Camden social services in firing line after death of toddler

SOCIAL services in Camden have said sorry and admitted gaps in its care, after a baby died from horrific injuries at the hands of his former drug addict mother. In a chilling echo of the Baby P case in neighbouring Haringey, Rhys Biggs was just two months

SOCIAL services in Camden have said sorry and admitted "gaps" in its care, after a baby died from "horrific" injuries at the hands of its drug-addicted mother.

In a chilling echo of the Baby P case in neighbouring Haringey, Rhys Biggs was just two months old when 17 of his ribs were fractured.

His mother Claire Biggs, 27, was this week found guilty of assault while her partner Paul Husband was found guilty of neglect.

The pair divided their time between Camden and Newham, where they received help from social services.

During the conclusion of the trial at the Inner London Crown Court this week, it emerged Biggs previously had a daughter who was taken into care in 2001, when she was homeless and addicted to crack cocaine.

Biggs called an ambulance in May 2006 saying that Rhys had stopped breathing. He died 35 minutes later in hospital.

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The guilty couple will be sentenced next month, and until then social services are not releasing details of the case.

But Camden's children's and young people's boss Cllr Janet Grauberg issued an apology today (Wednesday) and admitted there had been "gaps" in Camden's services.

She said: "Everybody who has been involved in this tragic case feels very sorry this innocent child has died.

"Protecting children is an ongoing commitment for me and all staff working with children, and we continue to learn from every case and implement changes and reviews to our procedures in order to check and double check we are doing all we can.

"While an independent review found this child's death could not have been anticipated by any of the agencies involved, the case showed some gaps in our services which needed to be addressed, and those recommendations have since been implemented.

"We will always remain supportive to both our social workers and families throughout the borough and want to assure residents that we will continue to be open about the facts of this case so that we and other agencies working in this field can do everything to make sure children remain safe from harm."

A post-mortem examination found that Rhys had suffered "a large number of bone fractures resulting from the application of severe force on at least three different occasions," the court heard. They were caused by "severe squeezing" which broke 17 ribs.

Eleven items of baby clothes and a teddy bear were found stained with blood at their flat in east London.

The first injuries were inflicted when Rhys was one month old, while the last were inflicted in the last 24 hours of his short life. A further three fractures were found on his right arm.

Biggs told the court that she had "always cared" for her son, that she had never noticed any injuries and she believed his crying was due to colic.

She claimed Rhys' injuries were caused when he fell off his bed and when Husband held him up by the arm "for two minutes."

Biggs added: "He murdered my child and I am trying to find out why."

But Husband said he was never left alone with the baby.

Outside court Det Ch Insp Dave Marshall said: "This was a very difficult investigation in view of the fact we could not establish the cause of death, although obviously Rhys had horrific injuries inflicted on him.

"He was just eight weeks old and for half of his life he suffered repeatedly as his bones were fractured on at least three separate occasions."

Kim Bromley-Derry, Newham Council's executive director for children and young people, said it carried out a Serious Case Review after Rhys' death.

"Now the court case is finished, we will look closely again to see if there are any implications for the way we deal with the protection of children," he said.