ONCE again a serious case of child abuse, which cost the life of a baby, has been treated with scandalous leniency. A drug addict who dropped a two-month-old baby on its head while under the influence of heroin has been jailed for one year. The child could have been saved if treated immediately, but nothing was done. The culprit, it should be recorded, was originally charged with murder, and was sufficiently aware of the gravity of his crime to accept he should be charged with manslaughter. Yet the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) decided to accept a plea of guilty to child neglect. If this were an isolated incident, the Legal Department's behaviour might be easier to understand. After all, there is a line to be drawn between neglect and abuse, and apparently there was no wilful intention to injure or kill the child in this case. But the murder charge related to the failure to call for help even after bruises appeared on the baby's face or to tell anyone about the accident . . . and the killer appears to have considered himself culpable. If anyone should be considered guilty of abuse, perhaps it should be the parents who left the child in the hands of someone patently unable to look after it. However, there has been more than one instance recently where cases of real abuse have been punished with light sentences, either because they were heard by a magistrate rather than in a High Court or because the court itself appeared to undervalue the crime. Given the revulsion such cases arouse, it is incomprehensible that the DPP should have baulked at charging the addict with manslaughter. It is also difficult to understand why the judge should have decided to let six months of the sentence run concurrently with a sentence for burglary. That will hardly send a message of powerful disapproval. The Crown and the court may believe the punishment was sufficient, given the supposed difficulty of proving manslaughter. But the public will certainly question whether justice has been done.