind of crime, you can often find it." The CC also said that whatever arrangements are put in place "we mustn't make young people scared of all adults". Simple but profound words. (She may even have been quoting one of the young women involved at this point... my notes are not clear.)

Contrast this with Mr Stansfeld who said (if my hearing was accurate - again happy to be corrected) "one of the difficult matters in this case is that the children who were being abused and raped did not see it as a problem at first". On the one hand, I kind of know where he is coming from (trying to explain why these are crimes are difficult to establish and investigate -  I would interpret) but on the other hand such a statement is very close to suggesting that the children were complicit in the crimes perpetrated against them.

These are very complex matters and I am certainly no expert. But it feels to me that some of the statements made by Mr Stansfeld are in a similar domain to suggesting that young women should not go out dressed in minimal clothes as they would only have themselves to blame if they get raped... I do not know what Mr Stansfeld's intentions are behind some of the words he used yesterday and in his published statement, or what he really thinks about all this. I just know I feel uncomfortable with some of his language, as I have blogged before. Although I did note what I interpret as some rowing backwards yesterday. When asked by Cllr Dee Sinclair whether he really thought that Human Rights Laws were part of the cause of the abuse of these young girls, Mr Stansfeld did say (I think) that it was the rules which allowed the girls to abscond which needed review rather than the laws on Human Rights.

However, that statement is still getting close to making comments on a case that is now under review...

As I mentioned below, I found it difficult to detect any coherence in comments by Cllr Kieron Mallon about quangos being part of the causes of all this. It was probably the poor acoustics in the room that prevented my full understanding of the points he was making.

At another point, Mr Stansfeld revealed that when he was a boy he had once been on an exchange visit to a Banardos home. He explained pointedly that the children there were not allowed out in the evenings. I think the implication of this is that Mr Stansfeld may believe that care homes for looked after children should operate rigid curfews and keep children locked up... Or does he? Clarification would be helpful here.

... but not until after the serious case review...!

Anyway, enough said. This is a very tragic case. I can only hope that the girls / young women involved will be able to make the most of their lives. Perhaps that fact that several men have now been convicted and will spend many years in gaol, will help. I also hope that all the agencies involved, including the police, really learn and apply the lessons from this case.

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