Page last updated at 19:22 GMT, Monday, 24 May 2010 20:22 UK

Baby Peter social workers admit failures

Baby Peter Connelly
Baby Peter died from repeated abuse, despite 60 visits from authorities

Two social workers involved in the Baby Peter case have admitted failing to follow procedures to protect him in the months before his death.

Maria Ward and Gillian Christou did not keep adequate records or ensure he was visited regularly enough, a disciplinary hearing was told.

It was told his death was "an eminently avoidable tragedy" if only social services had done its job properly.

The pair did not attend the hearing as they feared more negative publicity.

Peter Connelly, of Haringey, north London, died of abuse in 2007, despite being seen by social services.

Ms Ward admitted she did not follow Peter's child protection plan in relation to visiting frequency between 1 June and 11 July 2007, and did not ensure she knew his precise location for a period of time in July 2007.

'Past mistakes'

Ms Christou, her team manager at Haringey Council, admitted failing to document evidence of a risk management plan and to ensure Peter's child protection plan was followed.

A General Social Care Council (GSCC) conduct committee heard they may have allowed his abuse to escalate by not ensuring his child minder was replaced.

The abuse of Peter Connelly was allowed to persist due to a failure of Haringey social services to learn from past mistakes
Marios Lambis, GSCC counsel

Child minder Ann Walker, who had been looking after Peter for four days a week for six weeks, reported unexplained injuries on the boy's body to Ms Ward on three separate occasions.

But she became "very frustrated" that nothing seemed to be done about her concerns, the hearing was told.

A week after Ms Walker stopped looking after Peter in mid-July, the child was inspected by a doctor who found a number of wounds.

Marios Lambis, counsel for the GSCC, said: "Such injuries were significantly more numerous and severe than the few bruises observed previously on Peter, and may have contributed to his death two days later."

Haringey's social workers were accused of treating Peter's injuries individually and failing to see the bigger picture of his abuse.

Mr Lambis told the hearing that lessons should have been learned after the death of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie, who was murdered by her great-aunt and her partner in the same borough in 2000.

"It can be said that the death of Peter was an eminently avoidable tragedy," he said.

"The abuse of Peter Connelly was allowed to persist due to a failure of Haringey social services to learn from past mistakes."

The GSCC conduct committee has the power to strike Ms Ward and Ms Christou off the social care register, or it could impose the lesser sanctions of a suspension or caution, which would remain on their records for up to five years.

Media coverage

The social workers' barrister Nick Toms said they admitted all the claims made against them by the GSCC and accepted that their actions amounted to misconduct.

He said they felt unable to take part in the proceedings because they feared more negative media coverage would ensue.

They feel unable to attend this hearing because of the way this case has been dealt with by some in the media
Social workers' barrister

"They both became social workers to care for children at risk such as Peter Connelly. They did not intend or desire the outcome in this case and deeply regret what happened," he said.

"They have fully co-operated with every investigation into the circumstances of Peter Connelly's death.

"However, they feel unable to attend this hearing because of the way this case has been dealt with by some in the media."

Both women were sacked last year by Haringey Council and they received interim 17-month suspension orders banning them from practising social work.

However, those orders were lifted last month.

Peter was 17 months old when he died in Tottenham, north London, on 3 August 2007.

He had been seen by health and social services professionals 60 times before he was found dead with more than 50 injuries.

His mother Tracey Connelly, 28, and her partner Steven Barker have been told they would serve minimum jail terms of five and 12 years over the death.

Barker's brother Jason Owen was jailed for three years.

The social workers' disciplinary hearing will continue on Tuesday.



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