Senior officer says child may still be alive if social services shared information
A three-year-old child who was murdered by his mother’s partner may have been alive today if information held by social services had been shared with the police, a senior officer has told a misconduct hearing.
Detective Chief Superintendent Nick Wallen (pictured) criticised information-sharing by Kirklees Council following the death of Riley Siswick at his home in Huddersfield in February 2016, and said that an incident which happened before the boy died should have been reported to the police.
Mr Wallen made the comments as he gave evidence at a hearing into the conduct of three West Yorkshire Police officers – Detective Chief Inspector Mark Swift, Detective Inspector George Bardell and Pc Oliver Scoones – who were involved in the first investigation into Riley’s death, which did not result in a prosecution.
He described how he led a later investigation which ended with the conviction of Kyle Campbell for murdering Riley, and the boy’s mother, Kayleigh Siswick, for causing or allowing the death of her child.
Mr Wallen said that during his later investigation into Riley’s death, he uncovered information held by Kirklees social services about Riley’s family which made him “distinctly uneasy” about the proceedings against the three officers.
He agreed with Sam Green QC, representing Mr Bardell, that “serious and lamentable” failings in information sharing by the local authority “badly let the original investigation team down”.
Mr Wallen referred to an incident which happened before Riley’s death, which cannot be reported for legal reasons.
He said this was known to social services who did not report it to the police.
The senior officer told the hearing that if this information has been given to the police at the time, it would probably have seen Campbell and Siswick arrested earlier and other action taken.
Mr Green read a line from Mr Wallen’s statement which said it “may have been that Riley would have been here today” if that action had been taken.
The senior officer said: “I stand by that.”
When Mr Green asked him directly whether this meant Riley could have been alive today, Mr Wallen nodded before the panel chairman Tom Mitchell decided the question was not appropriate.
He told the panel: “It looks like these officers failed and let everybody down and when (then) Detective Superintendent Wallen and his team came into the case, we were so much better, we turned it round and ultimately achieved a successful outcome.
“But all that happened was that I took over an investigation with some very robust lines of inquiry ongoing and was afforded the information from the local authority that Mark Swift and his team were not.
“I have absolutely no doubt, because I know these officers personally, had they been afforded what we had been afforded, the same outcome would have been reached.”
Mr Wallen told the hearing that had the officers been given this information on the day the investigation started, he has no doubt the case would have been handed over to the force’s Homicide and Major Enquiry Team as a homicide inquiry.
He described Mr Swift as an “exceptional SIO (senior investigating officer) and had been an “exceptional detective” who inspired those who worked for him.
Outlining the case against the three officers, earlier on Monday, Ian Skelt said: “From the outset, there was too much of a closed attitude to investigating this case. Officers appeared to work on the basis that this was something that had an innocent explanation.
“There was an absence of a sufficient and properly rigorous investigation.”
Mr Skelt said that the local authority did provide some information to the officers which should have been a “red flag”.
The hearing heard how a post-mortem examination found Riley died after his bowel was severed, but it took three months to rule out a medical explanation.
Mr Skelt told that hearing that even when a pathologist expressed a clear opinion that Riley’s death was a result of trauma, “the approach of the officers did not really materially change”.
Mr Skelt said there was no suggestion that any of the officers had misrepresented the case out of a lack of integrity or honesty.
Following a trial at Leeds Crown Court earlier this year, Campbell was jailed for life with a minimum of 20 years, while Siswick was given a seven-year sentence after it was heard her son had been left to suffer for two days after suffering his injury.
The three officers face allegations that they failed to conduct a thorough investigation and prepared a report to a coroner that was “incomplete or misleading”.
Mr Bardell and Mr Swift are accused of failing to supervise an investigation appropriately, with Pc Scoones alleged to have attempted to influence a witness over the evidence they provided.
The misconduct hearing continues on Wednesday.
Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Philip Toscano / PA Wire.