The banality of evil.
The only real reason to welcome the publication of the identities of the mother of Baby P and her boyfriend, both convicted of either causing or allowing his death, is that it finally takes the attention away from the social workers who acted in their absence as outrage fodder. It often seemed to be forgotten, as Sharon Shoesmith herself said, that the real blame lay with those who actually caused his death, not those that failed, however inadequately, to prevent it. Some individuals are simply determined to harm children, as it seems one of the brothers convicted in this instance was. Much remains unknown, despite newspaper accounts, of what really happened in that house in Haringey: just why his mother allowed her child to be abused and in certain circumstances lied and covered up the signs that he had been. The judge found that she was manipulative and self-centred, which she almost certainly was; that doesn't however even begin to explain why.
"Evil" really doesn't come much more banal than in this instance. All three of those involved, while hardly oil paintings, are not instantly repugnant to look at. All three were very ordinary strange people, all with backgrounds which should have rang alarm bills from the beginning, but which also were hardly remarkable. The case itself and the circumstances of Peter Connelly's death, while undoubtedly appalling and heart-rending, are again far from unusual. The Guardian points out a remarkably similar case, in which the father of 16-month-old Amy Howson broke her spine in two places, but which attracted almost no wide attention. In this instance, what seems to have set it out from the crowd was that it happened in Haringey, the same London borough where Victoria Climbie died, and that because of another case in which they were involved, as well as the need to find places for Connelly's other children with foster parents, the two main accused were anonymous.
If there were any positives to be taken from the widespread coverage of the case, some of the vitriol and hatred poured out might be easier to take. Yet if anything that very vitriol, the vast majority of it without even the slightest insight behind it, has put children who are at risk in even more danger. Everyone was shocked, shocked, when it turned out that Haringey's performance hadn't improved when it had last audited. The main deficiencies? Excessive case loads and a shortage of social workers. Who, after all, would possibly want to work in Haringey now, unless they've got a taste for masochism when both Sharon Shoesmith and Maria Ward considered suicide after they were named as the "bunglers" who failed to save Baby P? Then there was Lord Laming's report, the same Lord whose first report after Victoria Climbie's death is blamed for introducing the kind of punishing bureaucracy and audit culture which keeps social workers at their computers instead of actually visiting those on their books. His latest attempt introduced another 58 recommendations. Social work can be an incredibly rewarding job, but when you're expected to save every child at risk while alternatively being condemned for breaking up families it's also one which is next to impossible. When asked to protect the innocent from evil, it might just help to understand a little more and condemn a little less. That however has never sold newspapers, especially when there's evil to be reported upon.