Martin Hannan: Shared database might save lives

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Today marks one year on from the first appearance in court of Rosdeep Adekoya for the killing of her son, Mikaeel Kular. I am sure we all recall with sorrow the terrible days when the three-year-old first of all went “missing” and then the finding of his small, battered body in Fife.

Still worse was the realisation by us that his mother could be his killer.

Many people in Scotland and beyond learned of her beating her son to death and wanted her charged with murder and sent away for the rest of her life. Instead, in an act of what I can only call mercy, the Crown accepted her plea of culpable homicide and she was sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment.

Now is not the time to go over the arguments about whether justice was done for Mikaeel. I can only refer to the wise words of one of our best judges, Lord Glennie, as he sentenced Mikaeel’s mother.

“Both the social work report and the psychological report make it clear that you have suffered from depression for some time, and particularly in the last few months before Mikaeel’s death.

“This has been characterised by a low mood, stress and lack of motivation. You have found yourself overwhelmed by your circumstances, without any adequate coping strategies . . . You clearly needed help, but did not know how to ask for it.”

Lord Glennie has it in a nutshell. If Rosdeep Adekoya had been able to access help, Mikaeel might still be alive.

Even if she had not wanted help, there are other things that could have been done which could have saved his young life.

We know that Fife and Edinburgh social workers had the family on their radar, so to speak, and the current significant case review no doubt centres on why Fife’s files were not fully communicated to Edinburgh – a claim that has never been denied.

I am at a loss as to why Fife and Edinburgh councils are technically in charge of the review process and not the independent Care Inspectorate. Councils investigating themselves? Only if Dame Elish Angiolini does the inquiry . . .

For there are lessons to be learned from Mikaeel’s death and they must be learned quickly. Why was there such a breakdown in communication between Fife and Edinburgh, and could there be a solution for 
that?

For instance, the Scottish Government could look at establishing a computer system similar to the police national computer so that the case records of vulnerable children and adults are held centrally with senior managers able to inspect them.

We live in a mobile society and, by their very nature, families who come to the attention of social workers are liable to move home more than most. So why not a central computer to track them?

I am not saying that if an Edinburgh social work manager had been able to access Mikaeel’s files at the touch of a button then the boy might still be alive, but it’s an idea that’s certainly worth considering.

Data protection would have to be guaranteed, of course, with prison sentences for those who would misuse the system, as happens with the police computer.

But such a social work central 
data system might save lives. It might even have saved that of Mikaeel 
Kular.

Council tax freeze is popular policy

Time and again we read Labour people who should know better criticising the Scottish Government for imposing a council tax freeze on local authorities across Scotland.

They seem to forget that for the past seven years, the Scottish Government has carried out a popular policy that made life slightly easier for all the people of Scotland. Yes, council budgets were reduced, but thanks to the SNP government, the damage to local authorities was nowhere near the level of cuts inflicted on local government south of the Border.

And don’t forget, Labour backed the freeze in 2011. So why not now?

Labour disarray doesn’t mean election failure

This SNP member is extremely wary of all those reports which seem to suggest that support for the Labour Party is going to disappear at the general election.

I am unhappy to predict that David Cameron’s Tories will be the largest party on May 6, but happier to suggest that the SNP will win the most seats in Scotland.

But all those who are saying that Labour is in meltdown should be very wary. The party is in disarray, no doubt, but its members do tend to rally round and, after all, in most polls they are either slightly ahead or even with the Conservatives. It’s just too early to say what will happen in May.

If the price is right..

It was seen as an eyesore when it was first built, but the Radisson Blu has become an integral part of the Royal Mile. But worth £60 million? If someone wants to pay it, then it is.

Give all camp profits to locals

The Festival campsite project for Inch Park could be a very good idea if the pitches aren’t damaged and the whole place is reinstated to good condition after the event.

If it’s going to happen, however, any profits for the public purse should go in their entirety to local groups such as the Inch Park Community Sports Clubs and not to the council.