Tragic Bedford tot let down by series of blunders

Police want hotels, taxi drivers and bars and pubs to watch for the signs of child sexual exploitation.
Police want hotels, taxi drivers and bars and pubs to watch for the signs of child sexual exploitation.

A seven-week-old baby girl who was crushed under the wheels of a car while her parents argued, had slipped through the scrutiny of Bedford’s child protection experts, the T&C can reveal.

An explosive report by the borough’s Safeguarding Children Board reveals a series of blunders about the welfare of the tragic tot, who is known as Sama.

Even before she was born, Sama was placed on the Child Protection register as an infant at “significant risk” of harm and abuse.

Yet a lack of fact-sharing from the professionals, coupled with delays caused by overworked social workers, meant the full grim details of her Bedford parents’ past never came to light.

The recently-published Serious Case Review report reveals how the authorities knew the young mum had been “groomed” by Sama’s drug-dealing dad since she was 14.

Eight years older than the mum and reported to have a wife living in Pakistan, the dad had a history of domestic violence – with 12 different incidents reported against him.

Information had also been received that he was involved in the sexual exploitation of two young children, one in the care of Bedford Borough Council.

But all these details somehow failed to be added to the file that the borough’s Children’s Social Services department already held on the dysfunctional family.

Meanwhile social workers also failed to pick up that the mum, who was 20 when the baby was born, was convicted by the RSPCA just 10 days before Sama’s death for causing unnecessary suffering to an animal.

They not only let her keep the baby, but allowed the dad access and to stay three nights a week at her Bedford flat.

In October 2015 the parents had a row and mum rushed out, carrying Sama in a baby seat, in a bid to stop the father driving off.

But the tot was not strapped in, and somehow during the drama she toppled out of the seat and fell under the wheels of the car. She died from severe head injuries in what the coroner later described as a “tragic accident”.

The parents did not attend the inquest because they were both in prison – convicted of possessing cocaine with intent to supply. 
Tragic baby Sama died just three weeks after child protection social workers and other professionals sat round a table to painstakingly discuss how they could keep her safe.

They had already decided the seven-week-old tot was at “significant risk” of physical and emotional harm, domestic violence and neglect.

But instead of taking her into care, they decided they had “no concerns” about her basic baby needs being met.

And they ruled she should stay with her 20-year-old mum while a series of assessments was carried out.

These included parenting assessments, drug detection tests and domestic abuse programmes for Sama’s dad, a 28-year-old criminal who had groomed the mum since she was a young teenager in local authority care herself.

Now, 18 months after Sama was crushed to death under the wheels of her dad’s car, a Serious Case Review report has raised a series of probing questions about the accident that should never have been allowed to happen.

Issued by the Bedford Borough Children’s Safeguarding Board, it calls for improvements within the child protection system.

One of the main problems was the inter-professional sharing of information about the parents’ problem-plagued backgrounds – including the father’s history of domestic violence and sexual behaviour.

There was “insufficient information” presented about this at child protection conferences, including the crucial review meeting shortly before Sama’s death.

Beds Police provided full details via email – but the council’s IT system had no means of adding this information to files of the social workers assessing Sama’s future.

“If the assessment had been fully informed by an understanding of the risk factor associated with domestic abuse, it is likely a more accurate assessment of the risk of harm to Sama would have been made,” the report states.

It describes how the child protection team gave the parents what they requested: a “chance to demonstrate to professionals that they could care for their baby”.

Rather than focus fully on the father’s violent past, social workers concentrated on the neglect aspect of the case.

The report states: “The child Protection Plan did not address the issue of contact (with the dad) and no professional raised the issue. The thinking at the time was that further assessments were required to inform a decision about whether the baby should live with mother.”

One of the criteria was that the father should attend anger management classes.

“It is a dangerous misconception that abusers should attend anger management classes,” states the report.

“This is because domestic abuse is not about an abuser’s inability to contain their anger but rather their deliberate use of anger to control their victim,” it adds.

The report reveals Sama’s father was the subject of 12 reports of domestic violence.

Described as “abusive and controlling”, he was also under the spotlight for alleged drug dealing and breeding dogs for fighting.