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Last Updated: Friday, 24 February 2006, 17:33 GMT
Worker sacked after baby murder
Paul O'Neil
O'Neil was must serve a minimum of 22 years in prison
Child protection services have been criticised after a father battered and burnt his three-month-old son to death.

Paul O'Neil, 33, from Newcastle, was jailed for life after he held the face of his son Aaron against a gas fire and later fractured his skull.

O'Neil, of Banbury Road, Kenton, was told he must serve at least 22 years.

Following the critical report, published on Friday, Newcastle Primary Care Trust said it had sacked a female health visitor.

Doctors who later examined Aaron found 37 visible injuries as well as three skull fractures, 12 rib fractures and two broken legs.

A jury at Newcastle Crown Court heard how Aaron was beaten and burned so badly that he died 92 days after he was born.

His mother Jodie Taylor, 21, was sentenced to three-and-a-half years after admitting cruelty by failing to provide adequate medical attention.

O'Neil, who was jealous of the attention the baby received from his mother, was also given sentences of 14 years for causing grievous bodily harm and five years for cruelty, with all the sentences to be served concurrently.

Aaron O'Neil
Baby Aaron was battered and burnt by his father

He had admitted cruelty, but denied murder and five GBH charges, between November 2004 and February 2005.

The court heard Taylor was "trapped" in a relationship with the domineering O'Neil and was afraid to report what he had done.

Following Aaron's death, the Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) commissioned independent expert Catherine Weightman to investigate the case.

Her findings were published on Friday and found information sharing was insufficient to provide a full picture of the family history and risk to the child.

At the same time Newcastle Primary Care Trust said it had carried out disciplinary proceedings against a female health visitor after concerns about her professional practices.

This resulted in her dismissal. The member of staff is mounting an appeal.

The review concluded that details were held by health and social services which identified O'Neil as a violent individual who presented a risk to women and children.

Jodie Taylor
Taylor was sentenced to three-and-a-half years
Agencies were aware of the mother's history of childhood abuse and recent offending history.

The report said analysis of risk was limited across agencies, engagement of professionals was not strongly maintained and the parents' co-operation was superficial or, in the case of the father, non-existent.

It said this led to a withdrawal of the social worker and to a 'lack of persistence' in the health visitor's attempts to see the child.

Newcastle City Council executive director of children's services and the chair of the LSCB Catherine Fitt said: "We cannot be inside people's homes 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but we must take responsibility for doing everything in our power to ensure that children in Newcastle are safe."

Labour MP for Newcastle North Doug Henderson said he had written to the Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt calling for an external inquiry.

He said: "I have asked the secretary of state to examine whether the agencies involved in Newcastle had applied the recommendations of the Laming Inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbie and the subsequent provisions of the 2004 Children's Act, and if not, why not?"

Protection agencies failed Aaron


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