Monday 31 March 2014

This Be The Verse

The new offence would make it a crime to do anything that deliberately harmed a child’s “physical intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development”.
This could include deliberately ignoring a child, or not showing them any love, over prolonged periods, damaging a child’s emotional development.
Other new offences could include forcing a child to witness domestic violence, making a child a scape goat or forcing degrading punishments upon them.
As many as 1.5 million British children are believed to suffer from neglect.
In the comments below that article and in the Telegraph's own leading article, practical concerns were raised that this could be very hard to police, that the definition of 'emotional cruelty' must be narrow and precise, and that it might lead to a considerable number of vexatious complaints and potential miscarriages of justice. 

Reassurance are given though that that this kind of law already works well in other countries and that only around 250 such cases are expected each year (rather than the 1.5 million cases that might possibly be expected from the Telegraph's figure.) In other words, we are assured that social workers won't be calling in the police on thousands upon thousands of families every year.

Won't they? After all we've had over-zealous social workers (the satanic abuse affair, most notoriously before) for, despite the strong case that cab be made for rescuing children in those 250 or so worst-case-scenario kinds of home through some change in the law (given the mental health issues that can result from such prolonged treatment ) it's hard not to hear alarm bells ringing at the thought of the potential dangers that could arise from this legislation. After all, expecting the state to be a perfect fairy-godmother is unwise at the best of times.

Such are the kinds of conflicted things I've been thinking whilst reading the Telegraph, Guardian and Spectator today. 

It's a good thing that I didn't just rely on the BBC today though. 

I've had two encounters with the BBC's coverage today.

The first was a website article in which everyone was in favour of the proposed new law. As it wasn't open to comments and no dissenting views were given.

The second was a discussion on Martha Kearney's The World at One where both guests (a Lib Dem MP and a lawyer) backed the proposed law, again with no dissenting view. 

Anyhow, here's a famous poem by Philip Larkin that seems rather appropriate. The state will need to read it daily if it passes such a law to make sure that there aren't many, many, many more that 250 such 'Cinderella Law' cases each year - and that the bulk of those aren't vexatious, based on all-too-common tensions between parents and children:

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.   
    They may not mean to, but they do.   
They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
    By fools in old-style hats and coats,   
Who half the time were soppy-stern
    And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
    It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
    And don’t have any kids yourself.

1 comment:

  1. I think you're right - and whoever believed any low-estimate on anything, from any kind of budget to the effect of new laws.

    Even so, I prefer Adrian Mitchell's version!

    They tuck you up, your Mum and Dad
    They read you Peter Rabbit, too.
    They give you all the treats they had
    And add some extra, just for you.

    They were tucked up when they were small,
    (Pink perfume, blue tobacco-smoke),
    By those whose kiss healed any fall,
    Whose laughter doubled any joke.

    Man hands on happiness to man.
    It deepens like a coastal shelf.
    So love your parents all you can
    And have some cheerful kids yourself.


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