JULIE BINDEL: Surrender to liberal dogma cost Star Hobson her life

Why I fear surrender to political correctness cost this little girl her life: As a gay woman, JULIE BINDEL is appalled at how two women weaponised their sexuality to intimidate the social workers who could have saved Star

As a long-time campaigner against child abuse and domestic violence, I have seen many appalling examples of cruelty. 

But the sadistic torture of little Star Hobson in the months before her death will stick in my mind for a long time.

My anger about what happened to that poor child – just 16 months old when she died at the hands of her own mother, Frankie Smith, and Smith’s thuggish partner Savannah Brockhill – burns all the more fiercely due to one key aspect of the case.

This is that Star’s death might have been avoided had the social workers and police officers involved not capitulated in such a cowardly fashion to the forces of ‘political correctness’.

Normally I baulk at that phrase, because it implies that minorities are somehow over-sensitive in not wanting to be discriminated against or abused. As a lesbian who has faced my own share of homophobic attacks, I understand that reasonable wish.

But there is no doubt that in Star’s tragic tale those who should have saved her – and who were being paid to do so by the taxpayer – failed in their duty because they were too keen to toe a liberal line.

On no fewer than five occasions, frantic friends and relatives raised their concerns with the authorities about Star’s life at home, before former boxer Brockhill – after torturing the toddler for weeks – finally ‘punched, stamped on or kicked’ her in the abdomen, rupturing a vein which led to the catastrophic internal bleeding that killed her.

Yet, unforgivably, social services in West Yorkshire accepted Smith’s lies that the complaints were ‘malicious’ because Star’s great-grandparents, Anita Smith and David Fawcett, supposedly did not approve of Smith and Brockhill’s same-sex relationship or Brockhill’s traveller background. 

There is no doubt that in Star’s tragic tale those who should have saved her – and who were being paid to do so by the taxpayer – failed in their duty because they were too keen to toe a liberal line

My anger about what happened to that poor child – just 16 months old when she died at the hands of her own mother, Frankie Smith, and Smith’s thuggish partner Savannah Brockhill – burns all the more fiercely due to one key aspect of the case 

This was nonsense: Anita and David simply wanted to protect the baby they loved, saying this week: ‘There was no malice on our part.’

However, despite the mountain of evidence, the authorities evidently winced at the terrible prospect of having to dig too deeply into a household where the individuals concerned came from two vulnerable minorities. After all, they seem to have thought, we don’t want to be thought racist and homophobic.

Yesterday, Brockhill was sentenced to 25 years in prison and Smith to eight years, reflecting Brockhill’s greater culpability in the crime.

I am disgusted — but not surprised — that these cruel women weaponised their sexuality and Brockhill’s ethnicity in this self-serving way.

But let me be clear: their sexuality and ethnicity have nothing to do with any of this.


Partners in death: Savannah Brockhill, 28 and Frankie Smith, 20, have both been convicted over killing Star Hobson

They were abusers: that is all. And long experience shows that abusers will try any trick to cover up their crimes.

It is the job of those charged with rooting out the abusers not to allow themselves to be manipulated, as seems to have happened in this case.

What a tragic waste, and what an indictment of how the best intentions to avoid discrimination or prejudice can have the most terrible consequences.

In fairness to those — including doctors as well as police and social services — who had to sort fact from fiction in the awful circumstances of Star’s death, some of the evidence in favour of Smith and Brockhill’s innocence might initially have seemed persuasive. 

Such monstrous acts are far more often carried out by men, so perhaps — on the face of it — it seemed unlikely Smith and Brockhill could really have been responsible for the toddler’s injuries.

But why rely on statistics when you have the physical evidence of a child covered in bruises, with breaks to her shin caused by ‘forceful twisting’, and a 12cm ‘crazy paving’ fracture to the back of her skull and fractured ribs?

To me, however, the most grim parallel with Star’s case is that of the child-grooming scandal in Rochdale, Greater Manchester.

This, readers will remember, saw dozens of men from the town’s Pakistani community raping and trafficking girls as young as 12 over a period of years.

A decade ago, I was the first journalist to investigate this story. Victims told me they had given the police crucial evidence, including the car number-plates and even the addresses of the rapists, only for no action to be taken.

It later became clear that, as police forces across the country were facing accusations of being ‘institutionally racist’, these complaints had been ignored for fear of stoking tensions within the local community. As a result, more than 1,400 children — mainly white British girls — were viciously abused by dozens of men in the gang, their lives often destroyed.

Police have released a harrowing picture of one of the bruises on Star’s face that sparked calls to social services from family

Now we can fairly ask whether the same skewed priorities that then prevailed in Rochdale’s police force — that being falsely accused of racism was somehow worse than allowing children to suffer terribly — afflict elements of Britain’s liberal social-services sector as well.

In today’s climate of hysteria about LGBT rights and other strands of identity politics, how tempting it must be at times to turn a blind eye and accept the noisy reassurances from the accused that those making claims against them are just ‘bigots’.

Yet it should be common sense and not a matter of debate that people of all ethnicities and sexualities are capable of abusing children. 

These details about the accused should never be used to deflect the rigorous and thorough investigation of appalling crimes. To do so is just as bad as the opposite: to assume guilt because of a defendant’s sexuality or race.

If only more people could see this. 

As it is, yet another child has died in a manner almost too unbearable to think about, less than a fortnight after the nation was horrified by the tragic case of six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, from Birmingham.

Like Star, Arthur endured appalling brutality and psychological torment before he was murdered by his father’s girlfriend during the first lockdown last year.

And, of course, we all remember, 14 years ago, the death of Baby P who in his short life was seen 60 times by social workers from Haringey council, along with doctors and police.

So many children, so few lessons learned.

In each of these cases, a lack of funding for social services was a crucial factor — and this must be addressed. 

But so, too, must the right-on and growing misplaced ‘sensitivity’ that gets in the way of justice for children such as Star.

We owe children like her so much more — and, tragically, she will not be the last to die until we finally start to get it right.

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