Finley Boden: case review examining factors behind baby’s murder after return to parents

10-month old found to have 71 bruises and 54 fractures following murder by Stephen Boden and Shannon Marsden, 39 days after being returned to their care

Finley Boden
Finley Boden (photo: Derbyshire Constabulary)

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Finley Boden’s murder by his parents is being examined by a case review that will report later this year.

The child safeguarding practice review is looking at agencies’ involvement with Finley and his parents, Stephen Boden and Shannon Marsden, both before his birth and in the course of his 10-month life

Last week, Boden and Marsden were convicted of Finley’s murder, in the early hours of Christmas Day, 2020, 39 days after he was returned to their care.

Finley was taken into care shortly after his birth, in February 2020, but was returned to his parents later that year through a court order following an eight-week transition, despite Derbyshire council social workers requesting a six-month period, the BBC has reported.

Parents ‘evasive with professionals’

Professionals saw Finley regularly, and found him to be developing well and health, after his return but both parents were evasive with health practitioners and social workers, said Derbyshire Constabulary.

Despite Boden and Marsden telling paramedics that Finley had been poorly with a high temperature and cold, the police said a post-mortem found he had 71 bruises and two burns on his body, caused by multiple, separate assaults.

Finley Boden in cot

Finley Boden (photo: Derbyshire Constabulary)

Finley also had 57 fractures, including 17 fractured ribs, a fractured collarbone, wrist, shoulder, left thigh bone, right shin bone and both thighs, with a paediatrician concluding he would have been in “severe and protracted pain” before his death.

Detective Inspector Stephen Shaw, who led the investigation into Finley’s death, said he was much loved by his wider family and had enjoyed happy times with them.

Parents ‘did not even take Finley to hospital’

He added: “As a parent you have no greater responsibility than to a child that is in your care but Boden and Marsden could not even bring themselves to take Finley to hospital when it was absolutely clear that he was critically ill.

“They have never given a reasonable explanation as to why they did not do this, but it appears to be abundantly clear that their primary concern was their own freedom – and not the life of Finley.”

“Finley’s death is a tragedy and our heartfelt sympathy goes out to everyone who knew and loved him,” said a Derbyshire council spokesperson.

BASW highlights role of Covid lockdowns

She said the authority was “fully engaged” with the practice review, commissioned by Derby and Derbyshire Safeguarding Children Partnership, adding: “The review is conducted independently and it would not be appropriate for us to comment further until that review is complete to ensure we do not pre-empt its findings. Once the review process has concluded we will be in a position to communicate more fully about this case.”

The British Association of Social Workers sent its condolences to Finley’s family and all those affected by his murder, and also highlighted the potential impact of Covid lockdowns on professionals’ access to him.

It added: “We await the outcome of the local child safeguarding practice review to understand findings and learning, including the potential impact of manipulative behaviour and how Covid was reported to have been used to stop agencies seeing Finley during lockdowns in 2020.

“Our thoughts are with everyone affected by this terrible tragedy at this very sad and painful time.”

Finley’s tragic murder, like many previous child deaths, has led to public and media criticism of social work. How is this affecting you in your practice? Please comment below.

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8 Responses to Finley Boden: case review examining factors behind baby’s murder after return to parents

  1. D Pasha April 17, 2023 at 6:02 pm #

    I am an American, and not qualified to speak about specific practices in your country. Also, it is many years since I was a caseworker in my own, but I am guessing that too many cases per worker and too much paperwork per case are always impediments. The parents were deliberately posing obstacles, caseworkers don’t have warrant powers, and the authorities are little inclined to listen to their requests for forcible intervention. Additionally , courts are very much at fault here. They are very much under the delusion that parents are “nicer” than other possible custodians, and that the parent with more $ (normally the father) is “nicer” than the parent with less. The result is that children are routinely taken away from those who love them and given to those who are using them for hostages. I can’t blame the caseworkers. They’re playing against a stacked deck.

    • Linda April 27, 2023 at 6:34 pm #

      I fully agree with what you say. Social workers get the blame time and time again, when they have no powers to enter a home to check on a child thet the court has decided to hand back to abusive parents. It was the parents responsible for this childs death and the system needs to be changed to enable social services to better protect these little ones!

  2. dk April 18, 2023 at 9:20 am #

    The details that have been reported are horrifying and lend themselves to wondering how on Earth people did not see the obvious, but it is important to remind ourselves that is how press coverage generally works before reaching personal conclusions. I also think there is also a balance to be struck here between the family courts finally facing some form of deserved, overdue public scrutiny and the social work profession not, traumatized by having the finger pointed solely at it, too enthusiastically grabbing at an opportunity to do the same to another institution. That is the feeling I get from some of the initial public commentary I have seen.

    My heart breaks for Finley.

  3. Pam holcroft April 21, 2023 at 4:35 pm #

    How often did social workers and health professionals see this baby?
    How often did they hold him, pick him up and note his pain and injuries?
    What do professionals actually do…when they visit the child?
    The review needs to look more closely at the contact with the baby..
    All too often a home visit is exactky that…it’s not focussing on the child.
    How many more children will die for want of professional curiosity?…..

    • Silvia April 25, 2023 at 9:54 pm #

      Well said.
      I am terrified to read his injuries what that little baby must have suffered physically and mentally.
      I ask the same – what is done during the social worker’s visit – do they have the rights to check the child over for bruises injuries? Or do they just watch them from afar – and parents can easily cover them up in long sleeves top long sleeves bottoms.
      What force must have been used on that poor little baby to cause those shocking injuries is unimaginable. On a child that can’t even walk, or in any way defend themselves is barbaric.

  4. cnc April 21, 2023 at 8:20 pm #

    Social Workers make recommendations, family court’s make decisions, closer scrutiny of family courts is long overdue. Increasingly recommendations are overulled. I have seen it a number of times. I can’t comment on the particulars of this case other than to say how desperate it is and the weight of media critism is already leaning towards the Social Work profession, which is what we have come to expect.

  5. Andy May 3, 2023 at 7:08 am #

    I’m losing track of the young children reported as suffering appalingly traumatic deaths whilst in their parents’/carers’ care – yet another tragic report on BBC news yesterday.

  6. Jean Marie May 6, 2023 at 5:06 pm #

    I agree with all the persons who have already contributed in response to the case review and just like to add that children in care proceedings have a number of professionals involve.
    The children’s parents have solicitors
    The children are represented by the children’s guardians and have a solicitor
    The Local Authority have a solicitor
    The Independent Social Workers (IRO) review the children’s care plan through the CIOC reviews.
    The children are seen by their health visitors
    The Local Authority have a pile of forms that Social Workers have to fill for monitoring purposes.
    The Social Worker bears the brunt of the burden as every moment the social worker is asked to write a updated statement for court/write updated care plan,
    The social worker is asked to write the care plan for court but the care plan is agreed by the service manager and often not based on the Social Worker’s views as the IRO who does not visit the child/ren and only sees the children’s parents on the day of the review would believe what the parents say, so Social workers dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t.
    It is time for Guardians, IRO’s and the court to be called into questions about their involvement and to take some responsibility. Often times to low paid social workers are put in the firing line while the hierarchy are let off free.