The neglect of a 13-month-old boy whose charred body was found strapped in a buggy was both “predictable and preventable”, an inquiry has found.
Tracey Sutherland, 39, was jailed for 27 months last April after her son, Alex, was found by police in front of a lit gas fire with apparent bruising to the torso and forehead at her home in Baguley, Manchester.
He was taken to hospital but pronounced dead later the same day on November 10, 2009.
A serious case review into his death by Manchester Safeguarding Children’s Board found no single agency was to blame for failing to protect Alex but his case was “poorly managed throughout”.
When he was just three weeks old police were called to the family home and found circumstances similar to the scene of his death, with Sutherland drunk and Alex in front of the gas fire surrounded by combustible material.
After a short period, social workers returned the youngster to Sutherland after they ruled the likelihood of significant harm was low.
A pathologist’s report said no direct link could be found between the mother’s neglect and the toddler’s death.
Sentencing Sutherland, who pleaded guilty to child cruelty, Judge Clement Goldstone QC criticised social services for their “startling lack of urgency” in their dealings with Alex.
Following the initial incident where he was found in front of the gas fire, Alex was subject to a Child In Need plan until June 2009 when it was considered his mother was able to offer a “good enough” standard of care “despite a lack of evidence of progress”, the serious case review reported.
The report noted that Sutherland missed a number of health appointments in that period, the child’s weight had plummeted and there were ongoing concerns about her alcohol use.