Stoke & Staffordshire

Ashley Johnson's murder 'not preventable', report finds

Scott Hepburn, sentenced to life imprisonment after pleading guilty to the murder of an 18-month old boy
Image caption Hepburn "flipped" after Ashley would not stop crying, the review team said

The murder of a toddler who was thrown against a wall by his mother's partner could not have been prevented, a report has found.

An independent review team looked into the role agencies played in the run up to the death of Ashley Johnson in Stoke-on-Trent in January last year.

Scott Hepburn, 32, from Fenton admitted murder and was jailed for life.

The death, caused when Hepburn "flipped", "could not have been predicted", the report found.

Hepburn reacted because Ashley would not stop crying, the report said.

'Tragic and disturbing'

The toddler died in hospital from a "catastrophic" brain injury when he suffered extensive fractures to his skull at his home at Woodgate Street, Meir.

A spokesman for Stoke-on-Trent Safeguarding Children Board said it found evidence of "some good internal and inter-agency working".

"Eleven agencies across two local authorities contributed to the report which led to six recommendations being made overall," she said.

"However, the review concludes that, even if the perpetrator's presence in the family had been known to the authorities, there was nothing in his history to suggest that he would have been a risk to the children."

The judge at Stafford Crown Court recommended Hepburn serve a minimum of 15 and a half years.

The board's chairwoman, Jackie Carnell, said: "The circumstances surrounding the child's death are tragic and deeply disturbing, and our thoughts remain with the family.

"The review has identified improvements that must be made to safeguarding practices across all the partner agencies involved with this family.

"However, it is equally clear that none of the shortcomings could have either predicted or prevented this horrific crime.

"The perpetrator is now serving a life sentence but the fact remains that a family will continue to grieve about the loss of a much loved child."

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