Domestic abuse and sexual offences should be considered as seriously as knife crime and homicide, the government announced recently as it says that it continues driving forward its plan to end violence against women and girls.
Observers if not critics may well say that it has a very long way to go.
The news does not sit easily with the death of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes. His stepmother and father tortured and poisoned him, and were then jailed for murder and manslaughter respectively. The government has confirmed a review into Arthur’s death.
The National Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel will lead the investigation and will provide additional support to Solihull Children’s Safeguarding Partnership to “upgrade” the existing local review launched shortly after Arthur’s death in June 2020.
It emerged during the trial that Arthur had been seen by social workers just two months before he died, but they concluded there were “no safeguarding concerns”.
All too often in child homicide cases we see the problematic family being given the “all clear” only for a child to be killed.
The government says that changes to legislation currently being considered in Parliament will make clear that a new legal duty requiring public bodies to work together to tackle serious violence can also include domestic abuse and sexual offences.
What is needed is true accountability. When we examine cases “after the event” we often struggle to find where the buck actually stops. There is often collective “group think” and it is hard to discern who made a decision which impacted on the child’s life. This has to change so that working together means accountability.
“Working together” is supposed to happen now. It sounds positive and common sensical but what does it mean to a child in an abusive home? He/she needs protecting and that may well mean moving them out of the family. Moreover, it means staying with them until they can stand on their own two feet. Too often social workers come into the family then go, and that’s when things go badly wrong.
Treating and regarding domestic violence as a serious crime is welcome, but what matters is ensuring that the crimes of abuse do not happen in the first place.