Posted by: Witch Doctor | October 2, 2009

Child abuse and murder


There has been child abuse in a nursery in Plymouth.

Criminal checks prior to employment only help for a single moment the second time around.

One of the problems with nurseries and schools is that parents have to trust the system. Normally they do not know individual members of staff well, they have no control over who is employed, and their instincts (which may a good judge in choosing individual babysitters informally) cannot easily be brought into play.

Over the years, at a personal rather than a professional level, The Witch Doctor has had a brush with people, who have criminally abused, and in some cases murdered, children.

The first concerns a secondary school:

One of The Witch Doctor’s teachers is now serving a prison sentence for child abuse. He was fully qualified having had gone through university and teacher training college.  Who knows whether other teachers had any suspicions about his activities way back then. They should have had, since many of The Witch Doctor’s school-mates were uneasy about him and his name sometimes cropped up in cycle-shed gossip.

However, he slipped through the net for decades.

The second concerns a nursery school:

The Witch Doctor used to drive a colleague to pick up her child from a nursery in the grounds of a nearby hospital. One evening, about 30 minutes after collecting my colleagues child, a father equipped with a gun, entered the nursery and murdered his own child in the presence of the other children and staff. The father was a hospital worker. He had become crazed with anger relating to a dispute with his wife.

The third concerns a mass murderer of many young primary schoolchildren:

The Witch Doctor refused to let one of her own children participate in an activity with someone who was considered to be a “kindly volunteer.” The reason? No, she is not an overly precious parent.  However, she knew nothing about this man so why on earth should she trust her child with him? His name was Thomas Hamilton.

The fourth story was over twenty years ago. It cannot be told because it is no more than a suspicion in the depths of The Witch Doctor’s mind. There is no proof.

There is no doubt that professionals can be guilty of abuse and murder. The Witch Doctor, though, would be interested to know to what extent being a member of a true profession with demanding admission requirements, followed by long and difficult training under the close supervision of teachers as well as the scrutiny of peers might offer a degree of protection by decreasing access or filtering out those individuals showing traits that might lead to future abuse.

Maybe it does.

Maybe not.

It is important to know this now, since society has recently moved into a system where skills and competencies are replacing more prolonged and intellectually taxing courses. This, among other reasons, is thought by some to cost less. In addition, volunteering may be encouraged much more than it is at present – the kind of volunteering that requires one to one contact alone with the vulnerable. Volunteering comes cheap. Consequently, it might become much easier for disturbed individuals to wheedle their way into jobs that fuel the needs dictated by their psychological flaws. Many more may slip through the net. This may be relevant not only for childcare and teaching but for the care of the elderly also.

It is time look out this information. It must be available somewhere.

The design of the studies and the statistics used need to be scrutinised too.

This is more important than nit-picking away at police officers’ informal childcare arrangements.

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  1. I remember Dunblane vividly; it’s like it was yesterday. It’s one of those events where everyone remembers where they were when they heard the news. The ironic and frightening thing about Dunblane was that Thomas Hamilton had been filtered out. He had applied to join the Scouts as a helper and they had turned him down. He formed his own boys’ club in retaliation and finally it all culminated at Dunblane primary in horrendous fashion.

    Having said that, I do feel that we as a society have not really got to grips with child abuse. Most abuse is committed by those nearest to the child, but we concentrate on cases where the person is at one remove, whether that be teachers, social workers, clergy or the like. It is better than the situation where it was always a stranger that did it; here in Coatbridge the Moira Anderson disappearance was blamed on pervert toffs driving around in motor cars, whereas it was a guy called Alexander Gartshore who was known to Moira, that is now thought to have done it. But it is the ultimate fear; how do you teach children to beware of such a danger? Can you legislate for it? I think that’s what is lurking behind all those fairy stories of the wicked stepmother and the wicked uncle; it’s a disguised way of writing about it.

  2. I can remember exactly where I was when Dunblane happened too. I was due to give a lecture to paediatricians some 80 miles away and was driving on a motorway listening to the radio having just dropped off a young child at school that morning. There was an awful “there but for the grace of God” feeling. I stopped the car for a while at a service station. The lecture I gave seemed very superfluous since all our minds were elsewhere.

    One of the problems with managing child abuse might be that that the underlying reasons are so heterogeneous that they each need to be categorised separately and tackled differently. For example, family murder or abuse of a child due to post partum depression is very different from that due to foul temper and is different again from that due to parental drug abuse. These factors and others may be responsible for the fact that family incidents overall outnumber the rarer abuses due to sexual deviation or psychopathic activities.

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