Star Hobson: Savannah Brockhill sentenced to at least 25 years in prison

Savannah Brockhill who murdered her partner’s child, Star Hobson, has been sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 25 years, while the child’s mother Frankie Smith is handed an 8-year sentence.

15/12/21

Star Hobson: Savannah Brockhill sentenced to at least 25 years in prison

Two women have been found guilty of causing death of a 16-month-old baby, Star Hobson, in Bradford.

Star Hobson was taken to hospital on 22 September 2020 when she was just 16 months old after suffering a cardiac arrest, sadly dying the same day. Her mother Frankie Smith and partner Savannah Brockhill were arrested by police.

Following a forensic post-mortem, it was discovered that Star had suffered significant damage to her internal organs and had a fractured skull.

Both women were charged in September last year and pleaded not guilty to the offences against them.

Over the past eight weeks, both appeared at Bradford Crown Court on trial for murder and a jury found stepmother Savannah Brockhill guilty of murder and Star’s mother Frankie Smith guilty of causing or allowing the death of a child.

Detective Chief Superintendent Mark Swift, of the Homicide and Major Enquiry team, who led the investigation, said: “This was one of the most distressing and heart-breaking cases our team has seen. Star was a young baby who had her whole life ahead of her and she tragically died at the hands of those who were meant to protect and care for her.

“Star, who was just 16-months-old, suffered catastrophic injuries and tragically she was not able to survive despite medical intervention at hospital.

“The trial has lasted for several weeks now and it has been harrowing for Star’s family to hear in detail the extent of the behaviour by these two women and the injuries to Star.

As with the Arthur Labinjo-Hughes case, questions are being asked of social services. Bradford Council was initially rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted in October 2018, which found its services for children had “rapidly deteriorated” since the previous inspection, due to increased demand for services at the same time as the loss of a significant number of experienced social workers and managers.

A Government commissioner was appointed to Bradford Council to advise on its improvement earlier this year after inspectors noted slow improvement three years on from its ‘inadequate’ Ofsted rating. The Department for Education has warned that it will “not hesitate” to remove children’s services from the control of the council “if necessary”.

A review into the case will be published next year, but the safeguarding partnership in Bradford said it "deeply regrets" that "not all the warning signs" were spotted.

A statement, given by the interim Director of Children's Services at Bradford Council, Helen Hirst, and others said: "We want to say first and foremost that we're sorry for the death of Star. This was a child's life cut cruelly short.

"Anyone who has followed the trial will want to know what more could have been done to help protect Star."

They said action had been taken to "improve our practice so that we learn those lessons – but we need to fully understand why opportunities to better protect Star were missed.”

Star's paternal grandparents Bernard and Sharon Hobson, said: “We wish to say that whilst the conviction brings us no pleasure, as it cannot bring Star back, seeing justice for Star will be our only comfort.”

The case has echoes of the recent trial for the murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, which prompted a national conversation around child protection and the effect of the pandemic on the visibility of children at risk of harm.

As a result of the murder of Labinjo-Hughes, a national review, led by the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel, will identify the lessons that must be learnt from Arthur’s case for the benefit of other children elsewhere in England.

A major review into the circumstances leading up to murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes was launched by the Government to determine what improvements are needed by the agencies that came into contact with him in the months before he died.

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