The McCanns and Scotland Yard

Does Every Child Matter? - itsmotherswork’s posterous

I had meant to post a longer entry about this issue, but was too busy watching the debate on The Big Questions (“Does Britain Have a Problem with Muslims?”). Last week it was reported that the Prime Minister David Cameron had requested New Scotland Yard (i.e. the London police) to get involved in the Portuguese investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, who disappeared in Portugal in 2007 and has not been seen since (although Cameron has denied that he ordered the Yard to get involved). There are those who have said that the British state cannot justify the costs of getting involved in every foreign police investigation into a crime involving a British citizen when it is cutting services to everyone, including children and disabled people, at home. The above article makes the point that Cameron only got the London police involved in this because he is “like them”, i.e. middle-class and white.

Eddie Nestor, who presents the drive-time show on BBC London, said that the debate that had taken place behind the scenes at the station had been very vociferous, far more so than what had been heard on the phone-in show. Among the common arguments is that the McCanns are themselves stupid parents for having left Madeleine alone for however long it was that they were not there, that no decent parent would leave a young child unsupervised for any length of time, or at least longer than it takes to go to the toilet and return to them.

These days, parents have been fined for leaving toddlers in the care of older children while they go to the shops, something which has been roundly condemned (including by me) as a loss of common sense and an intrusion into people’s private lives, but of course the idea that you shouldn’t leave a young child entirely unsupervised is nothing new. There are a whole host of other dangers, such as that the child could cause an accident and nobody would be there to help them, or even that they might wake up and be distressed and have nobody there. However, to say that it’s a couple’s own fault if their child is abducted while left alone is tasteless in the extreme. Older children get abducted as well, even at ages where it would be acceptable to let them go to school on their own, let alone be left home alone; for that matter, so do adults.

It’s no longer acceptable to suggest that a woman might be to blame for being attacked because of what she was wearing, so why can people say, in the most vituperative terms, that a parent is at fault if their child is abducted? The world simply is not full of monsters, and most of them will not abduct a three-year-old (they are more likely to harm an older child). The issue of whether the London police should be involved is a separate one; the couple are not from London and went to Portugal knowing that in that country, Portuguese law applies and the Portuguese police are responsible for enforcing it, not the British police.

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