London

Boy's death 'could not be predicted'

The death of an autistic boy who was made to drink bleach by his mother in east London "could not have been predicted", a review has ruled.

The 12-year-old was found dead on the sofa at the family home in Barking in February 2010.

The mother was jailed for seven years after pleading guilty to manslaughter.

The review found that officials had decided to take the boy into care but were hampered by delays in what became a "very complex" case.

The Barking and Dagenham Safeguarding Children Board, which carried out the review, stated that despite "mistakes", the authorities could not have predicted his death.

Simon Hart, the board's chairman, said many agencies across London "came into contact with, and attempted to support, the family".

"It is clear mistakes were made and shortcomings have been revealed."

'Missed opportunities'

About 30 agencies, including schools, hospitals and council workers, had been involved in caring for the boy, who could not speak and had difficulty getting around.

He had been taught at home since 2007 after the mother rejected local schools.

The review found there were "missed opportunities to intervene more decisively" before October 2009, when the council started the process of taking the boy into care.

His death "would have been prevented if an application to remove the child had been made at an earlier point and it had been granted by the court", the review said.

But the "very complex nature of the case history" meant the order may not have been granted promptly.

The mother's decision to kill her son was "triggered at least in part" by the council's decision to remove him from her care, it added.

The mother had a personality disorder, but despite concerns about her mental health, professionals failed to challenge her "aggressive behaviour", it said.

The review recommended better training for staff to recognise and understand personality disorders.

It urged the government to provide more guidance on monitoring vulnerable children who are home-schooled.

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