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Social Services in Cambridgeshire have ‘sincerely apologised’ for missing the warning signs in the run-up to the death of 12-week old Teddie Mitchell.
The three month old died in hospital in November 2019 after 10 days on a life support machine following a number of assaults at the hands of his mother’s partner in their home in Pattison Court, St Neots.
The injuries inflicted by Kane Mitchell were likened to those suffered by Baby P and included 17 broken ribs, fractures to his skull and collarbone, a bleed on the brain, spinal and eye damage.
A four-week trial at Cambridge Crown Court heard Teddie’s injuries were consistent with being ‘gripped hard’, ‘shaken vigorously’, and ‘having his head struck against a hard surface’.
The three month old died in hospital in November 2019 after 10 days on a life support machine
Mitchell, 32, of St Neots, Cambridgeshire, was jailed for a minimum of 18 years. Teddie’s mother, Lucci Smith, was convicted of child cruelty.
A subsequent review into Teddie’s death published on Tuesday (April 12) found a number of failings in the way agencies interacted with the family, not least because of Mitchell’s ‘significant history of a pattern of abusive behaviour towards intimate partners and ex-partners and criminal convictions resulting from his controlling, coercive and violent behaviour’.
The report, published by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Safeguarding Children Partnership, found ‘early help’ support had been recommended after Teddie was born but that it was not provided after a worker who tried to contact the family was unable to reach them to offer the service.
It also found that police ‘added a marker to the address to identify a medium risk of domestic abuse to mother a children’ three weeks before Teddie, who was given the pseydonym Stephen in the review, was born.
In one evening, four incidents of domestic violence were reported at the address, with neighbours saying the ‘atmosphere’ in the family home had changed since Mitchell had arrived.
Smith was said to have played down the abuse, telling police her neighbours were being malicious.
The review concluded the response to neighbours’ concerns about the children ‘was not sufficiently robust’.
Kane Mitchell, 32, of St Neots, Cambridgeshire, was jailed for a minimum of 18 years. Teddie’s mother, Lucci Smith, was convicted of child cruelty
The review also highlighted the issue that Mitchell had been presented to agencies and practitioners as being Teddie’s biological father, which he was not.
Teddie’s biological father’s name was provided by Smith at her booking appointment, but had been altered on the hand-held maternity notes.
Upon Teddie’s birth, he was given Mitchell’s surname and ‘an embedded belief that he was the biological father prevailed’.
The report said the fact that Mitchell’s name was not originally put down in documentation should have given rise to the professional curiosity of those involved ‘about the role and status of men in the household’, as a change of partner during pregnancy is deemed to be a ‘pivotal event’.
The community midwife did not meet Teddie’s biological father in person at any appointments. She then met Mitchell, but saw no reason to suspect he was not Smith’s original partner.
It was also noted in the report that Teddie’s biological father was ‘seemingly not part of his life’, nor ‘was he able to see him prior to his death’.
The report adds: ‘A clearer understanding of men in the family and household by all involved agencies may not only have better protected Teddie, but also offered an opportunity to explore the potential role of his father in the children’s care, welfare and protection’.
There was also a chance to explore paternity and the potential risks to the family when Mitchell told his mental health support work ‘he was going to be a dad soon’ around the same time he told his responsible officer about his new relationship, despite saying there were no children involved.
A four-week trial at Cambridge Crown Court heard that Teddie injuries were consistent with being ‘gripped hard’, ‘shaken vigorously’, and ‘having his head struck against a hard surface’
A spokesman for the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Safeguarding Children Partnership said: ‘Recommendations based on the review findings have been made for all agencies and work has already been undertaken across the partnership to address the recommendations.’
A spokesperson for Cambridgeshire County Council’s Social Services said changes had already been made following Teddie’s death.
‘The death of ‘Baby Stephen’ is tragic and distressing,’ a statement read. ‘Our sympathies remain with the family of Stephen and the wider community.
‘While we offered support and assistance to ‘Stephen’s’ family for what we believed their needs to be at the time, we regret that not all the warning signs were seen that might have led to earlier statutory involvement.
‘For this, we sincerely apologise. Cambridgeshire County Council has not waited for the review’s findings to take action to improve practice.
‘We have developed and implemented a revision of our systems and processes, monitoring all referrals to ensure decisions are made based on the level of risk. We have enhanced our practice and ways of working with our partners in police, education and health to ensure known risks are well documented and shared promptly.
‘In addition, our social workers have been given extensive training in the importance of gathering information about family members, including understanding those that extend beyond the biological family members and the relevance of their role to children in that context.
‘The Child Safeguarding Practice Review is in-depth and details how all agencies, including the council, managed the case of Baby Stephen.
‘This review identifies ways the services provided by all agencies involved could have been swifter and improved. However, it also acknowledges that many of our practices have already been changed, and the recommendations have already been implemented.
‘Our social workers support many children, young people and their families, often in challenging circumstances. The lessons learned from Stephen’s tragic death and the recommendations from the review will be used to help us better protect our children.’
Source: Daily Mail