Father will sue council over girl starved to death

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The father of a seven-year-old girl who starved to death at her home after a series of “missed opportunities” to save her has launched a bid to sue the council.

Khyra Ishaq died in May 2008 following months of starvation and cruelty at the hands of her mother and stepfather at their Birmingham home.

Tony Hall, a partner at Anthony Collins Solicitors in Birmingham, confirmed he was representing Khyra’s father Ishaq Abu-Zaire.

He said: “I am investigating a claim against Birmingham City Council of negligence and breach of statutory duty”, adding that the compensation claim was “still in its early stages”.

A statement on the company’s website said: “The impact on the family both physically and psychologically has been immense and careful analysis of the issues involved is being undertaken to properly quantify the claims whilst matters are progressing also relating to family proceedings.

“Birmingham City Council’s social services department has recently been heavily criticised as to the quality of care provided generally and, with the budgetary cuts pending, more individuals and families could suffer as a result.”

A crown court trial heard that Khyra and five other children in the care of her mother Angela Gordon, 35, and her former partner Junaid Abuhamza, 31, were deprived of food and prevented from entering the fully stocked kitchen at their Handsworth home by a bolt fixed out of their reach on the door.

One neighbour reported seeing Khyra scavenging food left out for birds.

Last March, Mr Justice Roderick Evans sentenced Gordon to 15 years and jailed Abuhamza indefinitely for the public’s protection, with a minimum term of seven- and-a-half years, after they were convicted of manslaughter at Birmingham Crown Court.

A serious case review published four months later concluded that Khyra’s death could have been prevented, and occurred after the authorities in the city “lost sight” of her.

Three social workers who were closely involved with the case were removed from front-line services and direct contact with children after Khyra’s death, but Birmingham City Council refused to divulge any details about disciplinary procedures taken against them.

Mr Hall said his client’s compensation bid was being funded by legal aid.

A Legal Services Commission spokesperson said: “Mr Abu-Zaire was only granted legal aid after he had passed a financial means test and when it was clear that his case had sufficient legal merit to be funded.

“These are the standard tests which apply to anyone seeking civil legal aid.”

A spokesman for Birmingham City Council said it would be inappropriate to comment while legal proceedings were ongoing.

A 180-page report following the serious case review by Birmingham Safeguarding Children Board (BSCB) found that, despite concerns being raised by members of the public and school staff about Khyra’s welfare as far back as March 2006, information was not acted upon and safeguarding procedures were not properly followed.

Khyra was removed from school by her mother in December 2007 and subjected to a punishment regime which included standing outside in the cold for long periods, having cold water poured over her and being beaten with a bamboo cane.

During the course of 2007, Khyra missed 26 appointments with various welfare agencies – mainly health-related – but no information was shared, nor action taken.

The report found that poor communication between agencies meant that the children’s plight – and Khyra’s plummeting weight – went largely unnoticed.