Today the world was somehow comforted by the imprisonment of Angela Gordon and Juniad Abuhamza. This however is no comfort to their victim, Khyra Ishaq.
Gordon and Abuhamza had been granted parental responsibility for Khyra. Although it seems that they did not understand what responsibilities came with this privilege. In fact their actions have led us to believe that they did not read the job description prior to application.
Gordon lived not with Khyra's father but with her partner, who had become a stepfather to Khyra. Abuhamza suffers from schizophrenia, a mental illness that can be controlled with the right medicine and treatment. As long that is the patient is willing to work with the mental health services. We cannot say for sure how much control this man had over his symptoms. The pair was also the legal guardians of an additional five children during the time they were responsible for Khyra's well-being
Khyra had started to lose weight, which is not in itself uncommon as weight tends to fluctuate amongst children depending on their levels of activity. Khyra's school was to later find her stealing food. Although at this point they had not made the connection between the two. Worried that the school were becoming suspicious Gordon removed her from her place of education on the 6th Dec 2007.
The deputy head and a colleague decided to visit Khyra's home in the hope of finding the cause behind her mother's decision to take her out of the school system. Upon arrival they were greeted by Gordon. She refused them access into the home. She also did not allow them to see Khrya.
This did give the school cause for concern and, following procedure, alerted social services about the matter. Ranjit Mann was allocated her case. She made a home visit but received no answer after knocking on the door. Gordon was to later make contact with Mann via telephone, although this was only to be a voicemail message as Mann was away from her desk. Later on Feb 8th 2008 an education social worker along with a council mentor were sent to Khyra's home. This was to give Gordon advice on the home schooling of Khyra as she was no longer in state education. Again they also did not get the opportunity to see Khyra.
Anne Gondo and Sanya Scott both employed as social workers by Birmingham city council, arrived at the home for a visit arranged prior to that day. Once more they were also refused entry to the premises. Khyra is brought to the front door and the two women decide that there is no cause for concern, although they did not get the chance to speak to Khyra alone.
Then on the 8th of March 2008 a neighbour was witness to Khyra walking around her back garden wearing only her underwear. She had noticed that Khyra had seemed abnormally thin for a child of her age. Had she been fully clothed this may not have been so obvious. There was only to be one more visit to the home of Khyra Ishaq which, just as before, resulted in the absence of an answer.
Sadly Khyra was in a state of starvation when paramedics attended her home on the 17th of May 2008. She had lost vast amounts of weight and was found to be a mere 2st 9lbs. She had also contracted an infection due to her malnutrition having a detrimental effect on her immune system. She was promptly taken to Birmingham children's hospital where unfortunately she was pronounced dead on arrival.
Khyra's guardians were remanded in custody at Birmingham magistrate's court where they were charged with only with neglect. A review was to be conducted with the aim of finding the true cause of Khyra's death. Her father said he believed it was the fault of the authorities, although we do not see any information that alerts us of intervention on his part.
The pair was to deny charges of murder and both were sentenced to the combined sum of a mere 22 and a half months for manslaughter. Although Gordon's partner Abuhamza, has been sentenced in the interest of public protection alone. This means he could receive an instant release should the authorities believe him to be stable enough to be reintroduced into society. The two were also charged with child cruelty to the other five children that were also in their care.
It is only now that the NSPCC have advised social services to appeal for a change in the law, which will allow social workers to speak to a child without their guardians present. This is not the first case of neglect we have seen to lead to fatal consequences. Why is it only now that the NSPCC have intervened? Surely if there is no presence of mistreatment within the home, the guardians of the child will not protest to them being seen alone. As they also have the option of having an independent party act as a temporary guardian whilst the child is speaking to a member of social services. Through my own experience in the care system I have come to find that guardians do not oppose this should they have nothing to hide. If we forget about this fact for a moment, I do not believe there were enough attempts made at contact. I also believe that the visitors to Khyra s home were too free with their judgement of her safety. This has also happened to me, as my first social worker closed my case as she did not feel I was at risk. It was only through speaking to my school counsellor that I was able to get my case reopened and the chance for a better quality of life.
Whilst in the care of Gordon and Abuhamza, Khyra was subjected not only to starvation. Should she make an attempt at acquiring any food, she would be beaten with a cane, have freezing water poured over her or force-fed until she was sick. We cannot begin to imagine the emotional abuse that came with that physical pain. I am all too aware of being thrown in a freezing cold shower and violence, although cannot begin to imagine how all this affected Khyra at such a young age. I am also confused as to why the cruelty was not stopped a long time prior to poor Khyra's death. For there were an additional five children receiving the same awful treatment. We have not been made aware of the state of their health. Is it only when an innocent child is killed that we decide to act? Is it only when we lose another young life to cruelty that we are able to swallow our pride and admit that we made a mistake?
On behalf of us all as a race I apologise to you Khyra, may you Rest in Peace.