Ellie Butler was told a 'good judge' had returned her to parents

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The inquest will examine whether there were failures on the part of the authorities with regard to Ellie's murder

A girl who was killed by her father was told that a "good judge" had allowed her back into his care while a "bad judge" took her away, an inquest heard.

Six-year-old Ellie Butler was battered to death by Ben Butler in Sutton, south London, in October 2013 just 11 months after being returned to her parents.

She had lived with grandparents after Butler was accused of shaking her.

Concerns were raised at the inquest about social workers telling Ellie that a "good judge" had returned her home.

An independent social worker who oversaw the handover of Ellie's care, Catherine Harris, told South London Coroner's Court: "They needed to consider that there was a judge that got something wrong about her dad hurting her."

Butler was jailed in 2016 for a minimum of 23 years for inflicting catastrophic head injuries upon Ellie while looking after her at their home in Sutton.

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Image caption,
Ellie Butler died while at home with her father in 2013

Inquest counsel Adam Wiseman QC asked social workers if a parenting assessment was carried out when it was proposed the girl returned to her parents.

Ms Harris replied "there were observations made about capacity but there was no formal parenting assessment" although she wrote in her report there was "nothing to suggest" Ellie would be harmed.

"There is a lot to suggest that she should return to her parents," she wrote.

Giving evidence, Ms Harris said Ellie's return had been "rushed" because of the bad relationship between her parents and Ellie's grandfather, Neal Gray.

"Ideally it wouldn't have been that rushed because ideally adults would have been able to work more effectively together," she said.

Ellie had been returned Butler and her mother, Jennie Gray, a month after a High Court ruling by Judge Mrs Justice Hogg.

The decision was made on 9 November 2012, despite objections from teachers, social services and Ellie's grandfather, the court heard.

Butler listened to proceedings via video link from prison, where he is currently serving his sentence for Ellie's murder.

Gray was given a 42-month term after being found guilty of child cruelty. She had admitted perverting the course of justice.

The inquest is expected to conclude later this week.

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