The Metropolitan Police has been accused of using an off-the-record briefing to encourage journalists to blame social workers for Baby P’s death.
The claim is one of many revelations and questions raised in the BBC One documentary ‘Baby P: The Untold Story’, which is due to be broadcast on Monday.
In the documentary BBC journalist Tim Donovan says he discovered that the police held a briefing for reporters before the trial for Peter Connelly’s murder ended.
“There was a police briefing about the likely impact of what had happened here, the nature of the people involved and who was likely to be blamed,” he said.
“And certainly colleagues told me that there was a very firm impression coming from the police at this briefing that, it was, you know, here we go again. It’s been, you know, social workers, big problems and it’s Haringey, again.
“Reporters report back to news desks ‘another Victoria Climbié, it’s the same borough’. It didn’t take long for a narrative like that to take hold.”
Sharon Patrick, a former ITV news producer who also appears in the documentary, was asked if the police were briefing against social workers and said: “I don’t really want to go into that I don’t think.”
The Metropolitan Police denies that there were off-the-record briefings.
The 90-minute documentary examines the aftermath of Connelly’s death in 2007 and questions why other agencies including the police, Great Ormond Street Hospital and Ofsted did not come under the same scrutiny that social workers did.
The documentary features an anonymous Ofsted inspector who accuses the children’s services inspectorate of a “cover-up”.
The inspector claimed to have seen Ofsted’s report about the inspection of Haringey that was held prior to the scandal.
The inspector said the report rated Haringey’s services as ‘good’, but says it “disappeared” after the story hit the headlines and when the document was published after an emergency inspection of Haringey, the grade had been changed to ‘inadequate’.
“I don’t know who made the decision to delete those files, but if you remove that information you remove your accountability,” the inspector told the documentary. “I thought that was a cover-up.”
Sharon Shoesmith, the director of children’s services at Haringey at the time, also raises questions about Ofsted’s emergency inspection in the documentary.
“To see the amount of manipulation that went into producing that report was really quite devastating,” she said. “Draft after draft made slightly more negative than the one before.”
At the time Ofsted’s chief inspector claimed Haringey Council misled its inspectors, which explained why the emergency inspection found the local authority’s services to be failing while a 2007 assessment had rated them good.
Ofsted accepts that it changed the provisional grade of the 2008 assessment and says this was because the emergency inspection uncovered serious safeguarding concerns.
The documentary also includes claims that the Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), which was managing St. Ann’s – the hospital where Connelly was examined before his death, tried to cover up concerns that practitioners working there had voiced before the 17-month-old’s death.
Kim Holt, a doctor who had been working at St. Ann’s before taking stress-related sick leave, told the film makers that after the story broke she was approached by GOSH and their lawyers about concerns she had been raising.
“They were trying to get me to retract my concerns, sign a confidentiality agreement and take £120,000 for doing it,” she said.
In the documentary GOSH said that the allegations against it had not been upheld by numerous investigations.
At a preview screening of the documentary attended by Community Care, the producers said their aim was to try and tell the complete story of what happened after Connelly’s death.
Simon Ford, executive producer for the documentary’s maker Sandpaper Films, said: “This was never designed as any form of apology for the social workers, this was designed as a comprehensive treatment.”
Baby P: The Untold Story will air at 8.30pm Monday 27 October on BBC One
- Sharon Shoesmith will be taking part in a debate on ‘Blame and accountability in child protection: How much have things changed since Baby P?’at Community Care Live Children and Families on 20 November. The event is free to attend for professional social workers.