Friday, January 27, 2012

A point of principle

The parents of a newborn baby left with horrific injuries and fractures all over her body walked free from court yesterday, despite admitting child cruelty charges.

This because the judge asserts the father and his partner "were let down by the social services, who have a duty to provide for you". Judge Ticehurst also ordered an investigation into the case, stating that there had been a "grave failure" by social services at North Somerset Council.

Now this raises intriguing point of principle. Cast as the regulatory authorities in this case, North Somerset social workers fail in their duty and thereby fail to prevent a crime, whereupon the criminals are spared the full penalty for their crimes. This is bizarre, not least because - one would have thought - the duty was to provide for the child first, not the parents.

But there are broader issues here. If one applies this same argument to the PIP breast implants, Jean-Claude Mas goes free because the regulators failed to detect that he was using substandard silicon.

This surely has to be wrong. Crimes must be punished. The point must be that, if the regulators' neglect enabled or exacerbated the crime, then the responsibility is shared. The issue has then to be that the regulators are also penalised - not that the criminals are let off.

Following this judge's logic, we see car thieves being let off because the police were not around to prevent their larceny, or because the car owners had not fitted stronger locks.

Nevertheless, the judge has made it easier to argue that regulatory authorities do have some responsibility for crimes committed on their watch, when there was the capability and the duty to prevent them. Can we now see that point of principle applied to PIP?