THE authorities who failed to stop four-year-old Hamzah Khan from starving to death at his home in Bradford are set to come under fresh scrutiny after a watchdog announced plans to investigate the way police handled concerns about his welfare.
Hamzah Khan’s decomposed body was found in a cot at the address of his alcoholic mother, Amanda Hutton, after lying undiscovered for two years. A review said he was “let down before and following his death” by systems that should have protected him.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has now announced that it is investigating the way allegations of neglect were dealt with by West Yorkshire Police prior to the discovery of Hamzah’s body in 2011.
It said the investigation will examine what action West Yorkshire Police took after concerns about Hamzah’s welfare were raised and why the matter was not referred to the police watchdog at the time.
IPCC Commissioner Cindy Butts said: “The death of Hamzah Khan was a truly shocking example of the most cruel neglect imaginable and at the heart of it lies the loss of a young life.”
Alcoholic Hutton, who was jailed for 15 years in October last year for Hamzah’s manslaughter and neglecting five of her other children, was living in conditions described as “breathtakingly awful” when police entered her house.
Hamzah’s remains were only discovered owing to a police community support officer who suspected something was wrong and persuaded Hutton to let her in.
Hutton’s father, who says he tried to contact his daughter as her health deteriorated, last night called for social workers to be given greater powers to force entry to properties in similar cases.
Alan Hutton, 71, who lives near Dumfries in Scotland, told the Yorkshire Post: “When this happens again, what will people do? They will end up baying for the blood of the police or the social services. If they sway one way they are called incompetent and if they sway another way they will be called something else.
“Every time it happens people are blaming social services or blaming the police. The point is there should be legislation in place so they have to work together. There should be legislation in place where an alarm bell goes off and they work in concert.
“There is a crisis team for people with mental health problems, so there should be one in cases like this.”
At Hutton’s trial it emerged that a range of agencies, including police officers, had contact with her family but no one spotted the danger the children were in.
Hamzah’s father, Aftab Khan, raised concerns with officers after he was arrested for attacking Hutton but detectives told the court these were investigated and no problems were found.
The serious case review into Hamzah’s death, published last year, noted that Hutton asked to meet with an officer in April 2008 but then refused to meet when the officer contacted her.
In April 2009, months before Hamzah died, police made a welfare visit when three of his siblings were not collected from their primary school at the end of the school day.
The review said: “One of the children did not have a bed and for another the arrangements were not clear. Amanda Hutton appeared to be under the influence of some unknown substance. The police sent information to social services to suggest that a follow up visit by a social worker might be required.”
Detective Chief Superintendent Andy Brennan, head of West Yorkshire Police Professional Standards, said: “West Yorkshire Police referred this matter to the IPCC in November last year and they have decided this will be an independent investigation which we will fully support and assist in any way we can.”