The uncle of Baby P yesterday described the family's "devastation" that nobody had been convicted of murdering the 17-month-old child. The uncle, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told how he spent hours with his nephew the week before he died.
"He came walking towards me and my brother, holding his nana's hand with a smile on his face. I could see marks and injuries on his hand and head but it wasn't obvious he was in pain. I asked my brother about the marks but he said the baby's mum kept saying he was accident-prone. I can't believe what they did to him and at least one of then should have been done for murder."
A clearer picture of the horrific circumstances surrounding Baby P's final weeks emerged yesterday. Evidence seen by The Independent on Sunday reveals how the home where the child died was "littered" with dead animals, food for a pet snake that was on the loose; that one of those convicted had been previously investigated by police after allegations were made that he had tortured his own grandmother to make her change her will to benefit him; that vital forensic evidence was destroyed by one or more of the defendants; that Baby P had been attacked by a Rottweiler owned by one of them.
As the row over blame for Baby P's death escalated yesterday, supporters rallied to defend Haringey Council. They were pointed out that the child did not receive 60 visits from social workers, but that records showed he and his mother had 60 contacts with a variety of authorities, including GPs.
There were fresh warnings from family legal experts that vulnerable children like Baby P are more likely to die from abuse than ever before, because of a dramatic rise in the cost of taking them into care. Abused children are being left in dangerous situations because social workers are being deterred from seeking court orders.
Social workers and lawyers say there has been a huge decline in the number of child protection cases before the courts since new care proceedings came into force earlier this year. The cost of taking a case to court rose from £150 to £4,000 in May. Social workers need to gather stronger evidence before judges will consider a protective care order. In the Baby P case, lawyers for Haringey Council told social workers that they could not start care proceedings involving the child because their evidence "fell below the threshold" required for court action. Nina Hansen of Freemans Solicitors said: "The situation is much more dangerous now than when Baby P died and there will no doubt be more Baby Ps. There is so much stacked against cases ever getting to court that there will be even more dead babies in the future."
Fees were increased in an effort to make the courts pay for themselves. The move was opposed by senior judges, the Law Society and the NSPCC. Jonathan Wheeler, director of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers, said: "The situation is much worse now because budget considerations are something local authorities will bear in mind. In the light of Baby P, surely there is a moral case not to make protecting children's lives more difficult."
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "Children's services have an obligation in law to protect children. It would be unlawful for them to avoid taking court proceedings for financial reasons. For these reasons we do not accept that the new fees should have any impact."
It has emerged that Jason Owen, one of Baby P's convicted killers, had been investigated in connection with the death of his own grandmother. Detectives were told Owen had tortured his grandmother after she refused to change her will to favour him but no charges were brought against him.