14 December 2021

Agencies seek to understand why chances ‘to protect Star Hobson were missed’

14 December 2021

Agencies which had contact with murdered toddler Star Hobson during her short life have said: “We need to fully understand why opportunities to better protect Star were missed.”

Bradford’s council leader said on Tuesday that Star was “let down” as the safeguarding partnership of police, primary health providers and social services said it “deeply regrets” that “not all the warning signs” were spotted.

Keighley and Ilkley MP Robbie Moore said Bradford Council leaders should “hang their heads in shame” and resign.

The trial of Savannah Brockhill and Frankie Smith heard how social services were contacted on five separate occasions by concerned relatives and friends, and police also visited the family.

Savannah Brockhill was found guilty at Bradford Crown Court of murdering 16-month-old Star Hobson (West Yorkshire Police/PA) (PA Media)

A review commissioned by the Bradford Partnership into agencies’ contacts with Star is due to be published in January.

The Department for Education said the review will inform the ongoing national investigation into the murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and stressed that it would “not hesitate” to remove children’s services control from Bradford Council “if necessary”.

The Bradford Partnership said in a statement: “We offered support and assistance to Star’s family for what we believed their needs to be, at that given time, but we all deeply regret that not all the warning signs were seen that could have led to firmer statutory enforcement action.”

The statement said: “Anyone who has followed the trial will want to know what more could have been done to help protect Star. As agencies who have a joint responsibility to protect children, this has been at the forefront of our minds.”

The partnership said: “We are very aware as partners that there is much that we need to learn from this case.

“We have already put in place actions that will improve our practice so that we learn those lessons. But we need to fully understand why opportunities to better protect Star were missed.”

Leader of Bradford Council Susan Hinchcliffe said: “Star was let down and we all want to know if anything could have been done differently.”

Ms Hinchliffe said: “Social workers in our district support a great many children and young people and carry out work in circumstances that are often very challenging.

Star Hobson suffered months of abuse, a court heard (West Yorkshire Police/PA) (PA Media)

“It is essential therefore that lessons are learned from Star’s terrible death so that we can better protect our children.”

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “Star’s death is deeply disturbing.

“It is a reminder of why we have taken action to strengthen how safeguarding agencies work together locally to protect children at risk of abuse or neglect – and why we will never hesitate to take robust steps to prevent tragic cases like this happening.

“There are clear systems in place to report serious incidents, which in Star’s case led to a Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review

“This is due to conclude in January and will mean its learnings can feed into the national review of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes’ death commissioned this week by the Secretary of State.”

The statement went on: “In the months since Star’s death we have also appointed a commissioner to assess Bradford’s capability and capacity to improve. The Secretary of State met with him urgently on Monday December 13 to discuss the progress of his work and whether the council should retain control of their children’s services, ahead of his full report in January.

“On seeing that we will not hesitate to remove service control if that is what’s necessary to drive rapid improvements.”

Detective Chief Superintendent Mark Swift, of West Yorkshire Police, was asked outside Bradford Crown Court whether enough was done to protect Star but he said he could not comment ahead of the review, which is a “work in progress”.

He said: “Whatever the outcomes of that review, if those two individuals that have been convicted today of those offences hadn’t done what they had done, then Star Hobson would still be alive.”

Mr Swift confirmed that West Yorkshire Police had “some contact with the family” and he has referred that contact to the force’s professional standards department who, in turn, notified the Independent Office for Police Conduct.

Conservative MP Mr Moore said: “Whilst the ultimate responsibility lies with Star’s evil killer, and the serious and vile neglect from her mother, questions must now be asked as to why action was not taken.

“Bradford Council bosses should hang their heads in shame. Children’s services are not fit for purpose, and I have no confidence it ever will be under Bradford Council’s current leadership.

“Therefore I’m afraid it is my view the leader of the council Susan Hinchcliffe, and the chief executive Kersten England must now resign.

“Children’s services has been in a dire state for years and there now must be serious action taken to protect children, and in my view, this cannot be done under the current leadership.”

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