Girl was killed after 'social work errors': Abused three-year-old was not examined despite seven warnings, report says

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The Independent Online
SOCIAL workers were guilty of 'a series of fundamental errors of judgement' in the months leading up to the death of three-year-old Leanne White, who was battered to death despite seven warnings about her plight from worried relatives and neighbours.

A report into the child's death in November 1992 published by Nottinghamshire's Area Child Protection Committee (ACPC) yesterday warned that if shortcomings in the local social services were not addressed immediately, then more 'tragedies will occur in future'.

Last December Colin Sleate, 29, a car mechanic, was jailed for life after being found guilty of murdering Leanne at her home in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire. Her mother, Tina White, 22, was later sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment after being convicted of manslaughter.

At the end of their trial at Nottingham Crown Court, Mr Justice Tudor Evans described the social services' handling of the case as 'appalling' and called for a public inquiry.

Leanne was was forced to sleep on bare floorboards with the bedroom window open and to stand naked for hours in a cold, dark hall while the couple watched television in a warm room. Neighbours were kept awake at night by her screams.

Eventually she died from a ruptured stomach caused by repeated punching and was later found to have 107 injuries on her body.

At no time, the report said, did local social or health workers monitoring Leanne's case in the months before her death undress and examine her.

Social workers also failed to tell police about allegations that Leanne was being beaten. She was not even on the child protection register.

Although 'there were times of considerable activity by social services staff' in the five months prior to the child's death, the report says: 'Much of this activity appeared to us as unplanned, un-coordinated, unfocused and, critically, outside the terms of the procedures of the ACPC'.

It concludes: 'There were failings of professional practice, procedural compliance, management oversight and training'.

Further controversy subsequently surrounded the case after it emerged that Tina White was sent on a week- long pounds 1,000 sailing holiday off the French coast by probation officers while awaiting trial to improve her sense of 'self-worth'.

Yesterday David White, Nottinghamshire social services' director, issued a statement accepting the report's criticisms and promising to act upon its recommendations, which include more intensive monitoring of children at risk and improved training for social workers involved in child protection.

The report will now be studied by John Bowis, the junior health minister, who will decide whether there ought to be a public inquiry.

Last night Paddy Tipping, Labour MP for Sherwood, Nottingham, was meeting the minister to discuss the report's findings.