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Fresh Haringey child abuse case: Battered baby’s parents’ trial collapses

PUBLISHED: 19:01 16 March 2015 | UPDATED: 19:53 16 March 2015

Sir Paul Ennals, chairman of Haringey's independent Local Safeguarding Children Board

Sir Paul Ennals, chairman of Haringey's independent Local Safeguarding Children Board

Archant

The parents of a baby who suffered unexplained fractures to its ribs, arm and leg less than a month into its life have walked free from court after the trial collapsed, it has been revealed.

The mother, 17 at the time, rushed her underweight 11-week-old baby to A&E with a “floppy” left arm in April 2013. After X-rays revealed several new and historic fractures to the ribs, arm and leg, the mother and father, who was twice her age at the time, were arrested.

Six months later they were charged with causing or allowing the grievous bodily harm of their baby, known only as Child D. But the case collapsed on the first day of the trial due to “the non-availability of a key witness” and despite an appeal, the case was thrown out.

The tragic details of the case are revealed today for the first time in a serious case review (SCR) of Child D’s involvement with Haringey social services, police and health workers based at the Whittington Hospital.

It highlights a long list of oversights, corner-cutting and a lack of information sharing, echoing mistakes made in the case of Baby P, who died after being abused in Tottenham in 2007.

While Child D survived the injuries and has been placed in care, safeguarding agencies “could and should have done better” says the report, commissioned by Haringey’s independent Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB).

The review found that “despite the plethora of information, risk factors and family history, professionals treated this as historical and not relevant to the current situation”. Combined with “a high level of professional optimism based on very little substance”, Miss F was allowed to remain in the family home by social workers.

Police had executed a drugs raid on the home and arrested the father for possession of a gun, yet none of the other agencies knew, the report found.

A friend was threatened with a knife by a gang who had forced their way into the home when Child D was just four weeks old, and blinkered social workers had not communicated about returning Miss F’s violent half-brother to the home either.

While there was a good response from medical staff when Child D arrived at A&E, the report notes the child’s GP had earlier failed to raise concerns about its weight, and that ongoing post-natal health support Miss F needed “failed to happen” due to the workload of health visitors and pressure on their managers to meet targets.

Between the various agencies, meetings were scheduled but some were missed, information was not always shared and those involved in assessing Miss F showed “a naive approach [that] lacked signs of professional curiosity and healthy scepticism”.

Sir Paul Ennals, chairman of the LSCB, said in a statement there were “many lessons” to learn, adding: “With hindsight, there were many episodes during D’s first three months, and earlier during the child’s mother’s pregnancy, when front-line staff could have acted differently. We cannot say that if they had done so, the abuse would not have happened. But we can say that many of our agencies could - and should - have responded differently.”

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