John Bridson: I don't understand the anger towards those who expose child abuse

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The Independent Online

I have known David Southall as a doctor since the mid-Eighties and as a friend since the Nine-ties. He is gifted with high ability and has absolute integrity. When I learned of the vicious campaign that he and other child protection professionals were facing, I started to try to help. When a couple of close colleagues suggested forming a lobby group, I became a founder member and chair of Professionals Against Child Abuse (Paca).

I have followed with disbelief the behaviour of politicians, the press, the establishment, the colleges and the General Medical Council towards the doctors in trouble. I don't yet fully understand the root of the anger towards people who were exposing the worst types of child abuse and trying to help families. Was it fear?

Experts were labelled hawks because they gave honest, straight-forward, factual evidence. It was suggested that experts should make their evidence less certain, bringing in other diagnostic possibilities – when there were none.

I draw the conclusion that Britain is not child-friendly. The 1989 Children's Act made it harder to protect children; the recent changes to procedure in the family courts may make it more difficult for children and their advocates, and I am aware of our nation's attitude towards physical punishment.

I hope today that we have reached a turning point, but then I look at what has been going on in Haringey since before Baby P died.

Paca is involved in lobbying to return a whistleblower to her post, and in trying to allow society to deal fairly with a scapegoated, very vulnerable doctor.

John Bridson is chairman of Professionals Against Child Abuse and a retired child-protection specialist