I guess I can't put it off any longer. I've read as much as I can and watched both hour-long tv documentaries, which incidentally varied enormously in quality with the BBC Panorama special easily trumping the ITV effort. It's the subject of conversation in every pub, and generally across the length and breadth of the Nation, if not the wider world.
The absolutely tragic Philpott case involving the death of six children in Derby has shocked us all and lifted the lid on some very uncomfortable issues. Try as I might, it's hard to find any redeeming features in Mick Philpott, the self-styled 'shameless Mick', despite his defence counsel describing him as a 'caring father'.
I think such a statement in mitigation enormously irritated HH Mrs Justice Thirlwell who was quick to dispel that particular myth. As the vast brood of kids in this very unorthodox domestic situation grew older, I'm fairly sure huge amounts of trouble were being stored up that could only lead to great unhappiness at the hands of this 'enormously dangerous' bully.
It was no great surprise that Mr Philpott received a discretionary life sentence with a 15 year tariff. Interestingly, had the Crown decided to continue with charges of murder, upon conviction the tariff starting point would have been whole life. As always the sentencing remarks are worth reading in full and it's abundantly clear that Mrs Justice Thirlwell got the measure of the man completely. What sweet irony that it fell to a female judge to deal with this case. One can only speculate how irritating Mr Philpott must have found this.
Apart from the children obviously, I have to say my sympathy lies with the long-suffering wife Mairead who was undoubtedly chosen by Philpott because of her vulnerability and susceptibility to manipulation and control. We didn't hear her speak much due to the control exercised over her, but I suspect she is of limited ability and possibly has a learning disability. I think the jury's majority verdict in her case might indicate a degree of concern by at least some jurors.
In cases such as this, I believe there is a view by some judges that adjourning for full probation reports prior to sentencing is unnecessary because long custodial sentences are inevitable. I remain firmly of the view that PSR's should be prepared in order to highlight issues that might not have received a great deal of attention during the trial. I can't help thinking that the judge would have found a psychology report for Mairhead both helpful and enlightening before passing sentence on her.
As is usual with all those receiving a life sentence, a probation officer in Derby will be starting the process of preparing a Post Life Sentence Report on Mick Philpott and that will form the basis of future sentence planning. It won't be easy challenging his distorted views of relationships, but someone, somewhere will have that task over the coming years.
Thankfully for us all, Mick Philpott can no longer be a danger to further women and children for a long time to come, but the timing of this case couldn't be more cruel coming as it does right at the very moment when attention is focused on the level of state benefits. For critics of the system you'd be hard-pressed to find a better example to illustrate your case than that of Mick Philpott and the estimated £70,000 that flowed through his bank account in benefits.
Even ever-smug-looking Chancellor George Osborne can't resist the opportunity to make mischief with the Philpott case for political ends, no matter how extreme or unusual it might be. Unfortunately it's for this that the deeply obnoxious Mick Philpott will be remembered, as much as being responsible for the deaths of six very normal-looking children and who sadly didn't seem to have overly-benefited from the state's largess.