South West Wales

South Wales Police's 'failure' over Swansea baby death

A High Court judge has given details of South Wales Police's "failure to take action" following the death of a baby.

Mr Justice Moor gave some of the history of police involvement in the case in a written ruling.

The judge said the case involved a woman from the Swansea area who had admitted killing her baby daughter and wounding another baby.

His ruling, published after a media application at a Family Division hearing, referred to police "delay".

In his written ruling, the judge lifted restrictions on what journalists could report.

He said a High Court judge had concluded in 2008 that both children had probably been victims of "non-accidental injury".

The woman, he said, was "finally charged" in 2013.

The judge said journalists could not identify the woman, the dead child, the injured child or their father.

However, he said reports could say the force involved was South Wales Police and could include reference to "the police's failure to take action" and the "time taken to decide to prosecute".

'Significant harm'

He said he had imposed reporting restrictions in March 2013 after an application from a local authority, but he had lifted many of the restrictions following an application by the BBC and others.

The judge said City and County of Swansea officials had argued that identifying the woman would cause "very significant harm" to other children in the family.

He said the baby girl had been born in 2006 and died a few weeks later. The second baby had been injured in late 2007.

The judge said after the death of the first child, "neither the police nor local authority took any substantive action at that stage".

Investigations only began after the second child was admitted to hospital over a year later, "quite lifeless", with suspicious injuries.

In March 2009 an intervention board was brought in at Swansea council's child and family services to oversee it after a series of critical inspections.

The panel of experts was withdrawn 18 months later after inspectors found there had been positive improvements.

Mr Justice Moor said a High Court judge had conducted a fact-finding hearing and concluded in 2008 that both children had probably been victims of "non-accidental injury, in particular, they had been the victims of shaking or shaking/impact".

He said in September 2011 that the police "finally applied for disclosure of the case papers".

'Inexcusable'

In November 2011, a High Court judge had said that "there was, as far as he could see, 'no reasonable justification' for the delay in applying which appeared to be 'inexcusable'," said Mr Justice Moor.

Later in November 2011, the same High Court judge had ordered police to undertake their investigation "urgently and as quickly as possible".

Mr Justice Moor said the children's mother was "finally charged" in February 2013.

He said: "There are a number of... aspects that it is clear the media should be able to report."

He said reports could say the police authority was South Wales Police and could, "include reference to the police's failure to take action in 2006 and 2007 and the time taken to decide to prosecute since then".

Mr Justice Moor said journalists could report that the woman was a mother from the Swansea area, could say that the dead child and the injured child were siblings and could identify the local authority.

He said the children's mother was due to be sentenced on Thursday. She is due to appear before Mr Justice Wyn Williams at Swansea Crown Court.

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