The boy they left to die


Daily Record, 19/02/2000, p4&5

IN SIX short, tragic years, little Derek Stanton suffered more than any
child should ever have to suffer.
At nursery, he told his teacher he saw his father hit his alcoholic mum
with a hoover.
By the time he was school age, Derek had witnessed his dad, Derek
Stanton snr, beat and sexually abuse his mother.
His older step-brother, Ross, was also battered by Stanton who flew
into violent rages.
There were even hints that the boys may have been sexually abused. But
still their case was not high enough up the social work scale of
priorities as an emergency case.
When the family’s social worker left the department, the case was put
on a list for a replacement worker.
It was only when suicidal mum Campbell was released from Gartnavel
psychiatric hospital after three weeks there last September, that the
social work department finally decided to appoint a worker to her case.
But because of staff shortages, there was no one available.
Four weeks after Campbell was released from Gartnavel, she threw her
son from the balcony of their 14th-floor flat.
Yesterday, as Campbell was sent to Carstairs, it emerged that her son’s
case seemed to disappear after the social worker dealing with the
family left the department.
Documents obtained by the Record give a disturbing insight into how it
was handled.
One social work insider, appalled at the tragedy, said: “This case was
allocated to a social worker who subsequently left.
“When the initial referral was taken, it was highlighted as a high
priority because of the risk of long term damage or problems.
“If that was the case, why was the family not re-allocated immediately
when their own social worker left.
“Alarm bells should have been ringing.”
The insider added: “We’ve been worried about the short staffing
situation for more than three years. There’s no preventative work
getting done. We’re two people down at the moment, even when we’re up
to strength we are overstretched.”
Documents reveal that the social work department had been involved with
the family on a voluntary basis for more than a year.
Campbell was referred by a health visitor after her older son Ross had
been exhibiting sexually active behaviour.
Social workers discovered that Derek had witnessed his mother being
beaten by his father, and that Ross was also being beaten.
Margaret Brown was allocated the case on October 1998, and in the weeks
that followed the family seemed to progress.
But Campbell’s behaviour changed from one week to another, and that
December she was taken into Woodilee Hospital after threatening and
attempting suicide. She was released after three days.
The social worker was aware Campbell had a drink problem and a less
serious drugs problem. But with help, she went to Alcoholics Anonymous
and even went to college to pursue a fitness instructor course.
Her parents often looked after the children. Although Campbell’s mother
also had a drink problem, it was considered they could “adequately care
for the boys.”
When Margaret Brown left in August 1999, she recommended the support
for the family should continue.
But the family’s case was not considered an urgent priority for
allocation by the social work management.
Yet the same month, Campbell contacted a drug centre and admitted a
major problem with amphetamines.
She was immediately admitted to Gartnavel where she stayed for three
The drugs centre backed her when she visited the social work department
on her release.
This was when the system broke down dramatically.
Just released from hospital, Campbell was looking for help with a new
The report into her case states: “Other areas were highlighted where
she would benefit from support from a social worker and a meeting was
“It was agreed a social worker would be allocated to the case as soon
as possible.”
But later the report says that no social worker was given the case.
It states: “Unfortunately no social worker was allocated to the case.
“Currently our children and families team have two social worker
vacancies and only the highest priority cases are allocated.”
A social work insider told the Record: “The referral from the health
visitor that led to social work involvement gave very specific concerns
regarding this family.
“Why was a referral not made at that point to the reporter to the
children’s hearing? There was a suggestion of sexual abuse, so why was
it not prioritised much higher than it was?
“Even the way this whole thing has been handled since that wee boy died
has been extremely sloppy.
“The district manager didn’t even come down to the area team until the
end of the week. We had been sitting waiting on something like this
Campbell already had Ross when she met and married Derek Stanton.
But it was an explosive relationship with brawls fuelled by drink. He
beat her constantly after the birth of little Derek.
From when he was a toddler, Derek witnessed ugly scenes in the house as
his father flew into drunken rages and his mother developed a drink
When the couple finally separated, Campbell went with her health
visitor for help from the social work department.
Torn between the two parents, little Derek still saw his father, but
his older step-brother Ross hated Stanton and complained that his
step-father often beat him and shouted at him.
The suspicions of sexual abuse arose after Ross displayed
sexually-provocative behaviour towards a young cousin.
Both Derek and Ross underwent therapy sessions with social workers
where they spoke of violent experiences with their father.


Categories: by Shaun Milne, Daily Record articles, Features

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