Failings over boy who killed foster carer Dawn McKenzie

Failings over boy who killed foster carer Dawn McKenzie

2 October 2013 Last updated at 12:11

Foster carer Dawn McKenzie died after being stabbed 10 times

Fostering News by Foster Care News - United Kingdom
Fostering News by Foster Care News – United Kingdom

A review of the care given to a boy who killed his foster carer has found some failings but concluded her death could not have been anticipated or prevented.

The boy stabbed Dawn McKenzie, 34, 10 times at a flat in Hamilton, on 24 June 2011, after he had been grounded. He was detained for seven years after admitting culpable homicide on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

The review into the boys care identified failings such as inadequate staffing and shortage of resources. The boy, who is now 15 but cannot be named for legal reasons, was originally charged with murdering Mrs McKenzie but the Crown accepted his guilty plea to the lesser charge.

Physical abuse

His trial at the High Court in Glasgow heard that in the days leading up to the killing, the boy’s X-box, mobile phone and laptop had been taken from him.

He attacked Mrs McKenzie after her husband Bryan left the house, stabbing her 10 times on the head and body. The fatal blow severed a major blood vessel and caused her to bleed to death.

“There was no evidence to suggest that what happened could have been prevented by health practitioners taking any other course of action or risk assessing in any other way” Serious Cases Review report

The trial heard that the boy spent his early years falling victim to physical abuse from his natural parents – and that this prevented him from learning the differences between right and wrong.

The court was told the teenager was suffering from a mental condition, called a dissociative state, in which he was unable to properly distinguish between reality and fiction.

It was also said that his mental condition meant he was unable to keep being grounded in perspective and was unable to fully explain why he killed his carer. Judge Lord Pentland ordered that the boy be detained for seven years and supervised for five years following his release.

A review of the care he received before carrying out the killing was commissioned by Glasgow Child Protection Committee.

The heavily redacted review report, in which the boy is referred to as D and Mrs McKenzie as Mrs L, identifies several failings in the teenager’s care package.

It states: “There is also evidence that the Glasgow City Social Worker did not visit D until he had been in his final placement for two months. This is outwith statutory requirements.”

‘Shortage of resources’

The report also notes that social work staff did not have the time to properly reflect and weigh up the complexities of the boy’s case. It states: “Structured, reflective supervision is crucial to the good management of complex cases such as this.

“Structured reflective supervision is noticeably lacking at key points in the history of this case as far as Glasgow Social Workers were concerned.”

Other failings are also identified: “Inadequate staffing, inexperienced staff, shortage of resources and disruption to supervisory and management structures all had an impact, not only at the time but in the longer term.

“This is a strategic and political issue because providing Social Work Services adequate to meet the needs of vulnerable children requires sufficient resource to be allocated, which needs to be argued for even more strongly at times of budgetary constraint.”

The report, however, found that Mrs McKenzie’s death could not have been prevented.

‘Tragic circumstances’

It states: “The Serious Cases Review (SCR) panel found no evidence to suggest that the tragic circumstances which led to the death of D’s foster carer could have been anticipated or prevented.

“However, the SCR team looked further to consider whether D had a known propensity for serious violence and therefore presented a severe danger to carers or whether he had particular mental health difficulties which meant his behaviour might be unpredictable.

“There was no evidence whatsoever of aggression towards adults since he had been accommodated three years previously.” The report also noted that “a great deal of work had gone into developing and delivering a joint plan of care”.

It also concluded: “There was no evidence to suggest that what happened could have been prevented by health practitioners taking any other course of action or risk assessing in any other way.

“All health services were agreed that Mrs L’s death came ‘out of the blue’ with no indication whatsoever that D was struggling or that the foster carers had any concerns that would have alerted the authorities to the risk.”

A fatal accident inquiry will be held into Mrs McKenzie’s death at a later date.

Source: BBC News 2013

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