In 2018 our family went through an unimaginable tragedy that changed our lives forever. Our beloved Ethan died after persistent negligence and cruelty inflicted by his mother. He was found unresponsive in his cot after his mother had left him for a number of hours at home alone. That evening he was sadly pronounced dead. Ethan had a number of suspicious injuries, including a 15cm fractured skull and so followed a lengthy police investigation into his death.
In May 2022, Davis was convicted at Salisbury Crown Court of child cruelty and is now serving a two year prison sentence. When Ethan was 6 Months old, he was removed into foster care after suspicious injuries were found on his body during a routine check-up. Subsequently the children were returned to Davis but shortly after their return, Ethan’s wider family informed child services about issues at home. According to relatives, Davis was leaving the children at home alone, smoking drugs and domestically abusing their father. Nothing was investigated thoroughly and no plans were ever put into place to protect the children. In Ethan’s Serious Case Review, it mentions that Wiltshire Council social workers had allowed themselves to be manipulated by Davis, placing her needs above the children’s. It also noted that the domestic violence perpetrated by Davis was not taken seriously, on the probability of gender discrimination by the agencies involved.
After Ethan’s death, Wiltshire Council Child Services remained involved with the wider family, due to the ongoing police investigation and Ethan’s remaining siblings. Social services were tasked in facilitating the contact between Ethan’s siblings and wider family members. This would include viability assessments that if failed, would affect contact with some of the children. As time went on, some troubling circumstances arose within the case when in 2019 at a Family and Fact-Finding Hearing, a personal connection was discovered between the social worker involved with Ethan’s remaining siblings (Ms.C), and a member of Davis’ family (Mr.D).
A formal complaint was raised by our family about the serious conflict of interest. In response, Wiltshire Council stated that Ms.C, allegedly did not realise her connection to Davis’ family until the Family court hearing, after 13 months of working with the family. However, in a report 6 months prior to the discovery of the conflict of interest, Ms.C mentioned that Mr.D is ‘not allowed around the children‘ by Davis. Ms.C was also made aware during the assessment process, months before the Family court hearing, that Mr.D had told a paternal family member that he had been accused of sexual assault on more than one occasion prior to the case. Even though Mr.D had unrestricted access to a vulnerable child in care, none of this was explored by Ms.C or the management overseeing the case.
Had these concerns been investigated, Ms.C would have realised her personal connection to Mr.D much earlier in the case. This would have enabled her to remove herself from the case immediately, avoiding the appearance of bias towards Davis’ family. All viability assessments of our family taken or overseen by Ms.C after she was assigned, consisted of large discrepancies and negative false information. Ultimately this lead our assessments to fail and several official documents showed our assessments had been taken after the date they were due in court.
Following the discovery of the conflict of interest in August 2019, Ms.C should have been removed from the case immediately. This would have ensured that no bias from Ms.C could place any of the children at risk. Unfortunately this did not happen and 3 months later, Ms.C was still on the case. Heading a family conference meeting in Nov 2019, Ms.C was tasked with making very important decisions for Ethan’s siblings. During this meeting, Ms.C also told Mr.D that he could supervise a female member of our family with a vulnerable child. This was regardless of the conflict of interest between them and his past sexual assault allegations. Mr.D did not have to undergo any assessments prior to this decision. In Ms.C’s report from the meeting she stated ‘Mr.D will discuss with [his family member] whether at some stage, he can help with supervision so that [sibling 1] can meet with both [female paternal family member] and [sibling 2]‘
All decisions that Ms.C made during the Family Conference meeting, went in favour of Davis’ family. This included dismissing sibling 2’s wishes because they did not accommodate the adults in Davis’ family due to their personal grievances with our family. Ms.C placed Davis’ family’s needs above the children’s, something that was an issue prior to Ethan’s death.
When Wiltshire Council were asked why Ms.C felt it was appropriate to recommend Mr.D for supervision with his allegations, they said they did not feel Mr.D needed assessing. The serious conflict of interest in this situation, continues to be ignored by Wiltshire Council.
Following the Family conference meeting, a new social worker was assigned to the case (Ms.FD). Ms.FD was tasked with re-assessing members of our family due to the Family court finding Davis to be the most probable perpetrator of Ethan’s injuries and neglect.
Here we will provide the transcripts of what was said to our family, first by Ms.C and secondly by Ms.FD:
Ms.C discussing the Family Court Judgement with us:
‘So what I’m reading out today is a summary of the [Family Court] Judgement, what that means, is that we were in court for three weeks…we were in front of Judge Hess. Judge Hess is a district 9 Judge, which means he acted as a High Court Judge, so one of the top kind of Judges…he’s got a lot of experience, he’s gone through these kind of cases before, it’s not the first time he’s been presented with that. He was asked to answer a number of questions put forward by myself, by [Ethan’s father], by [Davis] to answer, based on the evidence that was provided to him. All of the Judgements that he made, are what we call FACTS now. So they’re not his opinion…they are FACTS…based on information that he heard in those three weeks. He heard from multiple expert witnesses, so he had some medical experts there….neurologists and paediatricians where there so…their expertise is like they’re 1 of 5 in the country so they are the best of the best of the best.‘
Our family were entitled to re-assessments after the Judgement found Davis to be the most probable perpetrator.
Here is Ms.FD discussing the same Judgement during our re-assessments:
1: ‘S’pose, something to feed into that again, social worker brain…[Family Court] Judgement’s based on probability, police are [only] beyond reasonable doubt, neither of them are, “this is the truth”. So that’s just where we come from as an organisation and I come from as a person because I’ve worked with hundreds of children and have done and [Family Court] Judgements are based on probability and police investigations are based on beyond reasonable doubt, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are the be all and end all.‘
2: ‘but that’s what a fact-finding is, is because there were no facts‘
3: Ethan’s father: ‘So why would [Ms.C] say this is FACTS we’re dealing with?
Ms.FD: I’m not sure, I can’t speak for [Ms.C] ‘
Our family fully understand the difference between the burden of proof between the Family Courts and the Criminal Courts. The Family Court Judgement however, is not concluded without careful consideration of evidence and FACTS. For a social worker to infer otherwise is ridiculous and dangerous. Especially when these Judgements hold enough weight to remove children from their parents as well as informing people of risks to children. It appeared that Ms.FD did not want to accept any of Judge Hess’ findings against Davis and still failed our assessments due to us ‘not understanding’ the risks Ethan’s father posed.
When this issue was raised as a complaint to Wiltshire Council, the Head of Sector Led Improvement wrote:
‘This was discussed with you in the meeting but to reaffirm, we take the Finding of Facts made by the [Family] Court as FACT. We discussed the difference between criminal convictions needing to be proven beyond reasonable doubt but that the threshold for Finding of Fact is an on-balance decision the Judge having heard all the evidence available. This is what the social worker would have tried to explain‘
Even after several complaints, Ms.FD has never been held accountable for the gaslighting she perpetrated in our homes, that appeared to ensure we failed our re-assessments. Wiltshire Council closed this case once this response was written.
Ms.J and Ms.PY
On a separate occasion, another social worker (Ms.J) visited a friend of our family during the lockdown. During the visit, Ms.J threatened our friend with a child protection case should she form a relationship with Ethan’s father. Ms.J encouraged requests to Claire’s Law several times during this visit. This inferred that Ethan’s father was a dangerous perpetrator of domestic violence against women. Our family encouraged our friend to make the request to see if there was something we did not know. The officer dealing with the request was appalled that this had been suggested at all. He expressed his outrage at the social worker as there was nothing in the records to warrant a request. When a complaint was issued by our family in regards to this visit, another member of Children’s Social care, ‘Ms.PY‘, wrote us a letter. The top of this letter was headed with a police address, inferring she was working with the police or MASH team. In her letter she told us that the visit by Ms.J was ‘scripted by the police‘.
After looking into this matter, an officer from Wiltshire Police stated ‘I have conducted a review of the information recorded against [Ethan’s father] on the Wiltshire Police systems and have found no evidence that Wiltshire Police have provided the information detailed [in the visit]‘
The police advised us to get the names of the police officers that allegedly scripted this visit, so that they could look into it further. Several complaints later, Wiltshire Council are still unable to give us any names. Social Work England who regulate all registered social workers, stated that they would not look into this matter further as they were happy with Wiltshire Council’s response that this visit was scripted by the police.
Wiltshire Police also stated: ‘I cannot locate a Ms.PY on our system.
Is this relating to a young person? If so, this would be MASH which I can provide an e-mail address for’
A member of Wiltshire Council MASH team responded: ‘I have searched our database and haven’t been able to find a Ms.PY. She does not work for the MASH’
Since 2018, there has been well over 100 complaints, responses and correspondence emails between our family, Wiltshire Council, Social Work England and The Local Government Ombudsman. All the issues and concerns above were raised and subsequently closed with minimum to no investigation at all. They have refused to look at any evidence to support the concerns and have instead only accepted the word of each other, which is highly unacceptable and negligent.
This could explain why many of the same mistakes mentioned in Ethan’s Serious Case Review, were repeated in the cases of Ethan’s siblings. This alone shows us that something needs to be done and our first step was making our story and evidence public, ensuring transparency.
Ultimately, we want this website to be a hub of information and support for those involved with Children’s Services, public or professional. We feel after all we have been through, that we need to provide a way to make important changes.
We would like to make it clear that we are not here to condemn social workers or Child Protection Services. We appreciate they have an extremely tough and important job to do each day and our circumstances with Wiltshire Council were quite unique. There are many vulnerable children that rely on their help and protection and this is precisely why it is vital that this organisation gets it right. We have also spoken to many social workers who would gladly welcome systematic changes that could help them do their job to the best of their ability. This site will be aimed at doing just that.
Together we can help to make the changes that could save a child’s life.