Multiple abuse: law change considered

Cases of multiple abuse where police are unable to identify
individual suspects and bring charges will be the subject of a Home
Office rethink after a pensioner died following a catalogue of
horrific injuries.

Home secretary David Blunkett has called for a review of policy
on cases where police believe a crime has been committed but are
unable to decide which individual should be charged. The move
follows an inquest into the death of 78-year-old Margaret Panting
who suffered burns, bruises and cuts to her body after leaving
sheltered accommodation, where she had been in reasonable health,
to move in with her son-in-law and his three teenage children. She
died five weeks later.

Pathologists told the Sheffield inquest that Panting’s injuries
were caused deliberately, but could not say that they directly
resulted in her death as she suffered a heart condition and had

Coroner Christopher Dorries recorded an open verdict after
dismissing an explanation from relatives that the injuries were
accidental. He said it was clear Panting had been abused by a
person or persons whose identity could not be determined. But it
could not be proved beyond reasonable doubt that the injuries had
led to her death.

Police said that following a detailed investigation two arrests
were made, but there was insufficient evidence to bring a

A spokesperson for the home secretary said Blunkett could not
discuss individual cases but was “concerned” over issues raised in
cases like that of Panting as well as others, including some child
abuse investigations. “He is very concerned about cases where,
because it is not apparent who may be liable for criminal charges
within a group of people, the police are unable to take matters
further.” Officials had been asked to look at possible ways to “do
more to be able to equip the police to further their

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