Lincolnshire infanticide could not have been prevented, report claims

A review into the death of a newborn baby at the hands of his teenage mother in Lincolnshire has concluded that there was nothing that could have been done to prevent the tragedy.

The woman, aged 16 and 11 months when she gave birth on September 5, 2013, admitted to killing her son by pushing a tissue down his throat.

The mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, concealed her pregnancy and gave birth alone, unassisted, in her bedroom at home in a Lincolnshire village.

It is believed that the baby died shortly after birth, with his body hidden by the mother.

The girl denied a charge of murder, but pleaded guilty to infanticide at Lincoln Crown Court last year.

She was sentenced on September 8, 2014 to a two-year Youth Rehabilitation Order (YRO).

Infanticide is defined in the 1938 act as a woman causing the death of her baby under one-year-old while “her mind was disturbed by reason of her not having fully recovered from the effect of giving birth to the child”.

A subsequent report, commissioned by the Lincolnshire Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB), stated: “The presenting information and the challenges of identifying concealed/denied pregnancies made the task of preventing this tragedy an impossible one for all agencies involved.

“This is also a view voiced by the young mother as she did not feel that there was anything that could have been done differently by services.”

The LSCB commissioned the independent review to look at any agency involvement in the year prior to the birth of the baby to see if anything could have been done to prevent the tragedy.

The review panel included contributions from senior managers and professionals from key statutory agencies.

Chris Cook, Chair of the Lincolnshire Children’s Safeguarding Board, said: “Clearly the conclusion states that the baby’s death couldn’t have been foreseen.

“The overview report states agencies had little opportunity to intervene or assist as the pregnancy was concealed and the mother did not present with the typical signs and symptoms of pregnancy – in particular there were no visible physical cues of pregnancy.

“Where there was limited professional contact with the mother the professional advice or action would not have altered this sad and tragic outcome according to the author of the review.

“There is always the opportunity to improve practice however, and recommendations have been implemented for GP health care services to increase knowledge of concealed pregnancy and birth, improved access to psychological therapies and better training for GP practices and registrars.

“It’s also good practice for schools to ensure they have adequate training and Education Welfare Officers are used effectively.”

He added that LSCB would be developing its own guidance for professionals working on these types of cases and will be writing to the Department of Health to recommend they develop an archive of research on concealed pregnancies.

Earlier this month, Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust introduced a new mental health service for pregnant women and women who have recently given birth.

The Perinatal Community Mental Health Team, led by a dedicated Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist, works closely with other mental health teams, GPs, midwives, obstetricians and health visitors in Lincolnshire to offer proactive mental health treatment, information and advice.