POLICE in Bradford faced fresh criticism today over their handling of the death of a four-year-old boy left to starve by his mother.
Hamzah Khan, whose body lay undiscovered in his home for almost two years, was “let down both before and following his death”, an earlier Serious Case Review concluded.
The report revealed that just two months before Hamzah was discovered, his mother Amanda Hutton tried to falsely persuade school workers that he and three other children were living in other parts of the country.
Today, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) ruled that West Yorkshire Police should have referred the case to them when the body was found.
The IPCC stepped in to investigate after it was revealed that allegations of neglect had been made to police and other agencies before Hamzah’s body was discovered in 2011.
It said the absence of a referral hindered its attempt to carry out an effective investigation into the police’s contact with the family.
(The) process was completed without any independent scrutiny of police action.IPCC Commissioner Cindy Butts
IPCC Commissioner Cindy Butts said: “There was a clear public interest in enabling the Independent Police Complaints Commission to scrutinise the actions of West Yorkshire Police officers after the discovery of Hamzah’s body in 2011.
“The fact that this was not reported to the IPCC until after a serious case review had been completed in 2013 meant that that process was completed without any independent scrutiny of police action.”
Two officers chose not to make a referral to social services after specific allegations of neglect were made during an interview with Hamzah’s father on 9 December 2008. The IPCC found that a number of referrals had already been made, one of which was made only five days before the interview. A further referral to social services could have been made but there was no requirement for the officers to do so.
The investigation concluded that Hamzah’s death was not something that police could have reasonably been expected to predict or prevent, and that it was chiefly the actions of a rookie police community support officer who made repeated and concerted attempts to speak to Hutton that led to the discovery of Hamzah’s body.
The IPCC found no misconduct on the part of any officers.
Ms Butts added: “Nothing could have reasonably been done by West Yorkshire Police to predict or prevent this horrendous case of child neglect. In fact, it was the tenacity of one of its officers that led to the eventual discovery of his body.”
Hutton was jailed for 15 years in October 2013 after being found guilty of manslaughter. The alcoholic mother was living in what the report described as “breathtakingly awful” conditions with five of her children as well as Hamzah’s mummified remains when police entered her four-bedroom house in September 2011.
A jury at Bradford Crown Court found she had allowed Hamzah to starve to death in December 2009 and left his body in a cot with a teddy.
The judge was told that one of Hutton’s neighbours alerted social services to her concerns about the family six months before Hamzah’s body was found. The woman set out her reasons for doing this in a text she sent to a friend.
The message said: “I rang social services today about next door because I kept hearing the children crying for long periods and no-one goes to them.”
The November 2013 Serious Case Review also concluded that the child’s death “could not have been predicted”.
But that report was roundly condemned by Children’s Minister Edward Timpson who said it contained “glaring absences”, such as failing to note whether Hamzah’s siblings were assessed by social workers at various stages before 2011.
He said: “In particular, I am concerned that it fails to explain sufficiently clearly the actions taken, or not taken by children’s social care when problems in the Khan family were brought to their attention on a number of occasions.”
Bradford Council said at the time that no individual was responsible for failing the little boy and that no-one would lose their job. The council faced criticism for refusing to publish its response to a series of questions from the minister.