A mother conducted an “horrific” campaign of abuse against her two-month-old son, who died despite the involvement of health workers from two London boroughs.No! Surely not….
In a case that echoes that of Baby P, Claire Biggs, 27, was found guilty yesterday of child cruelty. She had already had one child taken into care when she repeatedly crushed the chest of her son Rhys.It echoes the case on quite a few aspects, more so than just the eventual, tragically preventable, death:
When he was a month old he suffered “severe side-to-side squeezing”, which broke ten of his ribs. Two weeks later he suffered three further rib fractures as a result of “severe front-to-back squeezing”. Four more rib fractures were inflicted on May 8, 2006 – the day he died. His right wrist and shoulder were also broken.Not a single instance of a mother losing her temper, but real, sustained abuse. Torture.
But Biggs and her live-in partner, Paul Husband, 33, escaped the attention of health workers from Newham and Camden by failing to turn up for appointments.And that rang no alarm bells?
During Rhys’s short life Biggs lived at various addresses, including women’s refuges, before moving in with Husband.
On one occasion, after ten of Rhys’s ribs had been broken, a health worker saw the injuries but described him as being “active and alert” .And were the injuries reported, even so…?
Inner London Crown Court was told that because the cause of Rhys’s death could not be established, both Biggs and Husband were charged with child cruelty.It took them three hours?!
After three hours’ deliberation the jury unanimously convicted Biggs on the basis of “wilful assault” after deciding that she was responsible for her son’s injuries. Husband was convicted under “wilful neglect”, for ignoring Rhys’s obvious pain and failing to get him medical assistance.
Biggs first came to the attention of the authorities in 2001 when, aged 19, and with a crack habit, she became a mother. Her daughter, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was taken into care.So, why wasn’t this child?
The three-week trial was told that in 2005 Biggs began an affair with Rhys’s father. They split up while she was still pregnant. Not long afterwards, and before she had her son, she began an affair with Husband. Eleven days after Rhys’s birth a family support worker called the midwife to say that Biggs had not received a visit. Biggs was telephoned and insisted that the baby was healthy and she had “no concerns about him”.That’s all it takes to throw the SS off the scent? ‘Nope, baby’s fine, no need to see him’…?
She kept one appointment on April 12 when Rhys, despite having broken ribs, was said to be fine. Later that day he was seen by a senior paediatric physiotherapist who checked his club foot. No “abnormal marks” were noted.So he had a known birth defect, was born to a known drug addict and serial bedhopper who’d already had one child removed, and had previously been seen with injuries by one of the healthcare ‘professionals’, yet the continual evasions by the mother rang no bells at all?
Two days before her baby died, Biggs was contacted to arrange another health visit. After saying that she was at her boyfriend’s home, Biggs was told she would be contacted again in two to three weeks’ time.
Bell? What am I talking about? These weren’t bells, these were big, flashing, neon signs, spelling out ‘Danger Ahead!’…
Ian McDonald, QC, for the prosecution, said that the first hint of tragedy came in a 999 phone call that Biggs made at 8am on May 8, 2006.Well, no, actually. The ‘first hint of tragedy’ came when a drug addict who’d already had one child taken into care was allowed to keep the second and move in with another yet sperm donor…
So, let’s see if we can summarise this case, shall we?
Patently unfit mother? Check
Previous history of child abuse? Check
Unsuitable relationship with man not the father of the child? Check
Multiple address-hopping to throw authorities off the scent? Check
Healthcare professionals put off doing their duty? Check
Inability by healthcare professionals to see what was before their eyes? Check
Legal system unable to appropriately punish the people responsible for this child’s death? Check
Sacking of all social workers and healthcare ‘experts’ responsible for this failure?
Mmm, I’m betting ‘Not a chance’…