Minister announces review over baby's death

Children's minister Beverley Hughes announced a nationwide independent review of child protection services today after the harrowing death of a toddler.

The 17-month-old boy, who cannot be identified, was on the child protection register with Haringey social services in north London.



His mother's 32-year-old boyfriend and another man, Jason Owen, 36, were convicted at the Old Bailey today of causing or allowing his death.



The boy suffered more than 50 injuries over eight months of abuse, during which he was seen 60 times by health or social workers, in a case described as worse than that of Victoria Climbie.



Two days before the toddler died in August last year, a doctor failed to spot his broken back or ribs.



The case echoes that of Victoria Climbie, the eight-year-old who died after police and care workers failed to save her - also in Haringey, in 2000.



Following that case, an independent inquiry by Lord Laming called for a series of reforms to ensure child protection.



Today Ms Hughes said: "To ensure that the reforms that the Government set out following Lord Laming's Inquiry are being implemented systematically, Ed Balls and I have today asked Lord Laming to prepare an independent report of progress being made across the country."













Ms Hughes said: "This is a very tragic case that makes all of us question how someone could do such a terrible thing to a child and set out to deceive the very people trying to help.

"Safeguarding children is undoubtedly Government's top priority and we expect it to be the top priority for local agencies too.



"In response to Lord Laming's Inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbie, we introduced fundamental reforms to help keep children safe.



"Local areas are also now required to review every case where a child is harmed or killed, and neglect or abuse is suspected.



"We will be considering carefully the serious case review and whether there needs to be a further investigation of child protection procedures and practices amongst local agencies in Haringey specifically.



"It is vital that everyone caring for children in whatever capacity, is on their guard, alert to the possibility of risk, strives continuously for the best possible practice and sees the world through the eyes of the child."



Her comments came as Lord Laming described the latest case as "dispiriting".



He told BBC Radio 4's The World At One: "It would be awful wherever it happened, but it seems particularly sad that it has happened in the same area where Victoria experienced this awful cruelty and a terrible death and involved the very same services.



"Of course it is dispiriting."











Mor Dioum, director of the Victoria Climbie Foundation, which was set up to improve child protection, said: "This case is worse than Climbie. The signs were there but were not followed."

There were "systematic and operational failures that led to the tragic and sad death of such a beautiful child".



He called for a public inquiry into the failings.



In today's case, the child's 27-year-old mother has already pleaded guilty to the same charge as the two men. All three will be sentenced on 15 December.



One of the men convicted was her 32-year-old partner. He was cleared of murder.



The jury was told to convict him of the lesser charge if it could not agree on who caused the injuries in the house where three adults were living.



The family, from Haringey, north London, cannot be named for legal reasons.



Jason Owen, 36, from Bromley, south east London, the other man convicted today, was a guest in their home.



The court heard that during eight months of abuse, the happy baby boy had his curly golden locks shaved off and became unrecognisable.



Attempts were made to hide the crime from social services and health visitors, including smearing the baby in chocolate.



In the 48 hours before the boy was found dead in his blood-spattered cot, a doctor failed to spot his broken spine.



And police told the mother she would not be prosecuted after being arrested twice for suspected child cruelty.



Gillie Christou, in charge of social workers looking after children on the register in Haringey, told the court she had agreed to keep the baby with his mother.



She said: "I made the decision at the time based on the material in front of me and based on the background to the case."



A detective in the case said the boy had more than 50 injuries, 15 of them to the mouth.



He described the boyfriend as "sadistic - fascinated with pain". He had Nazi memorabilia in the house.



The mother was "a slob, completely divorced from reality. She was living in a dream world and put her lover before her child. She closed her eyes to what was going on".



After the case, police said they had complied with a multi-agency long-term care plan for the family.



But procedures have now been toughened up to give police more confidence in challenging decisions.



Detective Superintendent Caroline Bates said police errors were made which caused a delay at the start of the abuse inquiry, but these had not been significant to the outcome.



She said: "With hindsight, having the benefit of a major investigation, we know quite clearly that the mother was lying and trying to subvert agencies involved with the family."



The mother had appeared to be co-operating with agencies but "she constantly conspired to prevent us knowing what was going on".



In June "police officers felt very strongly that he should not be returned" to his mother.



A police inspector asked twice if the threshold had been reached to start care proceedings.



"This was a huge tragedy which should have been avoided. If we had only known the truth about the adults in the house," said Ms Bates.



Great Ormond Street Hospital, which provides paediatric services to children from Haringey, said Dr Sabah Al-Zayyat, who was involved in the failed clinic check, is no longer working there.



After the verdicts, Judge Stephen Kramer excused members of the jury from serving for 10 years.



He told them: "You have heard evidence of a harrowing nature and you have seen things which in the course of your everyday life you would not be expected to see."



Local MP Lynne Featherstone said the child, to whom she referred as Baby P, had fallen through "safety net after safety net" and called for an independent investigation by the Children's Commissioner.



"The Children's Act was borne out of tragedy in Haringey after the death of Victoria Climbie.



"Yet eight years after her death, the law created to stop this happening again has failed to prevent a similar tragedy in the same borough."



Sharon Shoesmith, chair of Haringey Local Safeguarding Children Board, defended the council's actions and blamed legal advice taken a week before the baby's death for the fact he was not taken into care.



An internal review of the case found that there were "numerous examples" of good practice although there had been "weaknesses" in information flow.



But councillor Robert Gorrie, Lib Dem leader of the opposition at Haringey Council, said: "Closed-door reviews by the council are completely inadequate.



"The credibility of Haringey's child protection system has been called into question again."



NSPCC acting chief executive Wes Cuell said professionals dedicated to protecting children were being "overwhelmed" by the scale of child abuse and supporting them must be a priority for the Government.

News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Travel
travel
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
people
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan in What If
filmReview: Actor swaps Harry Potter for Cary Grant in What If
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Travel
travel
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Pornography is more accessible - and harder to avoid - than ever
news... but they still admit watching it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment