FOR the seven years that Blake Fowler was alive he was beaten, abused and lived in fear of being hurt.

Often seen with bruises and regularly absent from school the youngster’s injuries were explained away as accidental and his sometimes angry outbursts put down to possible learning difficulties.

Even when the boy had the courage to tell those in authority what was really happening to him – no one listened.

In the end Blake Fowler died on December 4, 2011.

At the time Blake was in the care of his mother’s partner Peter Meek who the youngster regarded as his dad. The serious head injuries that Blake suffered were so severe he never recovered from them.

Long before subsequent police failings that led to an apology and a reinvestigation of whether anyone was responsible for inflicting those fatal injuries, Blake had been let down.

In a report published today the extent of those failings have been laid bare.

The Serious Case Review (SCR), which was eventually commissioned to examine the role the authorities played in the circumstances surrounding his death, sets out a list of damning failures that led to the youngster remaining in an environment where he eventually died.

In the first instance a victim of the worst parenting imaginable, but secondly the victim of a systematic failure of care.

Daily Echo:

Blake Fowler

The report concludes that Blake could have been protected long before his death and that there were too many missed opportunities.

The Review published today by the Local Children’s Safeguarding Board (LSCB) states clearly that Blake was “physically, emotionally and sexually abused” and suffered neglect in every way.

In tribute to Blake the report says: “It is the mark of his resilience that he continued to present much of the time as lively and cheerful, but the failure to see that this presentation masked a lifetime of abuse is alarming.”

It goes on: “This was not a case which required particular investigation expertise or determination. Evidence of the abuse and neglect was repeated and explicit.”

The violence to which he was exposed was so obvious, even workmen in the Southampton street where Blake lived were so appalled they reported it.

The boy’s grandmother wrote to social workers pleading with them to intervene before it was “too late.

But those who had the statutory duty to protect the child from harm failed to see it, and failed and failed and failed.

In all it was 18 times that Blake Fowler could have been protected, not just by one agency – but by them all.

On eight of those occasions the event was so serious it warranted immediate action to be taken, but none of any substance was.

At one stage, despite multiple warning signs, his overstretched social worker passed the case onto a student to deal with.

Teachers, health workers, police and social workers all failed to either act swiftly enough, or act at all despite a catalogue of warning signs, the report concludes.

The failures outlines how:

  • Staff at the pre school and school failing to make child protection referrals despite explicit evidence of injury.
  • A school nurse took no further action when she was told he had been hit by his ‘father’ 
  • A health visitor did not follow up after seeing possible injuries
  • Missed opportunity to act when Blake was admitted to hospital with injuries
  • A review of the investigation by Hampshire police into Blake’s death found serious weaknesses in the management and resourcing of the investigation.

In a final twist, the LSCB also levels criticism at its own organisation for failing to commission the Serious Case Review as quickly as it should have done.

It says that too long a delay was left between Blake’s death and the commissioning of the report.

In short the report says that Blake was let down at every level of involvement by the authorities before and after his death.

The years of abuse:

SEVEN year old Blake regarded Peter Meek as his father but it was most probably at his hands that he and his mother suffered the abuse, according to today’s report.

To add to his misfortune, a former partner of his mother was also cited in legal papers as having given the boy vodka to drink before he was even at school.

Blake also suffered from his mother’s temper, herself a victim of domestic violence says the report that was very well known to the authorities and was at the heart of most of the problems Blake encountered in his short life.

The report outlines a series of episodes of violence to which Blake was exposed or suffered but was never properly investigated.

In one of the most violent the SCR recounts how Sarah was witnessed in a supermarket to having “hit, turned upside down, shaken and threatened” Blake.

That was in 2007 and for the next four years a catalogue of instances were concerns were raised but not acted upon.

They include how Blake told social workers how Peter Meek bit him whilst putting him to bed and suffered repeated facial bruising and injuries that were either reported and not acted upon or not reported at all.

On one occasion workmen reported to the NSPCC how they had seen the injured child with his mother and had heard screaming from the property.

Blake’s grandmother Jane Extance repeatedly contacted social services with her concerns for Blake’s welfare, but her calls when unreturned.

In 2008 Blake was admitted to hospital with a swollen penis and facial injuries, but no further action of any note was taken.

By March 2010 Blake’s attendance at school was poor and he continued to show signs of injury including in the April where he told teachers that bruising on his head was as the result of his dad banging his head on a bike and bed.

In the October his explanation for hitting another child in the face was “that was what his daddy did to him.”

On another occasion he said: “My daddy gives me bruises, but I don’t care.”

Towards the end of his life Blake was also displaying what the report described as “sexualised behaviour”.

When questioned about this he told a social worker that he could not go to sleep before the adults did and often lay on the sofa watching the pornographic films that were on the television.

Meanwhile, Peter had been arrested over a domestic violence incident that was subsequently dropped as Sarah would not support the prosecution.

It wasn’t until the April of 2011 that the first meeting was held between the authorities to discuss problems with the family and although some child protection arrangements were put in place, the report said that these were subsequently withdrawn.

Daily Echo: Blake Fowler

In the subsequent months Blake again appeared with injuries, he was described as wearing torn and old clothes by the school nurse.

And yet after all this the social worker in charge of his care at the time thought the case was appropriate to pass on to a student social worker – a practice the author of the SCR report described as “dangerous”.

Not even the letter by Jane Extance warning of harm that could come to members of her family if action wasn’t taken, could spur the department into action. Calls to social workers went unreturned, visits and meetings were left to “drift” by days and weeks.

Peter Meek was again arrested in September 2011 and was released on bail.

A statement from Sarah at the time said that he had threatened to kill her and that he enjoyed beating her up – on this occasion over a computer game.

Within two months Blake was dead, at the time in the care of Peter Meek who should not have been in contact with the family at all because of his existing bail conditions.

That case was also thrown out by Southampton Magistrates Court, days after Blake’s death as Sarah once again refused to support the prosecution. A prosecution breach of Peter’s bail conditions was also discontinued by magistrates.

In summarising how far Southampton children services department let Blake Fowler down, the report says: “When they did take action their responses fell well below expected standards of practice. The reasons for this specific to this agency, lie in the instability of the local authority and its management arrangements, and in poor practice by individual social workers and their managers.”

In concluding whether the death was preventable the report says of all the agencies involved: “There were many opportunities to intervene in this family. There was little evidence of the needs and safety of children being prioritised by those caring for them. Evidence strongly indicating the physical abuse of (Blake) was repeatedly set aside.”