Simone death could happen again, says child board boss

The man in charge of children’s care in Cornwall says he cannot rule out further deaths of young people in the county.

Speaking following the inquest on 15-year-old Simone Grice, who plunged to her death from a road bridge, Dave Ellis warned her death may not be the last.

Cast adrift by the care services, the troubled teenager threw herself off the A30 Tolskithy viaduct, dying instantly from chest injuries just 300 yards from her home in Illogan, near Redruth.

Despite a shake-up of social services ordered by a serious case review costing £100,000, Mr Ellis, independent chairman of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Safeguarding Children Board, said: “I wouldn’t say this will never happen again.

“It was said there would never be a repeat of the Victoria Climbié case, the eight-year-old girl who was tortured and murdered by her guardians, but the sad reality is that there has been.

“There has been a really rigorous open review of the failings and that is very painful when professionals see something that wasn’t done,” he continued.

“There is a real sense of sadness and tragedy – you just think there’s another life gone – it is a tragic situation.”

Simone took her life in July, 2009, after a relationship with an older man she met in an online chat room ended.

As Cornwall coroner Dr Emma Carlyon recorded a verdict of suicide on Friday, the executive summary of the serious case review was released.

It revealed a catalogue of shortcomings which saw social workers and six other agencies fail to spot or act on the crucial danger signs that Simone was at risk.

Mr Ellis said the council had “moved on massively” since 2009, setting up a single referral unit which allowed all agencies to share information where there were concerns over the safeguarding of children.

Cornwall Council has now publicly apologised for failing to prevent Simone’s death.

In a statement to the Western Morning News, it said: “The council was one of a number of agencies which worked with Simone and her family up to her tragic death in 2009.

“All of the agencies participated fully within the serious case review and were open and honest about areas of shortcomings in their work with Simone and her family.

“We have already apologised for these shortcomings and, for our part, would like to publically re-iterate this apology both to her family and to the wider community.”

The inquest in Camborne last week also heard that because of bullying at school Simone was withdrawn and educated at home by Not School, a Government-backed organisation that provides education at home.

But there was a failure “to properly assess, place and protect” the teenager and she was allowed full access to the internet.

George Eustice, MP for Camborne, Redruth and Hayle, has called for a review of home schooling.