Bradford

Shannon Matthews: Kirklees social services cleared

The abduction of Shannon Matthews could not have been foreseen by social services involved with her family, a serious case review has concluded.

Shannon was nine when she disappeared from her home in Dewsbury Moor, West Yorkshire, in February 2008.

She was found 24 days later and her mother Karen was jailed for kidnapping.

The Kirklees Safeguarding Children Board review found there was "little leeway" for social services and other agencies to intervene.

'Truly despicable'

In a statement, Alison O'Sullivan who chairs the board and is director for children and young people at Kirklees Council, said Shannon's abduction was "an unusual, unexpected and challenging event".

She added: "The involvement of many agencies over many years, all of that coming together could not have predicted the abduction of Shannon by her own mother.

"So I guess the question that's been in many people's minds, could this have been predicted, could it have been prevented?

"Very clearly, the serious case review says that actually it couldn't have been predicted and it couldn't have been prevented."

She said the review had found that the threshold for taking Shannon or her siblings into care had not been reached.

She said the council accepted and agreed with areas of criticism in the report.

Last year, Matthews, then 33, was jailed for eight years for her part in what a judge described as a "truly despicable" plot with Michael Donovan, in whose flat Shannon was found.

Donovan, who was the uncle of Shannon's stepfather, was also jailed for eight years.

She was found in his flat in Lidgate Gardens, Batley Carr, West Yorkshire, in the base of a bed. She had been drugged and forced to adhere to a strict list of rules while held captive.

'Neglectful' parents

Prosecutors said Donovan, then aged 40, kept Shannon imprisoned as part of a plan he and Matthews had hatched to claim a £50,000 reward offered by a national newspaper.

Kirklees Council announced a serious case review after Matthews and Donovan were convicted in December 2008.

Shannon's mother had refused to take part in the review, the report said.

The review concluded that the family's history was characterised by "neglectful parenting interspersed with periods of adequate parental care".

It confirmed that Shannon and one of her siblings were placed on the child protection register in 2002 but were removed in late 2003.

According to the report, they were put on the register for a number of reasons, including their mother's failure to prioritise "their need for a consistent and secure parental relationship over her own need for relationships with a number of male partners".

It said the reasons for the move related to Matthews's "failure to ensure safe and adequate parenting", with regard to a number of factors.

These included "protecting them from contact with individuals who posed a risk of physical and/or sexual abuse", ensuring they went to school and providing a comfortable home environment.

It said social workers had on occasions intervened but the impact of the "low-level neglect" they investigated was unlikely to be sufficient for care orders to be imposed.

No individuals had or would face disciplinary action because there were no "significant failings", the panel said.

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