Social workers from the local authority with the worst reputation for child protection failures in the country allowed a mother of two boys to develop a relationship with a paedophile.
Staff from Haringey Council put their sympathy for the woman before the needs of the children, whose lives have been seriously damaged, High Court judge Mr Justice Hayden said.
The case – said by the judge to be the worst failure by social workers he had ever come across – carries echoes of the scandal over the death of Baby P in 2007.
In that case, Haringey social workers allowed 17-month-old Peter Connelly to live with his neglectful mother, who was later convicted and jailed over his death from 50 injuries.
The same north London borough failed to save Victoria Climbie, murdered in 2000 by her aunt and a boyfriend who subjected the eight-year-old to extreme violence.
Mr Justice Hayden spoke of a ‘litany of failure’ at Haringey Council in north London, which was criticised after the deaths of Victoria Climbie (pictured) in 2000 and Peter Connelly in 2007
Mr Justice Hayden allowed Haringey to be named yesterday and lifted an earlier ruling preventing the council from being identified.
The judge said: ‘This case cannot be seen as an isolated example of strikingly poor practice, but is reflective of a much broader and deeper malaise within Haringey’s children with disabilities team.’
He said the authority had been responsible for ‘a preoccupation with and empathy for the mother which eclipsed the needs of the children, a failure to evaluate risk and a planning vacuum.’
The judge cited the borough’s ‘lamentable history’ and recorded a series of highly critical assessments by the Ofsted inspectorate in recent years.
He declined to identify the social workers involved in the case but instead said the council’s Director of Children’s Services, Ann Graham, should be named.
The scandal began three years ago after the mother campaigned to have the family home refitted so her older son, a quadriplegic cerebral palsy sufferer, could live there.
The judge said he had first heard details of the case when the ‘bureaucratic sclerosis’ of Haringey meant the adaptations, which ultimately cost £340,000, had not been been made.
Haringey Council was accused of failing to safeguard Peter Connelly, known as Baby P, who was found dead in his cot at 17-months-old in 2007
Mr Justice Hayden, who is based in the Family Division of the High Court (pictured) in London, allowed Haringey to be named yesterday and lifted an earlier ruling preventing the council from being identified
In early 2018 the boys’ mother and father broke up.
After the split, social workers stopped speaking to the father, and took the side of the mother.
This continued after the mother began a relationship with a paedophile who had been released from prison for abusing his daughter. During 2018 and 2019, the sex offender visited the mother’s home, was seen with her in a McDonald’s, and the woman had his name tattooed on her wedding ring finger.
The man visited the hospital where the disabled boy was being treated and was seen by the younger boy on at least one occasion. Mr Justice Hayden said: ‘Cutting the father out to the extent they did gives the appearance of petulance.
‘It creates the impression that the welfare of the staff is regarded as having greater value than the welfare of the child.’
The sympathy of social workers for the mother was such that they declined to take the children into care even after an independent children’s guardian had recommended they should do so.
The judge declined to identify the social workers involved in the case but instead said the council’s Director of Children’s Services, Ann Graham, pictured, should be named
Instead they accepted the mother’s claim that she had only seen the paedophile to finish their relationship and ‘was overwhelmed with her caring responsibilities and needed emotional support.’
The judge said of the failure of social workers to stop the mother’s relationship with the paedophile while she had care of her sons: ‘There is simply no defence to it, nor did the service manager or the social worker offer anything that came close to an understanding or explanation of how things came to go so badly wrong.’ Calling the failures ‘profoundly troubling’, he added that the refusal to tell the father about the involvement of the paedophile in his sons’ lives ‘defies comprehension’.
The judge said it was both a breach of social work principles and ‘active discrimination’ against the father.
The mother had repeatedly lied to social workers and in court about her relationship with the paedophile.
The judge said it was ‘far more likely that CC [the paedophile] visited the home more regularly.’
The younger boy will now live with his father, and the older disabled brother will live in a care home and visit them whenever he can, Mr Justice Hayden ruled.
He said the younger son could not live with his mother because ‘the scale and reach of the mother’s dishonesty and her striking capacity to inveigle gullible professionals into her own distorted belief structure renders this unlikely.’
The mother can in future only see her sons ‘under the father’s careful scrutiny’.
The judge said of the disabled boy: ‘He has been deprived of the home life that he so manifestly wanted.’
Cllr Zena Brabazon, Cabinet Member for Children and Families, said: ‘The most important thing for me to note is that the children remain safe, and their wellbeing is our primary focus.
‘The assessment and management of the risks to the children was completely unacceptable and fell far below the council’s usual social work practice. We recognise wholeheartedly that this judgment highlights areas where we can and must improve – many steps have already been taken and significant progress has been made.
‘We firmly believe that this judgment is not a reflection of our wider practice in children’s social care. Since the Ofsted inspection of 2018 we have made significant changes, and Haringey has been commended by Ofsted and its partners for its work strengthening and improving its children’s services.
‘We have been carrying out our own review into what can be done better, and this will continue, along with a new, independent assessment. We have brought in additional resource and training, and are accessing expertise from some of the best services in the country. We have made real progress, but where there are still improvements to be made, we will continue to make them.
‘It is our duty to protect our young people. We did not do well enough in this case, and that is being rectified now, and going forward.’
Failings that led to torture, abuse and child murder
Haringey Council was lambasted for shocking failures by its social workers and their managers over the deaths of Victoria Climbie and Baby P.
Eight-year-old Victoria was starved, tortured and eventually murdered by her great-aunt Marie Therese Kouao and the woman’s boyfriend Carl Manning, despite the north London council having been alerted seven months earlier.
Kouao and Manning were both jailed for her murder after the jury heard horrific evidence about the girl’s abuse, including the 128 separate injuries and scars found on her body in February 2000.
But prosecutors made clear that Victoria was also failed by child protection authorities – described in court as ‘blindingly incompetent’.
Haringey Council, pictured, was lambasted for shocking failures by its social workers and their managers over the deaths of Victoria Climbie and Baby P
In 2007 toddler Peter Connelly – known as Baby P – was killed following months of abuse while he was on Haringey’s ‘at risk’ register. Peter was identified as being at risk of neglect and had been seen on around 60 separate occasions by social workers, health visitors and others who failed to save him.
In the eight months while he was on Haringey’s child protection register he suffered more than 50 injuries including seven broken ribs and a fractured spine, and was finally found dead in his blood-spattered cot. His mother Tracey Connelly helped to disguise his injuries by smearing his face with chocolate.
She was later jailed over his death, along with her abusive lover Steven Barker and his brother Jason Owen.
The council’s then head of children’s services, Sharon Shoesmith, was later sacked and a serious case review said the 17-month-old’s death ‘could have been prevented’.
Haringey faced further criticism over the abuse of a six-year-old boy who was beaten by his heroin addict stepfather. The boy, named only as Child T, was taken to hospital at least three times over eight months, once with more than 50 bruises on his body.
Staff from Haringey allowed him to go home twice, only for him to be beaten again by his Polish stepfather, who hit him with a belt, a stick and a cable.
He survived and was eventually taken into care with his three siblings in 2011, more than a year after the first incident of abuse was noted.
A serious case review found his case featured ‘compelling evidence of individual and systemic failures’.
The stepfather was jailed by a judge for four years.