Page last updated at 13:50 GMT, Monday, 22 September 2008 14:50 UK

'Failure' in toddler torture case

Lois
Lois suffered 'sadistic' abuse, her stepfather's trial heard

Social workers failed to spot the risks to a toddler who was tortured to death by her drug addict stepfather, a report has found.

The girl, named as Lois in the report, was killed by Daniel Bishop, 28, four months after he moved into her home in Caerphilly in 2004.

Social workers were concerned about her welfare in the weeks before she died but did not act, said the report.

It has made eight recommendations, including improved training for staff.

Lois died four years ago aged two after she was systematically abused, tortured and ultimately killed by her stepfather Bishop, who had a history of violent offending.

He was jailed for 12 years.

Lois' mother Sarah, 30, a long term drug addict, was jailed for six years for "turning a blind eye" to the abuse.

When she died Lois was found to have 13 fractures, a cigarette burn and crushing injuries to her hands, as well as more than 50 bruises.

This case was complicated by the determined efforts of Sarah and Daniel Bishop to deceive professionals and cover up any signs of abuse
CSCB statement

On one occasion Lois suffered severe burns to her foot when her leg was placed over a gas cooker hob, Bishop's trial in 2007 at Cardiff Crown Court was told.

The little girl received no medical attention for her injuries and the court was told her mother did everything she could to hide her injuries from the authorities.

Neighbours on the Lansbury Park estate in Caerphilly said they had complained about the abuse but the court was told that the couple kept it hidden from social services.

In November 2004, Bishop shook the child so hard she suffered a brain haemorrhage and died two days later.

The judge referred the case to the children's commissioner and Caerphilly Safeguarding Children Board (CSCB) announced a multi-agency review into the case.

Daniel Bishop
Daniel Bishop married Lois' mother in January 2006

The resulting Maddocks' Report, published on Monday, found there was a "failure to recognise indicators of risk" and a collective "failure to react with sufficient clarity of purpose".

The report's author, Peter Maddocks, said: "At the time of her death she had been identified as a child requiring the protection of all the agencies contributing to the child protection conference.

"This status of being a child in need of protection should have happened much more quickly.

"Some of this is attributable to information not being shared effectively at an earlier stage, but in the latter months it is a failure to recognise indicators of risk and to make properly organised enquiries and assessments.

"When the child protection procedures were invoked, further delays occurred.

"Collectively, there was a failure to act with sufficient clarity of purpose."

Mr Maddocks also said Bishop's history, littered with convictions for drug abuse and serious offences, were indicators he presented a risk of violence.

However, Mr Maddocks added: "There is nothing to indicate injury to a child in his previous history."

His report found that "significant changes" to strengthen the safeguards for children in Caerphilly county borough had been made in the four years since Lois' death by all the agencies involved, but it still made eight recommendations.

This included mandatory training for staff working with drug abusing parents to help them recognise any disguised harm.

Other recommendations focused on improving risk assessment procedures and referral processes.

'High quality training'

Chair of the CSCB David Hopkins said Lois' death highlighted the challenges faced by professionals in dealing with child protection cases.

But, he added, even if enquiries had been more purposeful and structured, the outcome in Lois' case may not have been different.

He said that disciplinary action had not been taken against staff responsible for monitoring Lois' welfare.

"This case was complicated by the determined efforts of Sarah and Daniel Bishop to deceive professionals and cover up any signs of abuse or injuries to her," said the CSCB in a statement.

Lindsay Whittle, leader of Caerphilly council, said: "This has been a difficult and devastating case to learn about.

"As councillors, we want the residents in the communities of Caerphilly county borough to know we share their concerns and we will immediately act upon any information we receive to ensure this never happens again."

He added the social services department had been reshaped since 2005 as a result of the case.


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