Page last updated at 16:37 GMT, Tuesday, 21 July 2009 17:37 UK

Murder of toddler 'preventable'

Casey Leigh Mullen
Neighbours said Casey Mullen was known as "Smiley"

Better communication between agencies could have prevented the death of a two-year-old girl who was raped and killed by her uncle, a report has said.

Michael Mullen was jailed for life after admitting the rape and murder of his niece Casey, in Gipton, Leeds.

A serious case review found her death could have been prevented if there been more communication between agencies after she was treated for burns.

It found numerous follow-up hospital appointments were not kept.

During his trial earlier this month, Leeds Crown Court heard Mullen strangled the little girl while she was in bed at her home, in February 2007, as her parents sat downstairs.

A judge told Mullen, then 21, he would serve a minimum of 35 years for the killing.

'Evidential inconsistencies'

The report, published by Leeds Safeguarding Children Board, said children's social services staff were not involved with Casey's family until September 2005, when she was taken to hospital by her mother at 10 months old.

Her shin had been burnt by hair straighteners two days earlier.

The report said children's social services were asked to carry out an assessment of the family, because of the delay in her parents seeking medical attention for Casey, but they failed to do so.

The report said follow-up appointments for Casey were not kept on "a significant number of occasions".

It added that "there were areas of risk which were not fully integrated, leading to a lack of action that could have taken place which may have prevented the death".

Michael Mullen
Mullen strangled the two-year-old with a ligature

The report said Mullen was charged with the rape of a girl under 16 when he was 17, but the charge was withdrawn because of "inconsistencies in evidence".

He was also being supervised by the National Probation Service in the months before his niece's death.

The report said the withdrawal of the prosecution and the lack of consideration of a lesser charge by the Crown Prosecution Service "resulted in there being no assessment of his behaviour at the time", a situation which impacted on later risk assessments by the probation service.

The report said: "Identification of the paternal uncle as a person posing a risk to children and young people would have increased the likelihood that this information would be shared on a multi-agency basis and the risk to the children in the family being assessed and acted upon."

Judith Dodd, independent chair of the Leeds Safeguarding Children Board, said all the recommendations of the review had been accepted and acted on.

Rosemary Archer, director of children's services for Leeds City Council, said it was "apparent that there were gaps in the system designed to protect vulnerable young people in Leeds".

She said: "I - and all of the organisations responsible for the care and protection of vulnerable children and young people in Leeds - are determined to do all we can to prevent something similar ever happening again.

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