Posted by Patrick Hart, Partner
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Family Judge criticises Cumbria police and council in toddler death case
Mr Justice Peter Jackson, a family court Judge, has criticised the investigations carried out by Cumbria Police and the county council into the death of 13-month-old Poppi Worthington.
The toddler died in December 2012 and was found by paramedics with a broken bone and other injuries.
However, despite the fact that a pathologist also highlighted concerns about the condition of the child’s body, which indicated physical abuse, the police ignored her report.
Liverpool’s family court heard how the police wanted to wait for the full post-mortem before conducting an investigation, but Judge Jackson stated that this decision meant no “real” investigation was conducted for nine months, which included no witness statements being taken.
Paul Worthington – Poppi’s father – was initially arrested by police but he was released without charge, and a 2014 inquest ruled that the toddler’s cause of death was unknown.
Other police failings included the fact that they did not keep Poppi’s last nappy or a bloodied sheet, which would have been crucial in any investigation work.
The lead detective for the case – now-retired Detective Superintendent Mike Forrester – said this week that, “with hindsight”, he would have acted sooner.
Cumbria County Council, meanwhile, was also criticised by Judge Jackson for failing to follow national and local guidelines for dealing with the death of a young child.
John Macilwraith, the council’s corporate director for children’s services, said: “At the time Poppi Worthington died Cumbria children’s services were not involved with her or her family.
“Following her death we worked with her family and other agencies to ensure her siblings were not at risk of harm, ultimately making an application to the court to bring them into our care.”
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