UK Police Left Murdered Baby P In Danger
2 April 2010
Baby P files show police left him in danger, lawyers say
By Randeep Ramesh and Patrick Butler
Met officers knew one of his eventual killers, the lodger Jason Owens, was living with Peter's mother, according to email revealed in court challenge by sacked Haringey child protection head Sharon Shoesmith
Baby P, who was named as Peter Connelly
after his killers were convicted.
Photograph: Press Association
Police in the Baby P case knew one of his eventual killers was living in the family home but they failed to tell Haringey social workers, according to lawyers for the council's sacked head of child protection.
Key court documents were released this week in Sharon Shoesmith's court action over her sacking by Haringey. Her lawyers allege references to police handling of baby Peter Connelly's case before his death were edited out of successive drafts of an Ofsted inspection report.
The report was commissioned by the children's secretary, Ed Balls, in November 2008 and he used it to justify her removal. In court papers, Shoesmith's lawyers refer to an email from a senior Ofsted official, Anna Lis, to the chief inspector, Christine Gilbert saying that the police's unpublished internal review showed officers "were aware of the fact that the lodger … [was] living in the house prior to the death of Peter Connelly but that it was not clear what action was taken".
Haringey social workers say they were convinced no adults but the child's mother were in the house. Police flatly deny that officers knew Owen was living in the house.
The full email has been "withdrawn" from the court papers that were released. It is not clear why, although the judge said any material that might identify Peter's siblings would not be made available.
It is unclear whether Gilbert replied to the email. Two weeks earlier the lodger, later named as Jason Owen, had been convicted along with Peter's mother, Tracey Connelly, and her boyfriend, Stephen Barker, of causing or allowing Peter's death.
Peter, a 17-month-old on Haringey's child protection register, died in August 2007 with appalling injuries including a broken back. Police had visited Connelly at her home the day before Peter's death to tell her all charges had been dropped for lack of evidence.
The new allegations will raise a question over whether safeguarding services would have made greater efforts to remove Peter had they been made aware of the presence of Owen, a crack cocaine addict and convicted arsonist who was known to police after being accused of raping a girl aged 11. Missing too, say Shoesmith's lawyers, is a critique of the police. The first draft of the report, known as a joint area review (JAR), contained three recommendations for police. None appeared in the final version.
Lis, Ofsted's deputy director for children, raised concerns during later drafts about the role of the police. In an email she asked: "I assume more [recommendations] will follow to address the weaknesses in health and police services?" Another Ofsted official, Anne Orton, was concerned about "the disorganised state of police ... files".
Shoesmith's lawyers point out that by the time the report was published there were no recommendations for the police and "several critical paragraphs for the police had disappeared".
Separate documents seen by the Guardian relating to the original full serious case review show police officers made a series of mistakes that meant they missed a chance to charge Baby P's mother with assaulting him several weeks before his death.
The toddler was first taken to the Whittington hospital with extensive bruising in December 2006. Doctors thought the injuries were suspicious and he was put on Haringey council's child protection register.
But police did not photograph his bruises for a week and failed to photograph his home, a potential crime scene. Officers did not visit the home with the social worker and kept no detailed notes of conversations with the mother.
The Crown Prosecution Service asked police to get an independent medical review of the toddler's injuries and a specialist was identified to carry it out. But nothing happened, because the detective in charge was suddenly transferred to another section in the Metropolitan police without formally handing the case over to another officer. This was a clear breach of standard operating procedures.
With no officer allocated to the case for two months, the review says, the "investigation appears to have drifted".
"The delay in completing the 2006 investigation meant that the CPS, after six months, lost the option to charge an identified perpetrator with common assault ... This might have made it more likely that all the subsequent incidents were reported to the police and that arguably the child might have been more effectively safeguarded."
After Shoesmith's removal, Balls appointed Graham Badman, a former director of social services in Kent County Council, to write a second serious case review summary. This again concentrated on the failings of social workers and made no individual recommendations to the police.
A police statement said the force had not faced "any specific criticisms" but accepted that during the investigation "an officer dealing with this work subsequently left the command and the work was reallocated. We recognise this piece of work should have been progressed sooner and we have reviewed our actions."
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