Ryan Lovell-Hancox: Murdered boy 'was not protected'

Report author Martin Burnett: "Records were deficient and did not properly show the background level of risk posed by these two people"

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Fourteen agencies missed opportunities to save a three-year-old boy who was killed by a couple who were meant to be caring for him, a report has found.

Ryan Lovell-Hancox died on 24 December 2008 from a brain injury he received at Christopher Taylor and Kayley Boleyn's home in Bilston, near Wolverhampton.

They were jailed for murder and child cruelty in July 2010.

A serious case review by Wolverhampton Safeguarding Children Board said staff may have been "overburdened".

Ryan received more than 70 injuries from the defendants who blamed each other for his death.

Start Quote

"(The agencies) were focusing on the adults they considered to be vulnerable but they didn't put the focus on that child...”

End Quote Bill Anderson Wolverhampton Safeguarding Children Board

The review found that several agencies, including the police, council and National Probation Service, failed to intervene in the child's care.

It criticised poor record keeping and said there was "no evidence of effective communication or liaison" between the agencies.

Wrong priorities

The report found that a front line worker took the decision not to take further action in Ryan's case, instead of a senior member of staff.

It said that in future all such decisions should only be taken by supervisors or managers.

About 60 recommendations were made, including that Wolverhampton City Council should review its child assessment procedures and ensure files from all agencies were checked for relevant family information on all children brought to its attention.

It also said that potentially at-risk children must be physically seen by staff and all people providing support to a child's family must be adequately checked.

Bill Anderson, chair of the Wolverhampton Safeguarding Children Board, said the agencies involved in Ryan's care had the wrong priorities.

He said: "They were focusing on the adults they considered to be vulnerable but they didn't put the focus on that child."

'Risk to children'

Taylor and Boleyn's trial was told that Ryan's mother, Amy Hancox, who knew nothing of the abuse, had asked the pair to look after her son because she "was not coping".

She paid them about £20 a week to look after Ryan while she decorated her home.

However one month later the child was in a coma in hospital, having suffered a massive brain haemorrhage at the couple's flat in Slim Avenue.

The report concluded that Ms Hancox, Boleyn and Taylor were all "known" to statutory authorities.

Kayley Boleyn and Christopher Taylor Kayley Boleyn and Christopher Taylor were known to various authorities

It said police should have recorded child protection concerns about Boleyn when she was accused in 2005 of abusing a younger sibling.

Taylor had also been convicted that year of assaulting someone with a golf club and a pre-sentence report found he was a "medium-level risk" to children.

The review said this should have resulted in the authorities intervening to protect Ryan.

It said despite this, a probation officer had seen Taylor with Ryan in December 2008 but had taken no action.

The report said the authorities were aware that Taylor had a history of drug and alcohol abuse and domestic violence and there were concerns about his influence on Boleyn, who had just left care and moved in with him.

It stated: "If the records had been in place there is a chance that action would have been taken to remove [Ryan] from [Boleyn's] flat, but that is not certain."

The report concluded that Ms Hancox, Boleyn and Taylor were all "well known to the various agencies involved with child protection".

It added that Ryan "was not protected and suffered non-accidental injury as a result of which [he] died."

Sarah Norman, Wolverhampton City Council's strategic director for community, which includes the children's services department, described Ryan's murder as a horrific and appalling tragedy.

She said the city council should have done more to help Ryan's mother.

She added the review also highlighted the inadequate contract and monitoring arrangements with Shaftesbury Young People, which provided their support service for young people leaving care.

"This service is now back in-house and run by the city council in order to work better with other care services," she said.

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