Serious failings in case of baby killed by mum, lover
Published 27/10/2010 | 05:00
A CATALOGUE of failings by the agencies involved in Baby P's care was laid bare yesterday with the publication of previously secret official reports.
The toddler's mother, Tracey Connelly, named her sadistic boyfriend as her next-of-kin on an official form but the authorities still failed to discover he was living with her, the documents revealed.
Meanwhile, child protection staff in London continued to believe Connelly's innocent explanations for the suspicious injuries that her son kept suffering.
The two detailed serious case reviews into the 2007 death of Baby P, now named as Peter Connelly, were published in full for the first time yesterday.
Peter was 17 months old when he died in Tottenham, north London, at the hands of his mother, her violent partner Steven Barker and his brother, Jason Owen, in August 2007.
He suffered more than 50 injuries despite receiving 60 visits from social workers, doctors and police over an eight-month period.
The release of the widely different reports brought fresh scrutiny to sacked children's services director Sharon Shoesmith's handling of the mistakes of social workers under her management.
Ms Shoesmith, who was fired by Haringey Council over failings exposed by Peter's death, chaired the first serious case review.
Her report, completed in November 2008, said staff demonstrated "good practice" when they launched a child protection inquiry in December 2006 after Peter was taken to hospital for the first time with injuries that doctors suspected were "non-accidental".
The toddler was placed on the child protection register.
Ms Shoesmith's report said the decision not to begin legal action to take Peter away from his mother was a "reasonable judgment" given Connelly's co-operation, the need to undertake assessments and the absence of previous concerns.
But in December 2008 inspectors from the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) ruled the first serious case review was inadequate and Britain's former children's secretary Ed Balls commissioned a fresh investigation.
The second report, chaired by child protection expert Graham Badman, was scathing about decisions made by social workers, doctors, police and lawyers in December 2006.
It concluded: "(Peter's) horrifying death could and should have been prevented.''
The report condemned the "incompetent" practice of the majority of those involved in Peter's care and their "completely inadequate" approach to meeting the challenges of his case.
The second review highlighted officials' failure to establish Barker's identity and carry out background checks on him.
Connelly told social workers he was only a friend and was not left alone with Peter.
But she named him as her next of kin on health records in mid-2007 and he was present when a family support worker visited her at home in June 2007.
The report condemned social workers' failure to quiz Connelly about her abusive boyfriend.
Other key findings of the second serious case review included:
- Connelly was a "dominating and forceful personality" who intimidated the staff involved in the case, and the staff were too willing to believe her explanations for Peter's wounds.
- There was an "unacceptable" delay of seven weeks to arrange a legal meeting to discuss whether Peter could be taken into care.
- When the meeting did take place, in July 2007, the lawyer assigned was "relatively inexperienced" and did not have a medical report about the little boy's injuries. The lawyer incorrectly judged that the threshold for Peter to be taken away had not been reached.
Barker received a life jail sentence and Connolly was sentenced to five years.