- Christopher Atkins was suspected of previously assaulting another child, but there were delays on background checks
- Little girl had 18 separate injuries including bite marks, burns and a fracture
- ‘I feel totally let down by the system’ says her father
A vicious pervert is facing a life sentence after a savage attack on a 23-month-old girl after a series of blunders by social services
Christopher Atkins, 30, tried to hide his face as he arrived at court before a jury found him guilty of sexual assault and child cruelty by neglect.
After the case it emerged social workers did not spot injuries to the toddler and there were delays carrying out background checks which would have revealed Atkins was suspected of previous assaults on another child.
The latest victim was brought to hospital heavily bleeding with 18 separate injuries to her body, including bite marks, burns and a fracture. She would have died without medical attention.
Judge Michael Stokes, QC, warned Atkins at Nottingham Crown Court: ‘I regard this as a quite appalling piece of behaviour. I am certainly thinking of passing a life sentence.’
The child was under a child protection plan and cannot be named for legal reasons.
Atkins’ former partner, Sarah Sheppard, 24, from Bideford, Devon, had earlier admitted child cruelty by neglect.
A Daily Mirror investigation found that the child’s social worker in Nottingham, Sharon Smith, had concerns about Atkins but failed to record them on the council’s database before she went on sick leave.
Ms Smith, who has since returned to her job, blamed her workload, saying she was ‘shattered, exhausted and overworked’, according to the paper.
There was also a delay in carrying out requested background checks on Atkins.
He had previously been investigated by police and social services in Manchester over an 18-month-old boy who suffered serious injuries, including a fractured leg and a broken nose.
But police could not prove whether Atkins or another adult was responsible.
Warning: Judge Michael Stokes told Atkins: ‘ I am thinking of passing a life sentence’
An independent review found ‘considerable shortcomings’ by Nottinghamshire children’s services and said proper checks could have ‘lessened the possibility of abuse occurring’.
Atkins reportedly told police he had injured the girl by accident but later denied any responsibility.
He had met Sheppard online and within weeks she moved with the child from Devon to Nottingham to be near him.
The child’s father told the Mirror: ‘I feel totally let down by the system. I asked social services and police to do the checks on this maniac and their failure resulted in my daughter being battered and sexually abused and maimed for life before she was even two years old.’
Steve Edwards, Nottinghamshire county council’s service director for children’s social care said: ‘This is a very serious offence and we are pleased that justice has been done.
‘The council regrets that the background checks on Mr Atkins were not undertaken in a timely manner.’