Star Hobson murder: Fury over delayed social services review as answers 'desperately needed'

24 January 2022, 20:20 | Updated: 29 January 2022, 12:44

The review into Star Hobson's death has been delayed.
The review into Star Hobson's death has been delayed. . Picture: West Yorkshire Police

By Emma Soteriou

The publication of a safeguarding review into the murder of toddler Star Hobson has been delayed, with MPs criticising the hold-up saying answers are "desperately needed".

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A Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review was due to be published before the end of this month but the Bradford Partnership said further work was needed, including making sure Star's family's views are fully reflected.

The 16-month-old was killed following months of physical assaults and psychological harm, having been taken to hospital with "utterly catastrophic" and "unsurvivable" injuries.

Savannah Brockhill - who was the former partner to Star's mum, Frankie Smith - was jailed for life at Bradford Crown Court in December for murdering the toddler at her home in Keighley, West Yorkshire.

Star's death caused a national outcry, especially as the trial came shortly after the case of murdered six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes.

Her great-grandfather, David Fawcett, led the questioning over why social services and police did not act, despite five different family members and friends raising concerns with the authorities in the eight months before she died.

A national review was launched following Arthur's death, with Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi confirming last month that the local review into Star's case would also feed into it.

Read more: Star Hobson murder: Mother's 'unduly lenient' jail sentence referred to Court of Appeal

Read more: Star Hobson's dad 'will never recover from the cruel way she was taken from me'

However, on Monday, Jane Booth, chair of The Bradford Partnership - Working Together to Safeguard Children, said in a statement: "Following detailed discussions between the National Panel and the safeguarding partnership for the Bradford District we have taken the decision to do further work to the Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review into how agencies responded to the events leading up to the terrible murder of Star Hobson.

"This means that we will not be in a position to publish the review in January 2022 as we had originally projected."

Ms Booth added that some of the evidence which emerged in the trial was not available to the independent person undertaking the review.

"Both the National Panel and our partnership have agreed that this mass of evidence needs to be looked at in great depth to make sure the review's recommendations are as robust as they can be so that learning for all agencies is captured," she said.

"Following the trial the author has now also been able to speak directly with Star's family and we want their views to be fully reflected in the final report.

"We also want to work closely with those reviewing the case of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes to understand common themes across both cases.

"We know that not being able to publish the review in January is disappointing, particularly for the family and friends of Star, but we owe it to Star to make sure that the findings of the review take account of all the facts that emerged during the trial.

"It is vital that we all - partner agencies, staff and our communities - have full confidence in the review's recommendations and the actions that our partnership will need to take in the future to better protect children.

"We will announce a new publication date in due course."

Robbie Moore, MP for Keighley - where Star lived in the months prior to her murder - called the delay "extremely frustrating".

He told The Telegraph & Argus: "The death of Star Hobson was a tragedy which touched each and every one of us and it is incomprehensible to think how this was able to happen.

"What is known from the court hearings is that Bradford Council’s Children Services failed to act, despite being contacted several times by multiple people well in advance of Star’s murder.

"Answers are desperately needed to find out exactly why the concerns raised were not explored and investigated properly. In particular, those who knew and loved Star deserve answers.

"We must ensure those who have failed are properly held to account and systems are changed urgently so all children are protected in the future.

"It is therefore deeply frustrating the Bradford Partnership have announced the review will not be published this month, especially given Star was murdered 16 months ago.

"I am concerned that until urgent improvement measures are implemented other children within the Bradford District remain at risk.”

It comes after Attorney General Suella Braverman referred Smith's sentence to the Court of Appeal earlier this month, saying she believed it was "unduly lenient".

The 20-year-old was given eight years in prison for causing or allowing her death while Brockhill, 28, was jailed for a minimum of 25 years for the cruel murder of Star.

The jury heard in December that Star lost half the blood in her body after a fatal punch or kick damaged her internal organs.

Mrs Justice Lambert, sentencing, said: "The level of force required to inflict these injuries must have been massive - similar to those forces associated with a road traffic accident.

"Only you both know what triggered that fatal assault. The violent attack which led to Star's death was not, however, an isolated event."

Justice Lambert said Star suffered two brain injuries, several rib fractures, "the fracture and refracture of her leg and a skull fracture".