Baby Peter and what I really said...

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The real story behind the accusation that I once suggested that Baby Peter was "feral"

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Baby Peter and what I really said...

  1. 1. Baby Peter: What I said and what the Daily Mail pretended Isaid…In about November 2008, Barnardo’s, the children’s charity ofwhich I was then Chief Executive, ran a poll to ascertain theattitude of adults in Britain to young people. We found that manyadults were all too willing to agree with propositions thatteenagers were out of control, were feral or behaved like animals.I made a well-received speech in Whitehall in an event hosted byProfessor Rod Morgan and attended by more than an hundredjudges, lawyers, politicians and social workers. Baroness Butler-Sloss was a distinguished member of the audience. In that speech Imade the point that, as a society, we seemed to understand neglectand sympathise with its victims, so long as they were toddlers orbabies. But I said that we were too quick to abandon any sense ofsympathy and understanding when children grew into teenagersand young adults.To illustrate the point I said that the politicians, the public and themedia were, quite properly, united in their sympathy for the shortand troubled life led by Baby Peter. But, I said, had Peter survivedand had his lack of care, the neglect and abuse he suffered turnedhim into an unruly young man, the press would have turned onhim and the Daily Mail and others would have called him “feral”or a “yob”and with no attempt to understand or make allowancesfor the grave disadvantage and hardships he had suffered sincebirth.Nobody in that room misunderstood me. And, indeed, no onewho read a text of the speech misunderstood me. But the DailyMail, despite being sent both a recording of the speech and the textreported that I had said that Baby Peter was feral. One or twoother newspapers followed up the Daily Mail story. Private Eyerepeated the story and then swiftly withdrew it. The SundayTimes gave prominence to the speech but reported my meaningaccurately.The Mail refused all attempts by me to correct the story and it wasnot until the intervention of the Press Complaints Commission,
  2. 2. some weeks later, that they removed the story from their website,sent me an unequivocal apology, published a short apology in thenewspaper and donated a four figure sum to Barnardo’s. But theproposition that I would condemn a child who suffered so muchor that I believe that it is inevitable that every neglected childgrows into a troublesome youth re-emerges regularly. Referencesto it appear frequently on the web and on Twitter. The most recenttweeter on the issue was gracious enough to agree to let me recordthe full story and hence this piece…The PCC case summary, which can be found at:http://www.pcc.org.uk/news/index.html?article=NTczNw==is included here:Mr Martin Narey, Chief Executive of Barnardo’s, complained that thenewspaper had reported on a speech of his in a misleading fashion. In hisspeech, he had referred to the possibility that Baby P may have grown upto be an unruly child, and so subject to pejorative descriptions such as“feral” and “a yob”. The article referred to these comments, but did notmake clear that the complainant was quoting such terms as examples ofnegative coverage of children, rather than using them himself to describeBaby P.RESOLUTION:The complaint was resolved when the newspaper sent a letter of apology(which could be circulated to charity members), making clear that itaccepted the complainant was not endorsing the use of critical terms todescribe Baby P, and made a donation to the charity.Martin NareySeptember 2012

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