Friday, 5 April 2013

Shameless Mick

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.                              


  1. Only 190 couples out of 1.35 million families claiming benefits have more than 10 children – that's 0.01%.

    'Shameless Mick' was not previously too beyond the pale to be invited to appear on Freak TV with the likes of Jeremy Kyle and Anne Widdercome. These appearances and press coverage gave him a notoriety which he courted and enjoyed. He was a media star.

    There is nothing representative about Philpott. There was nothing representative about Dr Shipman whose crimes dwarf those of Philpott. There is not much that can be usually extrapolated from grave crimes whose incidence shows little flutuation ove the years. From time to time individuals and groups do terrible things.

    Philpott was narcicistic and a tyrant. He was violent and intimidating. This is where it can be argued he was more representative: masculine arrogance, domestic violence, control freakery. But he was all these things before he was on welfare.

    I can't think of another instance where a leading politician saw it appropriate to comment on a high profile case on the day of sentencing. He claims the Philpott case raises questions about the welfare, implying that being on welfare contributed to criminal motive because his lifestyle was subsidised.

    Osborne knows there is no link between being on welfare and grave crimes but he could not resist an opportunity to demonise welfare as fostering dependency - and incubating dangerousness.

  2. Surely Anon realises that in many cases, welfare does indeed foster dependency. Indeed, why should it not?

  3. Where was Mairead's defence of marital coercion?