Failed by social services: Baby murdered by parents should have been 'one of the most protected', damning review finds

27 March 2024, 09:11 | Updated: 27 March 2024, 11:42

Finley suffered more than 100 injuries.
Finley suffered more than 100 injuries. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Baby Finley Boden died "as the result of abuse when he should have been one of the most protected children in the local authority area", a safeguarding review has found.

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The 10-month-old was murdered by his parents just weeks after being placed back into their care.

Shannon Marsden and Stephen Boden inflicted 130 injuries on their son, leading to him fatally collapsing at his family home in Old Whittington, Chesterfield, on Christmas Day in 2020.

Finley had been returned to their care just over a month earlier on November 17, despite social services raising concerns over his parents' drug use and the state of the family home.

Read more: Cannabis-smoking parents guilty of Christmas Day murder of their baby - days after he was placed back in their care

Read more: Parents who murdered baby son on Christmas Day after winning him back from social services jailed for life

Finley was 10 months old when he died
Finley was 10 months old when he died. Picture: Handout

After returning home, Finley was subjected to a campaign of abuse, with conditions including sepsis and pneumonia uncovered along with his injuries.

Marsden and Boden were handed life sentences with respective minimum terms of 27 and 29 years at Derby Crown Court in May last year.

At their sentencing, Mrs Justice Amanda Tipples said they were "persuasive and accomplished liars" who "brutally assaulted" their son.

Shannon Marsden
Shannon Marsden. Picture: Derbyshire Police

The Derby and Derbyshire Safeguarding Children Partnership published the findings of its Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review into Finley's death on Wednesday.

It said: "In this instance, a child died as the result of abuse when he should have been one of the most protected children in the local authority area."

Although Finley's parents were responsible for his death, the review said "professional interventions should have protected him".

It concluded that "the safeguarding environment in which that decision was made had been incrementally weakened by the decisions, actions, circumstances and events which preceded it".

Most of what had been experienced by Finley in the final weeks of his life "was unknown to professionals working with the family at that time".

But the review found that "safeguarding practice during that time was inadequate".

Stephen Boden
Stephen Boden. Picture: Derbyshire Police

Derbyshire County Council's children's services said it accepted there had been "missed opportunities" over Finley's case.

Executive director for children's services Carol Cammiss said: "Finley's death was a tragedy for everyone who knew him and everyone involved in his care. We are deeply saddened by his death and our thoughts are with everyone who loved him.

"Despite the significant Covid restrictions placed on our work at the time, we know there were missed opportunities for stronger practice and we apologise for that.

"We did not wait for the outcome of this review - we took immediate action to review and strengthen our systems and continue to monitor the way we work with babies and families.

"Safeguarding children in Derbyshire is our highest priority and the council accepts the findings and recommendations of the review and takes full responsibility for its actions in this case."