Star Hobson was failed social services following ‘pretty damning’ case review, great-grandfather
The great-grandfather of murdered toddler Star Hobson has said she and her mother Frankie Smith were failed by social services.
Smith, 20, was jailed last year for her role in the death of her 16-month-old daughter, who was killed by Smith’s former partner Savannah Brockhill.
On Thursday a review into Star’s death found that children’s social care services in Bradford had been “in turmoil” at the time, with a high turnover of social workers and a high volume of work affecting quality and contributing to assessments that were “too superficial” and did not address repeated concerns from family members.
Star’s great-grandfather, David Fawcett (pictured), 62, spoke of his anger at learning social workers’ investigation into Star’s case was closed a week before she died.
“Reading between the lines, they didn’t have the manpower, which is why they had to close the case – it’s pretty damning,” he said.
“The proposals they’ve put forward are positive because it’s communication – that’s where Star was failed, a lack of communication between different authorities.
“How it was run before was pretty shambolic but I am optimistic something can be done and lessons will be learned.”
Mr Fawcett said he would visit Smith in prison and talk her through the report’s contents as she would be “too upset”.
“She’s only got me to rely on at the moment,” he said.
“For a lot of the family it’s still too raw, a lot of them can’t forgive Frankie, they think she could have done more to save Star and they don’t want to speak to her at this moment.
“I spoke to Frankie on Friday and, with it being Star’s birthday, she was pretty upset. It’s probably the worst I’ve heard her.
“We were always close, me and Frankie, she was like my daughter, it’s pretty heartbreaking.
“She was failed herself, really, she was abused.
“What happened to Star, that’s what we thought was going to happen to Frankie.”
The Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel said an early opportunity to help Smith, who was 17 when she became pregnant, was missed as no antenatal health visit took place, and that she was not offered the support of the teenage pregnancy midwife as she was over 16.
It also said that domestic abuse between Brockhill and Smith, who met when Star was five months old, was not assessed, with Smith “not given sufficient space to disclose what was happening to her”.
Their trial heard that social services were contacted five times by concerned relatives and friends, with police also visiting the family.
Each time, the safeguarding panel said, the couple convinced social workers that bruising on Star was accidental or the complaints were made maliciously by friends and family who did not like their relationship.
Mr Fawcett said he felt vindicated as the report acknowledged that “Star’s wider family members were not listened to”.
“Savannah Brockhill said it was malicious gossip and they believed her over us,” Mr Fawcett said.
His partner Anita Smith, 70, called social workers in May 2020 after family members told her Brockhill was “slam-choking” Star – lifting her by the throat and throwing her on a bed.
He said: “When we made the referral and they went to the house, they should have come to us first to understand why we’d done it.
“If we’d have been allowed to go to the house that day, I think Star would have been with us today.”
Mr Fawcett said Smith was a “young mum and struggling to cope herself”.
“When she stayed with us we didn’t have a problem with her. She got pregnant and she just struggled.
“I don’t know how it’s come to this – we were such a close-knit family.
“We always all stuck together, and then you just get someone coming into your lives like Savannah Brockhill and just causing absolute mayhem.”
Star died after she was taken to hospital in September 2020, having suffered “utterly catastrophic” and “unsurvivable” injuries at Brockhill’s hands.
Brockhill, a bouncer and security guard, was found guilty of murder, while Smith was found guilty of causing or allowing Star’s death and handed an eight-year prison sentence, later increased to 12 years.
Bradford Council later had children’s social services removed from its control and handed to an arms-length trust.
Janice Hawkes, independent chairwoman of the Bradford Partnership, said: “I want to say first and foremost that Star’s death in such awful circumstances should not have happened and that we are truly sorry that it did.
“We know agencies let Star down and we must put things right.
“The publication of this thorough and detailed independent review outlines very clearly the opportunities that we missed locally to better protect Star.
“We have already put in place steps to tackle this but we recognise that there is still work to do and as a partnership we are entirely committed to improving the safety of children across Bradford.”
Kersten England, chief executive of Bradford Council, said: “The murder of Star Hobson was horrific and distressing and I am deeply sorry that opportunities to protect her from such cruel and despicable abuse were missed.
“Our thoughts are, and always will be, with those who loved her.
“The expert report is tough to read but it is absolutely essential that we understand in detail what went wrong.
“I accept its findings and assure everyone that firm action has been and will continue to be taken to strengthen our child protection processes and help prevent a tragic case like this from happening again.”
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