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Coroner criticises care given to 16 year old by social services

Failings in care given to karate champion Dana Baker by Worcestershire Social Services

2 June 2014

A Coroner has criticised the care given to a 16-year-old Karate champion, concluding that there were  “serious and systematic failings” in the care given by Worcestershire Social Services.

Dana Baker, 16, was found hanged in Kidderminster in Worcestershire on March 3, 2011. She had been taken into care in 2009 after trying to kill herself following the end of a relationship with her 52 year old karate teacher Jaspal Riat who was jailed for eight years for sexually abusing her.

The inquest was told that during her time in care she had five social workers from three different teams, she attended three different schools and be put in two foster placements in an 18 month period.

She finally was sent to live with an adult friend, Sally King, who was not given any advice or guidance on how to look after the teenager.

Geraint Williams, coroner for Worcestershire, said if Miss Baker had received proper care from the council she would not have had the opportunity to commit suicide and it is likely she would have survived.

Mr Williams said:

"I find that it would have been the simplest measures, and well within the power of the local authority, to have asked Sally King not to let Dana out of her sight and to arrange for visits on a daily basis by professionals,”

"In my judgement these simple steps would have avoided Dana's death on March 3 and therefore I consider that Dana's article two rights were breached."

Mr Williams said from March 2011 the teenager was at a "real and immediate risk of death by suicide", and this was known by those who cared for her.

However, the inquest heard that little was done because they were too busy and overworked.

He added: “Her death was contributed to by a failure to have in place adequate measures to protect her from a known, present and continuing risk that she would kill herself."

Alison Millar a Partner in the Human Rights team at Leigh Day, who specialises in abuse and human rights claims, said:

“We welcome these comments by the Coroner as they represent the seriousness of denying vulnerable children and adults the necessary care which is the purpose of these departments within local authorities.

“By determining that the lack of care given to Dana constituted a breach of her human rights, the Coroner cut to the core of this case: she had a right to expect that all reasonable steps would be taken to protect her life even if she sought to harm herself.

This case also illustrates the ongoing trauma suffered by those who have been the subject of sexual abuse and exploitation as children and have been brave enough to disclose it but have a vital need to receive appropriate aftercare.”

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