In April 2015, during the sentencing of Shane Clifton, a Derby man who had repeatedly raped his daughter from the age of 8 through to 13, Judge Stuart Rafferty stated
” You took your daughter’s life”.
His daughter, Shannon, first became pregnant by him at the age of 11; Clifton was so angry when he found out that he beat her so badly that Shannon miscarried. He had a history of family violence; he was sent to prison when Shannon was 5 for harming her mother.
In the Derby Telegraph article on the case, it reported that
“The abuse only stopped once her school alerted the authorities that the teenager was pregnant”
This was October 2014. The baby was born a few weeks later. The article continues :
“The judge said the man consigned his daughter to “a life of darkness” making her lead an isolated life so that she had no-one to turn to”
How could a teenager, living in the heart of Chaddesden, who was regularly absent from different schools, isolated from the community, and then 9 months pregnant, be overlooked by the very authorities who should be there to protect her. Was it really the case that the first time that the Council had been notified of any concerns regarding Shannon’s safety was when the school noticed that she was pregnant?
Neighbours had been trying to raise the alarm for years beforehand, but it seems that they were ignored by Councillors, Council Officers, the Police, and the local MP.
In an email exchange between a Neighbour and a Derby Homes Housing and Neighbourhood Manager on 25 July 2013 ( 15 months before the school alerted the authorities) , the Neighbour writes:
“Hi xxxx, I think you are a very brave man (remember baby P). I would like this all put on record that we have warned you about all that has happened next door ( for 18 months) this is a disaster waiting to happen. If anything happens to me or my family or the 13 year old girl next door I will hold you personally responsible for what happens, as you seem to be in charge of a bunch of morons”
The response from the Derby Homes manager on the 26 July 2013:
“xxxx I have, as I stated in my last email to you, I reported your concerns regarding the daughter of your neighbour to the social services department……As I am sure you will agree we all have a responsibility where children may be at risk”
On the 9th September 2013 the Neighbour emailed Chris Williamson MP, and ex-Cllr Sara Bolton, Maria Murphy , MD of Derby Homes. His email started by saying
“You three are our last port of call”
He proceeded to explain how Shane Clifton had removed support walls from the house ( a Derby Homes property), removed gas fires, allegations about drug dealing and other damage to the property. He then continues:
“The second thing is that his 13 year old daughter Shannon has not been to school for over a year. We have been in touch with the Council on a number of occasions….We have also been in contact with social services about Shannon going back to school. We spoke to CB, she stated that this was on-going….”
The email finished with a plea:
“Remember baby P. We are not the sort of people to send emails like this. It has took (sic) a lot of soul searching to send this”
Ex-Cllr Sara Bolton followed up by responding on 9 September 2013:
“Thank you for your email below and I am alarmed by the contents.
I have to say that this is the first contact I have had about the property involved so will act quickly.
Please rest assured I will do what I can and I apologise for the lack of response to date”
Chris Williamson responded on the 10 September 2013, by email,
“I know Cllr Sara Bolton has been in touch with you and is going to raise the matters you brought to our attention with the Council’s Neighbourhood team.
I will follow up Sara’s intervention to reinforce the points she is making. Hopefully our joint intervention will bring some improvement in the situation you have been forced to endure”
This was followed up by a letter from Williamson on the 13th September 2013 on House of Commons letter headed paper.
“I have written to Derby Homes and the Director for Children’s Services at Derby City Council regarding the issues you raised. The Police have informed me that they are already investigating this individual and will update me further at a later stage”.
The Neighbours received a response from ex-Cllr Sara Bolton on 12 October 2013:
“Yes I am aware as (you) email me on a regular basis. Derby Homes and C and YP ( Children and Young People team in Derby City Council) are dealing with matters”
In an email from Clare Mehrbani ( Head of Housing Management – Derby Homes) on 14th October 2013, to the Neighbour following up on previous concerns:
“Your concerns about the schooling of the tenants daughter have been forwarded to the relevant MAT ( Multi-Agency Team) within Derby City Council. Derby Homes are unable to comment further on this due to issues of privacy but can assure you that your concerns have reached the appropriate authority”
This email was copied to ex-Cllr Sara Bolton, the MD of Derby Homes, and Sgt Woods of Derbyshire Constabulary.
On 10 December 2013, Chief Inspector Dick Hargreaves wrote to the Neighbour on a number points of complaint about Mr Clifton. He stated:
“The allegations about the welfare of Mr Clifton’s daughter have previously been reported to us through Sgt Woods and she has made the appropriate referrals to the education / social services for action as they deem appropriate”
Despite many assurances, the Neighbours did not feel that any progress was being made and that Shannon’s safety was still a major concern. They wrote a letter, dated 31 August 2014, to Andrew Bunyan the Director of Children’s Services titled ” Child in Danger”.
“We are very, very concerned about the girl who lives next door, her name is Shannon Clifton….We have been down to the Social Services office on Osmaston Road, Derby, they told us she has a social worker and lots of problems with the family. They live in a two bedroomed house managed by Derby Homes only one of the bedrooms is being used.
As we have discussed many times, she has hardly been to school for 7-8 years, we know she has been expelled from at least 3 schools….”
This was replied to by Maureen Darbon (Acting Service Director – Early Intervention and Integrated safeguarding) on 1 September 2014.
“In relation to the concerns you have expressed regarding the child’s wellbeing I assure you these have been taken seriously and will be followed up….”
Despite all of these promises of action – the abuse didn’t stop.
In January 2014 they met with Kevin Murphy at Leesbrook School in Chaddesden. He was the Strategic Director , Safeguarding, Child Protection and Attendance. Previously he had been the Head of Service , Early Intervention and Integrated Safeguarding with Derby City Council. They raised with Mr Murphy their concerns over safeguarding and the relationship between Clifton and his daughter. He committed to inform the Council through his contacts as
” I am concerned about her well-being”.
A few months after Clifton’s case came to court in 2015, the Neighbours contacted Kevin Murphy to highlight the outcome of the case. He responded:
“…I was warned off talking to you again…I did see the case come to court and I was aware that this was the gentleman in question which did vindicate all that you both said. I did wonder why you were not believed and why the cover up. I have worked very closely with the Police over the years, especially with regard to children and still cannot believe this was allowed to happen. I hope you are both now ok following this. I was told not to interfere as this was a very dangerous man and that they did not want the school bringing into the matter”.
The above extracts are only a sample of the communications between the Neighbours and the various agencies. Despite trying consistently hard over many years, and being given various assurances that all the right agencies were doing their job – the “system” completely failed – why did it go wrong?
There should have been an enquiry – a Serious Case Review should have been conducted by the Derby Safeguarding Children Board (partnership body between Derby City Council, Police, NHS, Probation service and NSPCC). Such a review is required when:
- abuse or neglect of a child is known, or suspected, and
- the child has been seriously harmed and there is cause for concern as to the way in which the authority, their Board partners or other relevant persons have worked together to safeguard the child.
I asked the Board Manager, Mark Sobey, who confirmed that no review had been undertaken. When I asked, why not, he declined to answer. It is clear that this case falls well within the criteria.
The Neighbours simply wanted someone to take the appropriate action to ensure that Shannon came to no harm. Excuses can be made, however those people in positions of power, did not give sufficient credence to the Neighbours pleas, nor make Shannon an absolute priority.
Williamson MP, and Bolton, who is trying to make a come back in this week’s Council elections, should not have rested until they knew, personally, that this child was safe….or did the feel that their task had ended with a simple email to another department – job done!
Ultimately – they ALL failed this child! But no one seems interested in finding out why!
Categories: Derby City Council