Thu, 08 Aug 2019
MISTAKES were made by authorities in the build-up to an horrific baby murder, new documents reveal.
But West Berkshire Council has taken the unusual step of refusing to publish the Serious Case Review (SCR) report into the death of four-and-a-half-month-old Jack McLaren in June 2017.
Instead, a brief ‘learning summary’ has been published.
Council spokeswoman Peta Stoddart-Crompton said withholding publication of the report had been done “in the interests of the family”.
During a two-week trial last October, jurors heard how Daniel McLaren, who had been entrusted with the sole care of Jack for the evening, shook his son so violently that he suffered catastrophic brain damage and died two days later.
Jack’s mother Krystin Bartholomew had left the 30-year-old bricklayer at home with the boy in Fleetwood Close, Newbury, to celebrate her sister’s birthday with a family meal.
It emerged, too, that McLaren had also violently shaken Jack just weeks earlier, causing him serious injuries.
He was convicted of murder and causing grievous bodily harm with intent to another child and sentenced to life with a minimum of 22 years imprisonment.
During the trial it emerged that McLaren had notched up convictions for 33 offences, including 10 for battery, one for inflicting grievous bodily harm and another for wounding.
He also was convicted of an offence of affray and causing criminal damage.
The SCR summary nevertheless reveals he had been categorised by police as ‘low to medium’ risk of committing domestic abuse and that other agencies were reluctant to challenge this.
It added that the grading “did not always reflect the historic or ongoing concerns” and that there were “lessons to be learned” to safeguard children.
The summary said McLaren was well- known to the police, probation services and the council’s children’s services, but that “practice in this case did not entirely follow the children in need procedures with the associated requirements around visiting and multi-agency meetings”.
In addition, the summary revealed, McLaren had been able to delay attending a court-ordered ‘building better relationships’ course.
The summary added that not all practitioners were aware of “domestic abuse repeat incident meetings” and some professionals saw them as “police meetings and did not know that any professional was able to refer cases”.
Its author called on the council to write to the Ministry of Justice to raise a “system issue” in relation to the timescale for a ‘building better relationships’ programme to be completed if imposed as part of a community order.
The Department for Education has stated that the key purpose of SCRs is to “enable lessons to be learned” and that “only by publishing SCRs will this greater level of transparency and accountability be improved”.
However, the guidance does allow for exemptions where there are “compelling reasons” and this is why West Berkshire Council says it will not publish the SCR.
Days after the murder of baby Jack, the council employed a barrister to secure reporting restrictions which prevented certain details from the trial being published.
West Berkshire Council’s children’s services has had a chequered history.
In 2015, Ofsted inspectors rated the service ‘inadequate’, as the watchdog identified “serious failures” which were putting the district’s vulnerable children at risk of harm.
However, in July 2017, West Berkshire Council became the first authority to make the jump from ‘inadequate’ to ‘good’ in the space of a single Ofsted inspection.