Daniel Pelka murder report: will anything really change?

Serious case review finds 'too many opportunities' were missed – but will any lessons be learned?

LAST UPDATED AT 16:44 ON Tue 17 Sep 2013

A FOUR-YEAR-OLD boy who was starved and beaten to death by his mother and stepfather was "invisible" to professionals who missed "too many opportunities" to intervene, a serious case review found this morning.

Daniel Pelka was starved, tortured and beaten to death in Coventry by his mother Magdalena Luczak, 27, and stepfather Mariusz Krezolek, 34. Both are now serving life sentences for his murder.

The review found that police had been called to 26 separate incidents at the family home, the BBC says. Daniel turned up at school repeatedly with injuries, was observed to be losing weight and not growing, was obviously hungry – and yet police, social workers and teachers accepted his "controlling" mother's lies as the truth.

The report's author, Ron Lock, a former senior social worker, told the BBC that very specific and "rare" circumstances around the case contributed to Daniel's death. While most parental abuse is spontaneous, this was "premeditated and planned" meaning "people actually struggled to believe what was happening".

But writing on the Daily Telegraph blog, Tory MP Douglas Carswell says general lessons do emerge from the review, which he dubs a "masterpiece of officialese and obfuscation" - principally that there was "a culture of compliance, not commonsense" among the professionals who should have protected Daniel.

He adds: "The boxes were ticked. Training was complied with. Meetings were held. Meanwhile a little boy went hungry and his injuries grew worse."

Daniel's death is just the latest in a series of high-profile cases of child abuse which became murder, including the deaths of Baby P, Victoria Climbie and Khyra Ishaq. Each death generated reports, inquiries and 'lessons learned'.

The BBC's home editor, Mark Easton, says the report "echoes reports written many times over the past few decades". He concludes: "There is no easy way to protect children but it seems we make the same mistakes again and again - well-meaning professionals overly optimistic and not talking to each other."

Speaking to BBC News, Khalid Mahmood, a Labour MP in whose Birmingham constituency Khyra Ishaq starved to death in her own home at the age of seven, questioned whether serious case reviews achieve anything.

He said: "There's no accountability or responsibility. The way it is done is to protect professionals. It's a defence mechanism. You keep hearing 'we've learned lessons', but the same things keep coming up." · 

Disqus - noscript

Mr Mahmood is exactly right and his party bears much of the responsibly for this "blameless society" we the public have to put up with.

Rubbish. Who set up Sure Start, which benefitted thousands of children like Daniel, only for the Tories to cancel it as soon as they could despite Call-me-Dave's empty promises?

Get real, child protection is a minefield which deserves better than a stupid comment like this.

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.