DI Shaw, the senior officer leading the investigation into the murder baby Finley has said the 10-month-old was in a house where where ‘no child should have to live’.DI Shaw, the senior officer leading the investigation into the murder baby Finley has said the 10-month-old was in a house where where ‘no child should have to live’.
DI Shaw, the senior officer leading the investigation into the murder baby Finley has said the 10-month-old was in a house where where ‘no child should have to live’.

Finley Boden was 'living in squalor' in Chesterfield home and 'professional interventions should have protected him'

Numerous missed opportunities for intervention in the weeks and days before Finley Boden’s death, aged 10 months, may have prevented his murder by his parents.

A highly critical report from the Derby and Derbyshire Safeguarding Children Partnership details the involvement of social services in the release of 10-month-old Finley Boden back into his parent’s Chesterfield home 39 days before they murdered him.

The report’s investigation was triggered because “in this instance, a child died as the result of abuse when he should have been one of the most protected children in the local authority area”.

There were missed opportunities for intervention, including from social services, health visitors and the police in the days before Finley’s death, the report highlights.

Both parents were known drug users and Finley’s father had a history of violence, with social services also aware of the poor conditions the couple were living in.

The immense deception and lies from the parents in the lead-up to Finley’s death were detailed in court last year.

It highlights “inadequate” measures to protect Finley and includes six failed attempts to visit the family home in Holland Road, Old Whittington, Chesterfield in the four weeks before his murder on Christmas Day 2022.

The Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review, from independent reviewer Isobel Colquhoun, says there were six children’s social care visits which should have taken place in the four weeks before Finley’s murder.

Only four of these were attempted, the report details.

On one of those four visits there was no response from the family but from the other three visits “issues arose that warranted further enquiry, but necessary actions were not taken”.

Of the two health visitor appointments which should have taken place, only one was achieved, with one cancelled by Finley’s mother.

The report says this included an absence of records showing communication between professionals, through which issues of concern may have been elevated.

It says: “Information shared appears to have reinforced the impression of an improving family environment, although there was no objective evidence to support this. There was a continuing drift away from effective evaluation of the risks to (Finley).”

Professionals observed Finley had a bruise to his head and accepted the explanation that he had been hit by a toy thrown by another child, without question.

They were also told Finley was being tested for Covid-19 and did not offer advice on how he ought to be cared for or seek to see him.

Professionals did not challenge the parents when they said Finley was showing Covid symptoms and could not be shown to them, with the parents meeting a social worker on their doorstep and not allowing entry.

There is no evidence of the visit being discussed with other professionals, including the child’s legally appointed guardian.

The social worker said they would visit the next day but this did not take place.

During Covid restrictions two virtual assessments, prior to Finley’s release back to his parents, were due to be held but only one took place and “no agreed notes were produced”, the report details

It says a social worker “provided the court with an inconclusive assessment of parents’ capacity to care for the children, with no proposals for final care plans”.

The report says the social worker assigned to their case was off work for six weeks and no social work visits took place during their absence.

It says: “The local authority (Derbyshire County Council) acknowledges that, while the pandemic created ‘unique’ pressures, ‘more could have been done to ‘work’ the case and to formulate the final care plan with partners.’

The report says police were called to Finley’s home address just over a week after he was returned to his parents – and two days before he was to be housed there full-time, after his mother reported someone “banging on the door”.

Police were told by Finley’s mother that there were children in the house but they did not check on their welfare, with no details recorded by officers and children’s social services were not informed, the report says.

It says: “In the circumstances of this case, that gap was significant.”

There was a “flag” on the police system for the address to indicate that there were children in the household who were subjects of child protection plans but this was not relayed to officers by the control room.

A social worker’s visit took place the next day but the police callout was not mentioned and social services were not aware, with that appointment now taking place the day before Finley was to be returned to his parents full-time.

Finley was taken from his parents Stephen Boden and Shannon Marsden in February 2020, shortly after he was born, after Derbyshire County Council social workers found the couple living in squalor – including faeces on the floor of their home in Holland Road, Old Whittington.

However, he was returned into their care six months later and within 39 days the couple inflicted 130 injuries on their baby boy, including 57 breaks to his bones, 71 bruises and two burns – one of which is believed to have been caused by a cigarette lighter.

The county council had called for a four-month transition of Finley back into his parents’ care but an eight-week plan was approved by the courts after a recommendation from the child’s appointed guardian.

This new report found: “Notably, despite the previous emphasis on the home environment; no professional had been inside the home to check on conditions for the children’s eating, sleeping and playing.”

Paramedics were called to the couple’s home at 2.33am on Christmas Day and Finley was taken to hospital, but despite best efforts, he was pronounced dead at 3.45am.

During last year’s court hearing into the murder, paramedics detailed that they believed Finley had been dead for longer than the couple suggested.

Baby Finley was found to have injuries which were “abusive and inflicted” in his post mortem, prompting the arrest of his parents.

The couple were found guilty of murder by a Derby Crown Court jury in May 2023.

Boden, Finley’s father, was sentenced to a minimum of 29 years in prison and Marsden, Finley’s mother, was sentenced to a minimum of 27 years in prison by Judge Amanda Tipples.

The report concludes: “(The parents) were responsible for Finley’s death. They have been convicted and sentenced for that crime.

“Finley was, however, a very young child whose parents were known to have posed a risk of significant harm to him and who, it had been agreed, required legal intervention to keep him safe.

“Professional interventions should have protected him.

“The most significant professional decision for Finley was that he should live with his parents.

“Analysis of practice throughout the period of this review suggests, however, that the safeguarding environment in which that decision was made had been incrementally weakened by the decisions, actions, circumstances and events which preceded it.

“The details of Finley’s experience during the last weeks of his life were described during his parents’ criminal trial.

“Most of what was exposed, however, was unknown to professionals working with the family at that time.

“The review has found, nevertheless, that safeguarding practice during that time was inadequate.”

The review makes clear that Covid-19 lockdown restrictions worked in favour of the deceiving parents who went on to murder their baby but that opportunities remained for crucial intervention.

It found “multi-agency work within care proceedings was very limited and that this was detrimental to (Finley’s) welfare and safety”.

The review also found that assessments of the capabilities of the parents to look after Finley “fell short of an adequate evaluation of the risks to which the children would be exposed”.

It says Finley, who died when he was 10 months old, was “completely dependent on their parents for all aspects of their care” and as a result “there were many risks inherent in this situation”.

“This was not adequately understood,” the report details.

It also says neither of the parents received a package of support to ease the transition into Finley’s return home.

The review details: “Professionals working with the family were not consulted prior to the proposal for reunification being put to the court. They were not involved in discussion about outstanding risk. They were unaware of the details of the transition plan.

“There were, then, significant shortcomings both in terms of the assessment of the viability of reunification and in the plan to support reunification once that decision had been made.

“Because the risks to the children were poorly understood, practitioners and managers were insufficiently alert to the possibility that the children might experience harm.

“This was compounded by the absence of regular practical support to parents which limited the opportunities to identify early signs of deterioration.

“Even within that context, however, there were clear deficiencies in safeguarding practice.”

Carol Cammiss, the county council’s executive director for children’s services, said: “Finley’s death was a tragedy for everyone who knew him and everyone involved in his care. We are deeply saddened by his death and our thoughts are with everyone who loved him.

“Despite the significant Covid restrictions placed on our work at the time we know there were missed opportunities for stronger practice and we apologise for that.

“We did not wait for the outcome of this review – we took immediate action to review and strengthen our systems and continue to monitor the way we work with babies and families.

“Safeguarding children in Derbyshire is our highest priority and the council accepts the findings and recommendations of the review and takes full responsibility for its actions in this case.”

Derbyshire Police were approached for comment.

There were missed opportunities for intervention, including from social services, health visitors and the police in the days before Finley’s death, the report highlights.