Absence of liaison is major concern of tragic Riley case
THE world of the drug addict is, mercifully, a mystery to those of us who have never been so misguided as to slip into it.
So we may never understand how Sally Dent and Shaun Binfield could have been so mind-bogglingly stupid as to leave methadone in a child's beaker.
The tragic outcome was the death of two-year-old Riley Pettipierre.
No doubt some of you will have been reduced to shouting or muttering in outrage on reading or listening to the evidence as the horrific case unfolded daily at Nottingham Crown Court.
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Any sympathy for the couple as they bleated remorse for their folly from the dock will have been swamped by contempt for their actions.
They may think of themselves as bereaved parents – and therefore victims – but there is only one victim of any consequence in this bizarre yet tragic tale.
That, of course, was Riley. Any lessons which are learned from this tragedy will be too late to help him – but, nevertheless, they must be digested and acted upon in the hope that no other child is exposed to such circumstances again.
Evidence in the case was confused and contradictory over where the cup containing the methadone had been left.
However, whatever the truth of that, it cannot diminish the incredible stupidity of putting it in a child's beaker.
Dent and Binfield were not a fit couple to bring up a child.
Hindsight makes that an easy conclusion. The challenge for the authorities is to identify inappropriate couples before there are tragic consequences.
There is a current culture to strive not to break up families if at all possible, making that a last resort.
That is understandable. But maybe the authorities have been leaning over backwards too far and the resultant loss of balance can create young casualties, damaged physically, mentally or both.
Health workers knew that Sally Dent was using heroin and crack cocaine but, it appears, they never contacted social services with concerns over her fitness to be a mother.
Police were investigating concerns raised by neighbours but, again, social services were not alerted.
Therefore the qualified experts in this field never even had the chance to consider the circumstances of what police describe as a "chaotic lifestyle" in this household.
We await the findings of the Serious Case Review with interest, though one recommendation has to be a greater awareness by all professional agencies and the need for them to liaise with each other.
That's not a case of the "Nanny State" interfering in people's lives.
It is a means of ensuring that young innocent lives are not lost or damaged as occurred in this appalling case.