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Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Call for rulings over adoption of tragic Elsie Scully-Hicks to be made public

Written by Brian Farmer and Claire Hayhurst

The family court judge who ruled that Elsie Scully-Hicks could be adopted by a fitness instructor who murdered her should publish the reasoning behind the decision, a campaigner says.

Former Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming says the judge who decided that Elsie could live with Matthew Scully-Hicks, and husband Craig Scully-Hicks, following private family court hearings should make all rulings public.

Matthew Scully-Hicks, 31, is serving a minimum 18-year sentence after being convicted of murdering 18-month-old Elsie at their home in Llandaff, Cardiff, in May 2016.

Elsie, then in the care of social services bosses at The Vale of Glamorgan Council, was placed with the couple in September 2015, when nine months old, and her adoption approved 13 days before she died.

Evidence has emerged which shows that during that nine-month period Elsie was twice taken to hospital, after suffering a leg injury and a suspected head injury, and had a bruise on her forehead and developed a squint.

Mr Hemming (pictured), who campaigns for improvements in the family justice system, says questions have to be asked as to why Elsie's adoption was approved and the public has a right to know the reasoning behind the decision.

"A family court judge must have decided that Elsie could be placed for adoption in September 2015," said Mr Hemming.

"A family court judge, maybe the same judge, maybe a different judge, must have approved the adoption in May 2016.

"There must have been hearings, evidence and rulings.

"The name of the judge or judges involved and their rulings should be made public.

"There are clearly questions which need to be answered given that Elsie suffered injuries in the nine months before her death.

"What evidence did the judge who approved the adoption have? What evidence was not made available? What did social services staff know?"

He added: "The priority is not to point the finger blame but to learn lessons and make sure other children are protected.

"Making rulings public can only inform debate, help professionals and family court judges learn lessons and protect children.

"What reason can there be for not publishing?"

Matthew Scully-Hicks, who had denied harming Elsie, was given a mandatory life sentence earlier this month after a trial at Cardiff Crown Court.

Prosecutors said he had inflicted a catalogue of injuries on Elsie, who had died four days after being violently shaken and sustaining a fractured skull.

A High Court judge has also separately analysed evidence.

Mr Justice Moor, who is based in the Family Division of the High Court in London, published his ruling on the case earlier this week, following the conclusion of criminal proceedings.

In the ruling, he outlined injuries Elsie had suffered between the point when she was placed for adoption and when adoption was approved.

He said it was as serious a case as he had seen and he said he was in no doubt that Matthew Scully-Hicks had killed Elsie.

Mr Justice Moor said he was "equally satisfied" that Matthew Scully-Hicks had "presented to the world as eminently suitable to adopt".

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) David Jones / PA Wire.