December 2008

Baby shaken to death by violent father after series of blunders by social services

A five-month-old baby died after her violent parents escaped the scrutiny of social workers by moving their home just two miles, it was revealed today.

Alisha Allen was shaken to death by her father three months after her family switched from the supervision of one group of social workers to another.

The two-mile move meant that the baby’s name disappeared from the child protection register that lists children at risk of harm.

An inquiry report said that when her parents moved from Penshaw on Wearside – in the area of Sunderland social workers – to Bournmoor in County Durham – watched over by Durham social workers – Alisha’s case was downgraded so that she was regarded as merely ‘in need’.

Alisha’s father Gary Allen, 26, was sentenced in September to five years in jail for manslaughter after telling Newcastle Crown Court that he lost his temper with the baby. 

Her mother, Claire Morton, 31, was given a 12-month suspended sentence for causing or allowing the death of a child.

Judge David Hodson said as he sentenced the pair: ‘This case, sadly, is yet another example of the tragic death of a baby in circumstances where there have been undoubted failings within two social services departments.’

The serious case review report yesterday said there was poor assessment, planning and information sharing by agencies involved.

The failures were made worse by gaps in supervision of the family and the management of the case by social workers.

The lack of communication between different organisations was a central concern following the murder of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie in 2000.

The Climbie scandal led to wholesale reforms of council social work departments that were specifically designed to ensure that social workers, health staff, police and schools all worked together.

Gail Hopper, chief of the Durham Local Safeguarding Children Board, said yesterday: ‘All of the agencies involved are extremely sorry about the death of Alisha and very much regret that Alisha and her family did not receive the level of support they needed.

‘All of the recommendations in the review have been accepted and we are ensuring that they are robustly implemented.’

Alisha was listed on the Sunderland child protection register before she was born because her mother, who was said in court to be ‘severely retarded’, was unable to cope.

Gary Allen has an IQ of just 70. He refused to change nappies or bath the baby, which he regarded as unfit work for a man, and he shouted at her to shut up if she cried. 

He once sounded a horn in her ear to wake her up.

He believed the baby was aggressive, and both parents said at their trial that Alisha would deliberately scream, pull her mother’s ears, and headbutt her. 

They thought the baby knew better than to do that with her father.

Alisha was shaken to death after she woke her father up on a Sunday morning.

The inquiry report said: ‘There was no one failing in this case that can conclusively be said to have been the major factor that failed to protect Alisha, rather a series of cumulative errors that were either not picked up or not pro-actively addressed.’

Since the baby’s death Morton has had another child by Allen, which has been taken into care. She is shortly due to give birth to a child by another man