Probation Service failed to warn guardian about man who killed toddler

·4-min read

A 21-month-old girl was murdered by a babysitter after the Probation Service failed to pass on information suggesting he posed a potential risk to children, a serious case review has found.

The review of the death of Lilly Hanrahan said information about Sean Sadler, who is serving a life sentence, “could have made a difference” if it had been communicated to her guardian.

Sadler was jailed for a minimum of 20 years in March this year after inflicting fatal brain injuries on Lilly in a “brutal assault” and then failing to seek medical help for about three hours.

Birmingham Crown Court was told the murder was the culmination of a string of offences linked to Sadler’s “uncontrollable” temper.

Lilly Hanrahan death
A custody image of Sean Sadler issued after he was jailed in March (West Midlands Police/PA)

The 32-year-old, of Coriander Close, Northfield, Birmingham, was convicted of murder after jurors were told how the “normal, happy” toddler was shaken and beaten with such violence that she suffered broken bones before her death in hospital in November 2017.

The court heard Sadler had four previous convictions for offences of battery, starting with an attack in which he struck his then partner with a dog chain.

The offences, which led to court appearances in 2012, 2014 and 2017, also included an assault outside a social club in which a female victim was punched in the face without warning.

The trial was told Sadler began a relationship with Lilly’s guardian in the spring of 2017, becoming a regular visitor to the home and often staying overnight.

At his trial, Sadler denied murder, claiming Lilly had fallen asleep on the sofa after watching television, but that he later called an ambulance when he was unable to wake her.

Lilly’s special guardian was not named in a Birmingham Safeguarding Children Partnership review published on Tuesday, in which she stated that she would have taken steps to distance herself from Sadler had she known about his previous convictions.

The report noted: “The Programmes Tutor in the Probation Service became aware that the convicted perpetrator had a new partner, the special guardian… in September 2017.

“Although the information was recorded on the case notes by her, procedures required that she inform the Probation Officer verbally by telephone or in a face-to-face meeting and confirm this information in an email.

“In this case, she did not inform the probation officer or the WSW (Women’s Support Worker).

“Had the probation officer and WSW been made aware of the new information, the response would have been a referral to the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub with information on the new partner, the special guardian, and contact by the WSW with the special guardian to make her aware of the identified risks potentially posed to partners and children by the perpetrator.

“This omission may well have had very serious consequences for Lilly, and may be the single omission that could have made a difference.

“The Probation Service failed to follow their own procedures.

“Had they done so, Children’s Social Care would have been alerted and safeguarding processes put in place.”

The report said the Probation Service had identified that its “process is not sufficiently robust” and a review is to be undertaken to determine whether a change to the process is required.

Addressing the views of the woman who had care of Lilly, the report added: “She told us that she blames herself completely for the death of Lilly: that she should have been more suspicious of her then partner, should not have taken his word, should not have allowed him to babysit for Lilly, should have seen the pattern in the bruises.

“She also blames the police for not informing her about her then partner’s convictions.

“In fact, probation had a duty to inform her. She said, that had she known, she would have immediately taken steps to distance herself from him.”

Commenting on the report, Penny Thompson, the Independent Chair of Birmingham Safeguarding Children Partnership, said: “Lilly’s death at 21 months at the hands of her Special Guardian’s partner in November 2017, is profoundly sad.

“Sean Saddler, the person responsible for Lilly’s murder, has now been brought to justice. I offer condolences to her family and loved ones on behalf of the Birmingham Safeguarding Children Partnership.

“I know they continue to feel her loss intensely.”

At the time of the offence, the privately-run West Midlands and Staffordshire CRC was responsible for the management of Sadler’s case.

Sarah Chand, head of West Midlands Probation Service, said: “My heartfelt sympathies remain with Lilly’s family and I would like to apologise to them for the failure by probation which contributed to her death.

“Since this horrific crime, we have recruited more staff, work more closely with social services and continue to conduct visits to offenders’ homes to better protect children and partners from domestic violence.”

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