A TODDLER raped and murdered by her uncle might have been alive today had the authorities heeded warning signs about her home life, according to a damning new report.
Two-year-old Casey Mullen was strangled in her bed by her uncle Michael Mullen, 21, while her parents were downstairs.
Social services staff at Leeds Council failed to properly assess the risk to Casey despite the fact she had suffered a burn to her shin caused by hair straighteners when she was 10 months old.
She was discharged from hospital but her parents missed a significant number of follow-up out-patient appointments.
Senior paediatricians believed the burn was not an accident but this information was not acted upon and the case was closed by social services who initially were told it was an accident, according a Serious Case Review published yesterday.
The authorities also failed to assess the risk posed by her uncle, even though he had been charged with raping a 12-year-old girl when he was 17.
Because the case was dropped, there was no assessment of the risk the 21-year-old posed.
The Leeds Safeguarding Children Board report identifies 10 lessons to be learnt and criticises agencies for missing opportunities to share information about Casey – whom it calls "Child J".
It says careful assessment of Casey's home life should have indicated she was exposed to "significant risk" but a decision to close the case following the burn was not considered by a senior social work manager.
And it criticised agencies for making assumptions that others were aware of the risks.
The failure to complete an assessment by social services meant the case had low priority.
It concludes, "there were areas of risk which were not fully integrated, leading to a lack of action that could have taken place which may have prevented the death of Child J."
Social services are also criticised for failing to assess the parenting skills of Casey's mother and failing to realise the risk posed by Michael Mullen.
Last night there were calls for social workers in the case to be "called to account".
Mor Dioum, director of the Victoria Climbie Foundation, said the report revealed "complacency" and "extreme incompetence" over "basic practice".
"I'm just getting fed up of these cases which highlight serious concerns about social services failures to intervene to protect a child's life," he said.
"Non-accidental injuries were identified by senior paediatricians but a core assessment was not carried out. That is totally unacceptable."
The Conservative MP for Shipley, Philip Davies, said: "It is essential that the lessons learned are implemented immediately. There have been far too many instances in recent years where young defenceless children have been needlessly put at risk, which is heartbreaking."
Leeds Council's director of children's services, Rosemary Archer, admitted there were "gaps in the system" and that services in Leeds "missed opportunities to be more involved".
She said procedures had been changed and communications between organisations in the city had been improved. She added: "A review has already taken place – and addressed – issues around staffing, supervision and workload for social work teams within children's services."
Agencies failed to share information.
Assumptions were made that others were aware of the risks.
Social services failed to complete a full assessment of Casey's life, despite her being burned by hair straighteners.
Fresh medical opinion about the cause of the burn not acted on.
Casey was not placed on Child Protection Register.
Assessment of her uncle's behaviour, in light of earlier rape charge, could have highlighted risk.
Mother's parenting skills not assessed.
Agencies ignorant about Mullen's heavy drinking.
The sick paedophile who murdered Casey
MICHAEL Mullan was jailed for life in July 2007 after admitting the rape and murder of his niece.
The crime bore chilling similarities to a sadistic pornographic movie he had watched days earlier.
Mullen was ordered to serve a minimum of 35 years in jail after he was described as a dangerous predatory paedophile suffering a psychopathic disorder which left him capable of further "lethal and violent sexual crimes against children".
After murdering his niece, Mullen left her home in Oak Tree Crescent, Gipton, Leeds, in a taxi with his his brother David, Casey's father, with whom he had been drinking earlier.
After his arrest police discovered indecent images of children on his computer, including a sadistic movie in which a pre-pubescent girl with a ligature around her neck was being sexually abused. They also found a photograph of Casey naked from the waist down on his mobile phone.