Baby Peter should have been safe in care 11 days before death

The “horrifying” death of Baby P should have been prevented by the professionals paid to save children from abuse, an inquiry found today.

A new report into failings by social services, lawyers, doctors and the police found he should have been taken into care 11 days before his death.

Seventeen-month-old Baby Peter died on 3 August 2007 after suffering months of abuse and neglect at the hands of his mother, her boyfriend and their lodger.

He suffered more than 50 injuries despite being on Haringey’s child protection register and being seen 60 times by social workers, doctors and police.

The serious case review report was published as Peter’s 27-year-old mother, her boyfriend, 32, and their lodger, Jason Owen, 37, of Bromley, Kent, were being sentenced at the Old Bailey today.

They face up to 14 years in jail for causing or allowing Peter’s death.

But the focus returned again to the failure of Haringey’s social workers and medical staff to act to protect Baby Peter despite clear evidence that his injuries had been deliberately caused.

Graham Badman, independent chair of Haringey’s Local Safeguarding Children Board, which conducted the review, said Peter should have been taken into care sooner. “Staff adopted a threshold of concern for taking children into care that was too high and had expectations of what they themselves could achieve that were too low,” he said.

“It is clear that every member of staff in every agency involved with Baby Peter was appropriately qualified, well motivated and wanted to do their best to safeguard him. But his horrifying death could and should have been prevented.”

The report said that if doctors, lawyers, police officers and social workers had taken “a more urgent, thorough and challenging approach” the boy’s abuse “would have been stopped in its tracks”.

“Baby Peter deserved better from the services that were supposed to protect him. It’s a dreadful tragedy that he did not receive better protection,” Mr Badman said.

The report, a summary of which has been released today, identified a string of failings from the 11 separate agencies and institutions involved in Peter’s case.

Staff failed to challenge the excuses Peter’s mother offered for his injuries. She claimed that he “bruised easily”, fell down the stairs, and was pushed against a marble fireplace by another child.

In fact he was being routinely beaten up — one file suggested bruises were caused by “pummelling” — by adults who were allowed to continue living in the same home.

Social workers failed to establish the identity of Peter’s mother’s boyfriend and to recognise that his appearance in their lives posed a major threat to the child’s safety.

They also failed to act when a social worker saw Peter’s mother “shouting and slapping the cheek of one of Peter’s siblings” outside school.

“This was not smacking or considered parental discipline but a shocking loss of control directed to the most vulnerable part of a child’s body,” the report said.

“It was an assault and the police should have been informed.”

It took seven weeks to arrange a crucial meeting to consider whether Peter should be taken into care. Eventually, lawyers wrongly decided against care proceedings, the report said.

The crucial legal meeting did not take place until 25 July, 11 days before Peter’s body was found in his blood-spattered cot.

“The decision was made that the case did not at present meet the threshold for care proceedings but that the position should be reviewed in light of further reports.”

The serious case review condemned the delays in reaching this decision.

“To make a wrong decision is regrettable but to lack urgency in facing up to making it is unacceptable,” it said.

The report also found social workers should have been more concerned to protect Peter’s siblings.

“Every year many children die non-accidentally in our country, some of them in similar circumstances to those of Baby Peter,” it said.

“Nothing less than injuries that were non-accidental beyond all reasonable doubt would have caused him to be moved to a place of safety.

“When such injuries did come they were catastrophic, and he died of them.”

Baby P’s mother refused to cooperate with an official inquiry into the death of her son, a report revealed today. The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was invited to take part in a new serious case review into what went wrong with Haringey’s social services system, but she declined.