A troubled council has said it is deeply ashamed and has apologised to the families of two young children murdered by father figures after admitting the youngsters were “let down”.
Northamptonshire County Council said the deaths of two-year-old Dylan Tiffin-Brown and one-year-old Evelyn-Rose Muggleton had brought “considerable shame” on it.
It came after the Northamptonshire Safeguarding Children Board (NSCB) said there were “lost opportunities” leading up to the murders in a serious case review published on Wednesday.
The report said the safety of the two children was “seriously undermined” after the significance of the killers’ criminal past and history of domestic abuse was overlooked by agencies.
Dylan’s father Raphael Kennedy, 31, and Evelyn-Rose’s mother’s boyfriend Ryan Coleman, 23, were both jailed for life for the youngsters’ murders.
Dylan was killed in Northampton in December 2017, and Evelyn-Rose was murdered in Kettering in April last year.
In Dylan’s case, the NCSB concluded agencies “failed to fully appreciate the significance of (Kennedy’s) chronic history of domestic abuse and extensive history with the police for drug-related offences”.
The report suggested other factors such as a significant level of sick leave and high turnover of staff also contributed to the missed opportunities.
Sally Hodges, director of children’s services at the council, said “systematic faults in systems and management practice” contributed to Dylan being left in the care of his abusive father.
Keith Makin, chairman of the NSCB, said: “At the heart of this is a young boy, just two years old, who died at the hands of a violent father.
“Perhaps chief among the learning from this tragic case is how agencies need to improve information-sharing within their own organisations as well as between partners.”
Ms Hodges said: “The tragedy which occurred in December 2017 and the events running up to it are a matter of considerable shame for this organisation.
“We apologise unreservedly. We let this little boy down and we deeply regret that more was not done to protect him from his violent and abusive father.
“We apologise to the mother and extended family and send our deepest sympathy and condolences.
“The systemic faults in our systems and management practice at that time were simply not acceptable and contributed to this child being left in the care of his father, who ultimately murdered him.”
Addressing the death of Evelyn-Rose, the NSCB said two social workers had been allocated to the case which had started to “drift, with little if any attention being paid to the children’s welfare”.
The review said there were missed opportunities with police involvement, including Coleman being bailed to a non-specific address after initial questioning and returning to Evelyn’s mother’s home – which was in breach of his community order.
Despite not complying with the community order, a risk assessment was not followed up after further offending and despite Coleman’s “significant” criminal history.
Mr Makin said: “This is another extremely distressing case in which a young life has been taken.
“Agencies collectively failed to share information that may have built up an overall picture of low-level neglect that would have ensured more effective intervention than what actually happened.”
Ms Hodges said the council is deeply sorry for “poor decision making” and other mistakes which led to her death.
She said: “The report makes it clear that across the board, many public services in Northamptonshire missed a number of opportunities to raise concerns about this family and it is our duty to work together to minimise the chance of these mistakes being made again.
“There is simply no excuse that agencies failed to share information amongst each other which, if put together earlier, would have led to a far more realistic picture of the risks this child was facing.
“For our part in this failure and for the poor decisions made within social care, we are truly sorry. We let this child down.”
Commenting on the findings of the serious case reviews, Assistant Chief Constable Simon Blatchly, head of Operations at Northamptonshire Police, said elements of the reports are “deeply troubling”.
Referring to Dylan’s death, he said: “We note with interest the findings of this Serious Case Review, elements of which are troubling.
“However, it is also an opportunity for every organisation who had involvement in his short life to learn from any failings and improve the way we operate in future.”
Addressing Evelyn’s death, Mr Blatchly said: “(Coleman) was well known to Northamptonshire Police who tried to shield the victim’s mother and siblings from his violent tendencies.
“While we shared a lot of information with the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub, we recognise that there was an occasion in June 2017 when we failed to do so.”
The serious case review recommended an improvement in information-sharing between agencies after the missed opportunities in the two cases.
The NSCB also said police force warnings about risks posed by an adult’s behaviour towards a child “should be taken more seriously”.