Social care and other agencies failed to treat Jayden Parkinson, the Oxfordshire 17-year-old murdered by her older ex-boyfriend, as a child needing protection a serious case review has found.
Ben Blakeley strangled Parkinson and hid her body in his uncle’s grave in December 2013 after she told him she was pregnant with his child. At the time of the murder the pair had been known to local services for some time.
A combined domestic homicide and serious case review into the murder found mistakes were made by services who knew Parkinson was vulnerable and Blakeley was violent and abusive towards her. It said that services and practitioners viewed Parkinson as an adult rather than the vulnerable child she was.
“Too often [Parkinson] was viewed as a difficult young person and not recognised as a child in need of safeguarding,” the review said. “Professionals and agencies did not always fully understand the serious nature of the risks to [her] or were too quick to be reassured that she would be able to protect herself from those risks.”
That her relationship with Blakeley was sometimes regarded as a choice showed “a lack of understanding of the nature of the relationship, her vulnerability, the impact of coercive control and her status as a child who might be at risk of significant harm”.
Lack of placements
In one incident Parkinson told a social worker that Blakeley had assaulted her and was advised to contact the police herself.
“Advising any victim of domestic abuse to report this herself rather than ensuring that she had some support to do so, would not have been good practice,” the review said. “Given that the victim was a 16-year-old girl, legally a child, this was unacceptable.”
The review found that the effectiveness of support plans was undermined by a lack of care placements for adolescents and a culture within Oxfordshire children’s social care that regarded young people’s interests as best served within their families.
However the review did note that the council had altered its approach to young people in need since the murder and has invested more in developing placement options for vulnerable teenagers.
Multiple barriers to effective multi-agency intervention were also identified by the report. These included professionals struggling to balance her autonomy as a teenager with her need for protection and a tendency to focus on immediate crises faced by Parkinson rather than her overall situation.
The many specific recommendations made by the review included:
- Ensuring that there are suitable services for young people with complex emotional and behavioral problems who do not meet CAMHS thresholds
- Thames Valley Police changing its procedures so that when a case involves a child it is always referred to children’s social care
- When young people asked to become looked after and that request is refused, they should be offered an advocate to represent them in decision making
“There is no doubt that there was enough information to alert agencies to the risks that [Blakeley] posed and to [Parkinson]’s vulnerability,” concluded the report.
“Whilst it would be unrealistic to suggest that the murder of [Parkinson] could have been predicted, all the evidence pointed towards the likelihood that [she] would experience further abuse, including the possibility of serious emotional or physical harm.”
In summer 2014, Blakeley was sentenced to at least twenty years in prison after being convicted of Parkinson’s murder.