A former South Tyneside council social worker and his line
manager have been strongly criticised by a coroner over the death
of 13-month-old child.
Sophie Casey was referred to South Tyneside’s social
services department in August 1999 after she fractured her skull.
Social worker David Potts took on her case, but failed to pass it
on to his supervisor Dave Martin when he went on sick leave a month
Casey died in December 1999 when she choked on her own vomit
after being fed a mixture of cheesecake, ice-cream, milk and
weetabix for breakfast by her stepfather Peter Casey.
Delivering his verdict of death by misadventure, contributed to
by neglect, South Tyneside coroner Terence Carney said: “Neither Mr
Potts or Mr Martin fully addressed nor discharged their
He added: “The focus from social services was not on the
children, nor does there appear to have been positive actions to
safeguard or promote children’s welfare.”
A joint investigation by the social services department and
Northumbria police child protection team into Sophie’s
fractured skull said it was an accident. Nursing staff, teachers,
neighbours and Sophie’s own grandparents had all raised their
concerns with South Tyneside social services over the way Sophie
and her brother were being parented by her mother and
Trevor Doughty, executive director of social care and health at
South Tyneside council, said: “Although Sophie was not in the care
of social services during her short life, we recognise that as one
of the agencies responsible for her well-being there were serious
shortcomings in the way this case was handled.”
He added that in the two-and-half years since the Sophie’s
death the department had had the opportunity to reflect, review and
learn from the case. Doughty said the key lessons the council had
learned were to communicate better with other agencies, and
introduce better systems for handling case files.
Potts was dismissed by South Tyneside council in 2000 over the