A court-appointed children’s guardian and a social worker have been
severely criticised for failing to protect a seven-year-old girl
who was shot dead in a London hostel last September.
Toni-Ann Byfield, a looked-after child, was killed at the hostel
along with convicted drug dealer Bertram Byfield – a man who at the
time was believed to be her biological father.
A social worker from Birmingham Council failed to make inquiries
with the police or Brent social services about Byfield, which could
have revealed the extent of his criminal activity and lack of
commitment to parenting, a serious case review concludes. An
inadequate assessment was also made of Byfield’s girlfriend, Ms C,
who was given care of Toni-Ann in a kinship placement.
The children’s guardian, who was appointed by the Children and
Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass), also failed in
her duty to prioritise Toni-Ann’s welfare, the review finds.
The children’s guardian should have adopted a more “challenging and
independent” position, given the “questionable evidence” she had
received in favour of the kinship placement, the review says.
A backlog of cases meant that Cafcass was unable to allocate a
guardian at the first court hearing in late 2002. As a result, the
guardian “never really fully engaged with the case”, the report
The review suggests that the decision to make the unsuitable
kinship placement with Ms C was a pragmatic one because delays in
sorting out Toni-Ann’s immigration status had meant that she could
not take a foreign holiday with her foster carers.
Birmingham Council’s director of social care and health, Peter Hay,
who was appointed in 2002, said he was well aware of the
department’s history of poor performance and conceded that there
was still “much to do”. He added that staff criticised in the
report were not currently taking decisions affecting children’s
welfare, and that the council would be “further reviewing our
Jane Booth, divisional director of Cafcass, said that the case
backlog in Birmingham had now cleared and that London was now the
only region not meeting performance indicator targets.
She said Cafcass had also issued staff with new child protection
procedures and training packs detailing the lessons of all serious