Social workers fear media frenzy will damage Alfie's family

PCC to investigate if family was paid by two newspapers

Social workers claim that a media frenzy is damaging the welfare of “father at 13” Alfie Patten, his one-time girlfriend Chantelle Steadman, 15, and her newborn daughter.

Child protection officers at East Sussex County Council have written to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) to complain about harassment of the teenagers. The PCC is already investigating whether or not The Sun and The People broke rules by making payments to the Patten family. News organisations may only do so if there is a “demonstrable public interest” in a story. Both papers will argue that such a public interest is evidenced by wider fears about a “broken society”.

The county council has also brought a prosecution against Alfie’s mother, Nicola Patten, for letting him play truant from Willingdon Community School, near his home in Hailsham, East Sussex. She will appear in court next Tuesday charged with “failing to send a child to school”. A spokesman for the Courts Service confirmed that the charges related to Alfie’s failure to attend school between 7 July and 5 December 2008.

Last Friday, Alfie was shown on the front page of The Sun with Maisie Roxanne, whom he claims to have fathered. Up to six other local youths claim to have slept with Chantelle in the past nine months, but two in particular – Richard Goodsell, 16, and Tyler Barker, 14 – have been forceful in their claims on the child. Alfie is to have a DNA paternity test, his agent Max Clifford confirmed. Contrary to some reports, social services in East Sussex will not pay the £300 cost.

The PCC had already announced on Monday that it was launching an inquiry into the case, following receipt of a letter from the constituency MP, Charles Hendry.

The Independent understands that The Sun initially offered the families between £10,000 and £15,000, soon raising that to about £32,000. Max Clifford, Alfie’s agent, refused to confirm the sum, or reports that Alfie would open his DNA test results, expected on Monday, live on television.

Channel 4’s Cutting Edge programme has already secured rights for a documentary about the boy, and at least 15 production companies have enquired about his availability.

The PCC was forced to defend itself yesterday from accusations that it had failed to act swiftly enough to protect the privacy of the three children. A spokesman said an inquiry would have been launched even if Mr Hendry’s letter had not made its way to the office of the PCC chairman Sir Christopher Meyer. PCC insiders, the spokesman said, had been “sniffing the air” over the weekend and were resolved to conduct an inquiry even before public pressure made it inevitable.

Anne Longfield, chief executive of the charity 4Children, said: “I think it’s accurate to call this a feeding frenzy. We’ve got to remember that children are extremely vulnerable under the media spotlight.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
The guide, since withdrawn, used illustrations and text to help people understand the court process (Getty)
newsMinistry of Justice gets law 'terribly wrong' in its guide to courts
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
scienceFeed someone a big omelette, and they may give twice as much, thanks to a compound in the eggs
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links