Page last updated at 16:35 GMT, Monday, 12 January 2009

Doncaster children: Who are they?

An independent inquiry is being launched into Doncaster Council's children's services department after serious case reviews were ordered into the deaths of seven children in the area.

Five of them were under 16 months old - of whom some details are known - including the cases of Amy Howson and Alfie Goddard, which have been brought to court.

The other three are identified only by the codes they were given in the serious case review reports.

There are as yet no details of the final two deaths, although both occurred in 2008.

AMY HOWSON

Sixteen-month-old Amy Howson died in December 2007. Her father, James Howson, 25, was found guilty of her murder and sentenced to a minimum of 22 years in prison.

Her mother, Tina Hunt, was given a 12-month suspended sentence after admitting child cruelty.

Amy died after her spine was snapped in two, but prosecutors said she had suffered for months before that.

When she was examined in hospital on the day she died, she was malnourished and dehydrated.

Howson had also punched and slapped her on numerous occasions leaving her with fractures in her arms, legs and ribs. He blamed his partner and his dog for Amy's injuries.

Prosecutor Gary Burrell said: "The nature and extent of the injuries themselves indicate the child must have been in extreme pain and in poor physical condition for a period of weeks prior to death."

South Yorkshire Police said steps had been taken to ensure Amy was not seen by doctors.

ALFIE GODDARD

Alfie Goddard, from the Toll Bar area of Doncaster, was just three months old when he died at Sheffield Children's Hospital in May 2008.

A post-mortem examination showed he had suffered a fatal head injury two days earlier.

Alfie's father, Craig Goddard, 24, will be sentenced on 15 January for his murder.

His mother, Lindsay Harris, 19, is charged with child neglect and perverting the course of justice.

CHILD A

Child A died in Doncaster in December 2007 aged 10 months. A post-mortem examination attributed his death to natural causes.

A review of his case found that 10 referrals were made to social services relating to fears for his safety, and that of his sibling, but the response to them was "grossly inadequate".

The child's father was said to be a criminal and a drug user. Referrals also highlighted a range of issues, including inadequate parenting, failure to keep health appointments, domestic violence and "indications the children were at risk of harm" from both parents.

The serious case review found that "a chaotic and dangerous situation" and "unmanageable workloads" within local social services had meant that Child A's care "fell well short of acceptable standards".

"There was no meaningful engagement with the needs of the children or their family," it concluded.

CHILD AO6

Child AO6, a girl, was born in October 2005 and died in May the following year.

The coroner recorded a case of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, but said alcohol was a contributory factor.

The child's mother was said to have "a long history of alcohol misuse, alcohol-related crime, suicide attempts, social phobia, anxiety, bulimia and depression, and sporadic engagement with services", but this was not flagged up before she was born.

"Had information been sought from all relevant sources AO6 would have been identified as being at the very least a child in need," the serious case review said.

On 2 May, the mother had been found in bed drunk with the child, who was said to be "clearly at risk of significant emotional and physical harm and neglect".

Despite this, Child AO6 was only taken away by social services for one night.

Just a few weeks later she died, after once again falling asleep in bed with her mother.

"Child protection enquiries should have been undertaken on 3 May 2006 and protective action taken which may have prevented AO6's death," the review concluded.

CHILD BO5

The youngest of four siblings, the baby boy known as Child BO5 was born in July 2004 and died in October the same year.

His death was attributed to Sudden Infant Death Sydrome, associated with sleeping in the same bed as his mother. She was said to have smelled of alcohol at the time of his death.

The serious case review said Child BO5's parents "had been involved in a long-standing relationship punctuated by significant periods of instability, marital violence and alcohol misuse, particularly latterly by mother".

The report stressed that his death was "a tragic accident," but pointed out that there were failures associated with his family.

"A failure to ensure that health professionals in the neo-natal unit had background medical knowledge on this family," for example, and a failure to properly respond in detail when one neo-natal nurse did express some concerns.

There were also issues around Child BO5's older siblings.

One, known only as sibling 1, had been in trouble with police, but the serious case review noted: "It is of concern that... sibling 1 was seen only as a young offender.

"Assessments did not adequately express his vulnerabilities as a 13-year-old boy with an unstable background."

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SEE ALSO
Children services inquiry ordered
12 Jan 09 |  South Yorkshire
'Chaotic' council team failed boy
11 Dec 08 |  South Yorkshire
Baby killer given life sentence
24 Oct 08 |  South Yorkshire
Mother charged after baby killing
12 Sep 08 |  South Yorkshire

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