‘Lack of urgency’ in case of baby found dead in buggy

Alex Sutherland

Alexander had been deemed to be at “medium risk”

A judge has criticised social services for their “lack of urgency” after a 13-month-old baby was found dead next to a lit gas fire at a house in Manchester.

Alexander Sutherland was found in his pushchair in Baguley. His mother, Tracy Sutherland, was jailed for neglect at Manchester Crown Court on Wednesday.

He showed signs of decomposition and was covered in faeces, the court heard.

A serious case review is being carried out. Manchester City Council said it was “looking at its involvement”.

Sutherland, 39, from Baguley, admitted neglect.

Judge Clement Goldstone QC, who sentenced her to 27 months in prison, said social services’ “lack of urgency when dealing with the situation, even allowing for resource difficulties, is startling”.

Social workers became involved with the Sutherland family shortly after Alexander’s birth.

Unexplained injuries

However after nearly a year, in September 2009, they declared the case closed as he did not seem to be at any risk.  This changed on 5 October, when social services received a call following a family row. After an assessment, Alexander was deemed to be at “medium risk”.   However, there was no further contact for a month and social services allowed a meeting arranged for 5 November to be cancelled by Sutherland.

Tracey Sutherland

Sutherland was sentenced to 27 months in prison

Five days later, the emergency services received a call from Sutherland saying she had been at home alone with her baby for three days.   Paramedics found the house was unlocked and discovered Alexander in his pushchair next to a lit gas fire.

The court heard how Alexander – who was covered in faeces and had unexplained injuries on his body – might have been dead for two days when he was found.   A post-mortem examination could not establish a cause of death but found that Alex had been subjected to neglect in the days before he died.

However no causal link was found between the neglect and his death.

Pauline Newman, director of children’s services at Manchester City Council, said after the court hearing: “Alex’s death was a terrible tragedy and we would once again like to offer our sincere condolences to his family and friends.

“We are examining closely our involvement with the family in the context of the multi-agency serious case review which is being carried out by the independent Manchester Safeguarding Children’s Board.”

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