Social work, health and police services face hostile public
criticism after admitting mistakes were made when a father was
found guilty of the culpable homicide of two of his young babies
and of asphyxiating a third child.
Keith Makin, director of social work for Dumfries and Galloway
and chairperson of the inter-agency child protection committee,
admitted that mistakes had been made in 1995. Makin said that
changes implemented by the council in 2000 would have prevented
these errors, but a further review of procedures would now be
At the high court in Edinburgh, Ian Metcalfe was found guilty of
the culpable homicide of Kyle (11 weeks) in 1988, and Dylan (5
months) in 1996. He was also found guilty of assaulting and
asphyxiating a third child who cannot be named for legal reasons in
1989. All the incidents took place in Dumfries and Galloway.
In 1995, the family was in contact with the social work
department after Dylan was found to have unexplained bruises. The
social work department decided not to place the child on the child
protection register, but to maintain informal contact.
In an official joint statement Dumfries and Galloway council,
the local NHS trust and Dumfries and Galloway Police described
Metcalfe as a “clever serial offender”.
Makin said: “These tragic events took place several years ago
and much has changed since then. I am confident that the way we
deal with child protection and the links between agencies are much
stronger and more secure now. But no-one can promise to keep
children safe in the face of sustained evil.”
Metcalfe was found to have suffocated the two children whose
deaths were previously attributed to cot deaths. Politicians and
care agencies called for a change in the law requiring all such
unexplained deaths to be publicly scrutinised.
Dumfries and Galloway attributed the detection and conviction of
Metcalfe to the developments in forensic science over the past 10
years, and in particular post mortem evidence of previous bleeding
into the lungs, interpretation of rib fractures and of petechiae
(tiny red blotches on the surface of skin).
Dumfries and Galloway’s chief executive Malcolm Wright
said that recent developments by the council were “about making
sure we have the right skills in the right places and that they are
kept up to date”.
The Scottish executive is carrying out a national review of
child protection procedures which is due to report in the autumn