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Saturday, 01 November 2014

Carlisle child abuse case: Police were not told of cruelty tip-off

Cumbria Social Services did not tell police they had been tipped off about the appalling abuse of a Carlisle toddler 15 months before her parents were arrested.

The revelation came as the head of Cumbria’s Social Services called for greater community vigilance following the child’s torture ordeal which only ended when a suspicious neighbour told a police officer his wife had seen scars on the toddler’s legs.

The girl’s father subjected her to nearly three years of violence.

Reuben Williams, 23, had repeatedly attacked his baby daughter, leaving her body covered by nearly 200 scars as he bit, scratched, and burned her.

Despite the girl’s mother Elodie Massacrier covering up the abuse, the child, now nearly four, could have been rescued in November 2006 when the tip-off was phoned into Cumbria Social Services.

But the social worker who visited the family accepted the parents’ claim that the complaint was racially motivated.

A Cumbria Police spokesman said yesterday: “I can confirm that we had no report of an allegation of this kind in 2006.”

Judge Peter Hughes QC last week called for lessons to be learned after commenting on how social workers and health service workers missed numerous opportunities to check on the child.

Cumbria County Council has reviewed the case but says it can not publish the findings until Ofsted have reviewed the investigation.

Helen Smith, who runs child protection services at Cumbria County Council, refused to discuss the case but she spoke in detail about child protection issues in the county.

Mrs Smith, head of service, child and family care at Cumbria County Council, said: “I would highlight the importance of the public being vigilant about their concerns about a child.

“If we have a child who is not at school or avoiding professionals there is little we can do. We are only as good as the information provided.”

Allegations of child abuse made to social services are normally passed on to the police as a matter of routine.

Yet in this case that did not happen, effectively leaving the investigation in the hands of only a social worker, who visited the child’s parents at their home in Stanhope Road, Carlisle, and accepted their claim that the complaint was racially motivated.

The social worker left without examining the child.

Local social workers were also aware that in the weeks before the call was made, the child’s grandmother raised concerns with social services in Northamptonshire, where the family had previously lived. She was worried that the child’s mother Massacrier, 22, had skipped numerous health checks and always refused to let her daughter be seen unclothed.

The toddler’s injuries were so severe that had she been taken to hospital doctors would have given her morphine.

Cumbria County Council insists that lessons have already been learned from the appalling case.

The comment came amid a public backlash which has seen health and social workers severely criticised.

Mrs Smith said that child protection cases were regularly checked and there was robust supervision of staff. She stressed the need for constant vigilance to guard against abuse.

She said: “We can’t go out into the streets looking for abused children. We don’t have crystal balls. We make judgements on the information we have.

“There are those who say the job of caring for children at risk is flawed because there will always be human error. Warning signs will be missed, information may go missing or may not be passed on. Sudden absence through illness may cause problems.

“I don’t think the job is flawed, but we struggle from public perception. It’s one of the toughest jobs: we make very, very complex judgements about harm.

“There will always be human error. If you work on an assembly line and something goes wrong you can replace it.

“This job requires a high level of skill on which judgement is the right one. We provide very robust training around assessment, safeguarding and care planning.”

Mrs Smith said Cumbria Social Services operates stringent supervision policies.

“In any profession you’re only as good as your workers and our staff are our biggest resource. We have to recruit the best, skill them up and provide the resources they need. We have very robust supervision policies and regular audits looking at case files, computer records, checking plans and ensuring guidance follows procedures on a regular basis.”

Despite this, she admitted that systems for protecting children were imperfect. “You’re never going to have a situation where children do not die.

“You are always going to have human error. Communities have to be vigilant. Some children may well be off the radar of the child protection list. That is why we engage with teachers and other professionals.”

A county council spokesman added: “It is worth noting that the most recent independent Ofsted Annual Performance Assessment for children’s services stated that safeguarding was our strongest performing area and the timelines for our review for child protection services were classed as ‘very good’.”

Last week, Judge Hughes jailed Williams indefinitely, ruling that he must serve five years before he can be considered for release. Massacrier was jailed for two and a half years.

Carlisle Crown Court was told of several occasions when health and social workers missed clear warning signs of the abuse. The first clue came as the grandmother contacted Northamptonshire social services to express her concern about the child. But no investigation was carried out, despite that and the anonymous call to Cumbria Social Services alleging the abuse in November 2006.

While praising social and healthcare services, Judge Hughes said: “It’s a matter of concern that neither the health nor social services picked up on what was happening to this child. There appear to have been a number of missed opportunities and this is yet another case where lessons need to be learned.”

Have your say

I knew Reuben and Elodie we spent some time together when we were teenagers and I went to school with Elodie. I cant believe how sick they could both be its sadistic and the punishment they will both receive is not enough!

Posted by amy underwood on 14 June 2009 at 19:21

how any human being could do this to a child is behond me ! that poor child nobody loved,protected her or cared for her.!! i just wish somebody would have found her to protect her and her tiny body.it makes me feel virtually SICK . i think social workers al over the world should be more persistant with their checks because by he looks of it they did not do there job witch really gets to me as that child was abused and nobody new. just think of tht child and what she has been through imagine the pain she must have been through! i can jus imagine her screamin her little heart out with pain. They should of thrown away the key when the police locked them up!!! god bless that little girl and i wish her the very best from the bottem of my heart!.

Posted by danielle on 23 April 2009 at 14:14

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