Today (Friday 26 January), the Worcestershire Safeguarding Children Partnership have released a Child Safeguarding Practice Review following the murder of nine-year-old Alfie Steele in Droitwich.
You can find the review here: CSPR-Worcestershire-Alfie.pdf (safeguardingworcestershire.org.uk)
Alfie died in February 2021 after suffering the most horrifying physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his mother, Carla Scott and her partner Dirk Howell.
Both are now serving significant prison sentences for the abuse and cruelty that young Alfie was forced to endure throughout his short life.
The multi-agency review highlighted learning points, practice considerations and recommendations for a number of agencies, including West Mercia Police.
Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Jones said: “We continue to extend our deepest condolences to those who knew Alfie, who will forever miss his warm infectious smile and sense of humour. The loss his family has experienced is immeasurable.
“Alfie’s family and you, our local communities, deserve to have faith that authorities, including police, will do everything in their power to keep children safe and stop those intent on causing harm and suffering.
“This is why it is important that you understand the partnership’s actions prior to Alfie’s murder, and the measures put in place to ensure children are listened to and kept safe.
“In the immediate aftermath of Alfie’s murder, we carried out an initial review of West Mercia Police’s involvement with the family.
“As a direct result, enhanced training has been put in place for our front-line officers and staff to ensure they fully understand the signs of vulnerability, that they are professionally curious and don’t take information on face value.
“We’ve also worked to ensure that our officers and staff are aware of and consider alternative measures available to us alongside criminal proceedings, such as civil orders.
“After Alfie’s case had been heard in court, we made a referral to the Independent Office for Police Conduct to ensure independent assessment of our contact with the family.
“This investigation remains ongoing, but we have committed that the findings will be shared with you as soon as they can.
“We fully support the recommendations of the review and are absolutely committed to working within the partnership to continually develop and improve safeguarding measures for vulnerable children and young people.
“It is with the greatest sadness that we will never be able to undo the dreadful abuse Alfie suffered. Our thoughts remain with all those who knew and loved Alfie.”
The following article was published on the 15th June 2023:
Carla Scott and Dirk Howell were today (15th June 2023) sentenced for the death of Alfie Steele.
Following the sentencing, Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Chief Inspector Leighton Harding, said:
“Alfie Steele suffered the most cruel and inhumane treatment at the hands of his mother Carla Scott and her partner Dirk Howell.
“During the trial, the Jury heard evidence of how Alfie was repeatedly beaten and ‘dunked’ in cold baths and had multiple injuries when he was found.
“Scott and Howell maintained they did not know what had happened to Alfie to cause his death and denied any responsibility.
“The jury carefully considered the evidence put before them and rejected their accounts, determining that they were both responsible for inflicting the physical violence that caused his death.
“In finding Howell guilty of murder and Scott guilty of manslaughter, today, they faced the consequences of their actions with Howell sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum custodial term of 32 years and Scott sentenced to 27 years imprisonment with a minimum custodial term of 17 years.
“I am pleased that justice has been done for Alfie, and our thoughts remain with his family, friends and all who knew and loved him.
“The jury had heard evidence of a culture of abuse, cruelty and torture of Alfie by Scott and Howell, which amounted to repeated beatings with a belt causing extensive bruising. He was often woken in the early hours of the morning and made to stand outside where Scott and Howell threw jugs of cold water over him.
“He was grounded for excessive periods, made to stand for hours inside and outside his home, have food removed or withheld from him, banished to his room, and repeatedly forced into a bath of cold water with his head held under.
“Alfie should have expected the unconditional love and protection from Scott, yet she deliberately neglected his needs, choosing to prioritise her own needs and relationship with Howell.
“The lies they told to children’s services, school and police was to protect themselves and prevent the abuse they were inflicting on Alfie being discovered.
“Their lies and denials of any wrongdoing continued throughout the investigation and the trial.
“At no stage has either of them shown any remorse or acceptance of responsibility for their actions.
“The custodial sentences passed on Howell and Scott are a clear reflection of the abhorrent physical and emotional abuse they both inflicted upon Alfie; and while they will not undo the dreadful abuse he suffered, it does mean that they will now face the consequences of their sickening actions.
“We are aware that the family were known to West Mercia Police and other agencies prior to Alfie’s death. The jury heard evidence of 999 calls from neighbours and reports from other people regarding concerns over Scott and Howell’s conduct and treatment of Alfie, which led to Police and other agencies having contact and involvement with the family in the months before Alfie’s death.
“I recognise the concerns and questions this raises. I can provide assurance that West Mercia Police is committed to reviewing its involvement with the family and engagement with other agencies through a Child Safeguarding Practice Review commissioned by Worcestershire Safeguarding Children Partnership.
“We are committed to learning lessons from Alfie’s tragic death and will fully engage with the review. An independent reviewer has already been appointed and will continue the review at pace now that the criminal case has ended.
“Once completed, the author will publish their report, therefore until that time I would not wish to speculate on its potential findings.”