Report: Southampton Safeguarding Children Partnership – Lucy McHugh Learning Review
On the recommendation of the Southampton Serious Case Review Group, a decision was taken by the Independent Chair of the Southampton Local Safeguarding Children Board in July 2018 to commission a Serious Case Review into the death of a child, Lucy McHugh (hereafter referred to as Clare). The recommendation was based on the decision that the circumstances of Clare’s death met the criteria for a Serious Case Review under Chapter 4 Section 17 of Working Together to Safeguard Children (2015).
Clare was 13 years old when she died as a result of multiple stab wounds. A man was convicted of her murder and is serving a life sentence. Prior to Clare’s death, the perpetrator had been staying with the family intermittently for almost twelve months.
Clare lived with her mother, her mother’s partner, and her three siblings, two of whom were half siblings. The family had been known to statutory agencies because of past incidents of domestic abuse. Throughout her short life, Clare and her siblings witnessed frequent arguments and incidents of domestic abuse between her parents and subsequently between her mother and her partners.
Following a private court hearing, mother was given care and control of the children, with their father allowed regular contact. The ruling was against the recommendation of Children’s Social Care and after the hearing their father had little contact with the children. Concerns about the care and emotional wellbeing of Clare and her siblings began to emerge when they started school, resulting in the children being made subject to Child Protection Plans. Clare and one of her siblings were referred to Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). The Local Authority considered removing the children from mother’s care, however the proceedings were delayed and did not progress further than the Public Law Outline (PLO) stage.
Concerns were raised with Children’s Social Care by teachers at both secondary schools, which Clare attended, that she had an older boyfriend whom it was believed could be sexually exploiting her. The referrals were investigated, however, because of assurances given by Clare’s mother that there was no foundation to these concerns, no action was considered necessary. Information subsequently emerged that Clare had been sexually abused by the perpetrator since the age of 12, when he began to stay with her family.
Picture (c) Hampshire Constabulary.