Philpott case: Don’t ignore the criminal justice system’s responsibility

Posted on April 4, 2013

The story of the Philpott children, killed by their parents in a deliberate house fire, is appalling. Kids who were born to a chaotic household, whose father and mother reportedly showed no remorse after burning them to death.

It’s right, therefore, that we should look for ways in which this might have been prevented. While the Mail’s assertion that Mick Philpott was made into the monster he is by the welfare state goes too far, Guido is right to point out the uncomfortable truth that the benefits system coddled him, funded his abusive lifestyle and ultimately played a motivating part in his sickening decision to start the fire.

But to focus on the distortions and failings of the welfare system is to miss other, crucial points. How does this case reflect on our social care and criminal justice systems?

By all accounts, Mick Philpott had a decades-long history of predating upon, taking advantage of and violently abusing vulnerable young women. It is hard to imagine his repeated abusive relationships with teenage girls over the course of the last 30 years had gone unnoticed – and impossible to believe the relevant authorities  still didn’t pick it up when he became a minor celebrity in the papers and on the Jeremy Kyle Show. With catastrophic results, they were aware and they decided it was not important enough to address.

Even worse, this case reveals an obvious and disastrous failure in our criminal justice system. In 1978, Philpott’s fiancĂ©e dumped him. In response, he broke into her house at night and stabbed her 27 times, slitting open her stomach and telling her: “If I can’t have you, no one will”. He then turned the knife on her mother and left the two of them for dead.

He was caught and convicted – and sentenced to seven years in jail. It is hard to think of a more comprehensive demonstration of wickedness and willingness to act upon it than what he did in 1978, and yet he was released a few years later, giving him decades to build up to the atrocity daubed over today’s newspapers.

This is a simple fact in a complex mess: if Mick Philpott had been sentenced to life (real life) in prison, he would not have committed his later crimes. Our criminal justice system could and should have stopped him – it did not.



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Categories: Opinion, Politics, Westminster


10 Responses

  1. Matthew S. Dent:

    It’s all the more perplexing, when one thinks that the justice system was able (indeed, arguably mandated) to give him a life sentence, whether it is seen as attempted murder (which it was) or GBH under s18 of the Offences Against the Person Act.

    I’d be very interested to read the reasoning of the judge who gave him only seven years.

    04.04.2013 14:16 Reply

  2. Dan:

    Sentenced to seven years – would have served half of that, certainly today, and probably quite a bit of it on remand in relatively cushy sircumstances. Far too many people in jail for soft and non-violent offences; far too many violent thugs treated leniently.

    04.04.2013 15:52 Reply

  3. Dan:

    sorry – circumstances

    04.04.2013 15:53 Reply

  4. Philpott: what happened to Labour's view that we should be tough on the causes of crime? » Spectator Blogs:

    […] The case also raises questions about the criminal justice system. Mark Wallace has a good post on this […]

    04.04.2013 17:38 Reply

  5. Graham clack:

    It amazes me that when a victim is lucky enough to survive a murderous attack that the attacker shares the luck and gets a lesser sentence than for the murder they were either trying to achieve (and failed) or were indifferent to

    04.04.2013 17:56 Reply

  6. Old Blue Eyes:

    He still hasn’t received the retribution his crime deserves. Let us hope his fellow prisoners mete unto him the sort of justice that our criminal law does not permit.

    04.04.2013 22:08 Reply

  7. therealguyfaux:

    Amazing how the Left always want to address the root causes of crime– and when it hits too close to home, as it does in Pisspot’s case, that the parasitism a criminal like this engages in (and is enabled by the system he so ably games to do so) may in a sense be a root cause of the crime he committed, oh no, mustn’t go there– he’s a total aberration, you know. Sorta like how the gun owners in America say how school shootings/the Colorado cinema/Ft Hood/Gabby Giffords incidents are aberrations that represent a minute percentage of the gun owners in the US, and yet, the Left see no problem in demonising those people for the acts of a few (are you listening, Piers?) and claim there must be a sweeping overhaul of the law. Sauce for goose and gander, to be fair.

    05.04.2013 00:39 Reply

  8. Daniel:

    You’re right that the Mail goes too far, but equally a lot of left-leaning commentators seem to have their heads in the sand on this one. It’s a shocking atypical example, but it does highlight that the welfare system has turned children into a wealth-generating commodity.

    05.04.2013 07:49 Reply

  9. graham smith:

    You are bang on the money as usual but if he had been earning minimum wage the benefits system would not have saved hardly anything.What kind of councils and social workers let 6 kids sleep in one room with a criminal like him.?

    05.04.2013 08:21 Reply

  10. Banti Singh:

    The Left’s approach has backfired on Labour and the loons appearing on TV and in the press. They’ve forced themselves into a corner where they find themselves defending the status quo, which according to swathes of the British population, is indefensible.

    Here’s what I had to say about the fracas…

    http://bantiblog.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/stupid-season-is-upon-us-again.html

    08.04.2013 12:16 Reply

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