(AFP) – Dec 5, 2008
LONDON (AFP) — A council in Yorkshire is to launch an investigation into the conduct of all the agencies involved with the family of Shannon Mathews, the schoolgirl who was kidnapped by her own mother in a bid to scoop the reward money.
The move was announced a day after Karen Matthews, 33, and co-accused Michael Donovan, 40, were found guilty of the kidnap and false imprisonment of the schoolgirl as well as perverting the course of justice following a three-week trial at Leeds Crown Court.
Shannon Matthews disappeared in February and was found 24 days later hidden in the base of a divan bed at Donovan's flat, just a mile away from her home.
Prosecutors said she had been drugged and imprisoned there as part of a plot to claim a 50,000 pound reward offered by The Sun newspaper for any information which might lead to finding her.
Announcing the probe, Robert Light, head of Kirklees Council in West Yorkshire, said the council would conduct a serious case review to examine the conduct of each agency involved in the family's welfare prior to the kidnapping.
"Matters surrounding the Karen Matthews trial are among issues that have put child care and safeguarding in the public eye this week.
"I think it is important that there is an independent review of the history and records of all agencies' dealings with the family."
The move follows calls by Dewsbury MP Shahid Malik for an independent review into the role of social services.
It also comes on the back of allegations raised in a Panorama documentary shown on BBC1 which claimed that several years before the kidnapping, social workers had raised serious concerns about Karen Matthews' ability to look after her children.
The Panorama team, which was given exclusive access to West Yorkshire police's investigation, found that in December 2003 social workers had commissioned a psychological report about Matthews, highlighting her "inability to successfully place the children's needs above her own".
The programme also included an interview with a former neighbour of the family who said she had repeatedly warned social services about the terrible conditions at their home but nothing seemed to be done about it.
A spokesman for the department for children, schools and families said it was "essential that all the agencies involved in child protection services take a step back and consider whether anything different could have been done.
"We are pleased that the SCR (serious case review) will be independently chaired, consistent with Ed Balls' announcement this week," he said, referring to the Children's Secretary.
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