June 2014

Horror attack paedophile fails in bid to clear name

Christopher-Atkins

A “SADISTIC” paedophile who left a little girl with life-threatening injuries after a horrific sex attack has failed to overturn his conviction.

Christopher Atkins, 31, of Cotgrave, was jailed for 17 and a half years at Nottingham Crown Court last September for sexual assault and child cruelty.

The court had heard how the child, who cannot be identified, lost 220 milligrams of blood in the attack and was treated at the Queen’s Medical Centre, but has since made a full recovery.

Atkins had previously been investigated by social services in Manchester about other allegations, but this did not lead to a prosecution.

An independent review found “considerable shortcomings” by Notts County Council’s children’s services department and said proper checks into his background could have “lessened the possibility of abuse occurring”.

When Atkins was sentenced last year, Judge Michael Stokes QC said: “The child in this case was a vulnerable, innocent little girl when you committed an offence of unspeakable cruelty and perversion, an offence which all right-minded people would regard as repellent.

“You are in my judgment a predatory and sadistic paedophile. How any human being could do this to a little girl is almost beyond comprehension, but the fact is you did.”

Atkins received 16 years for the sexual assault and 18 months for child cruelty.

He was put on the sex offenders’ register for life.

Yesterday, Atkins’ lawyers asked the Criminal Appeal Court, in London, to overturn his convictions, claiming he did not receive a fair trial.

Lawyers for Atkins argued that the judge had mishandled the original trial and “departed from accepted standards of impartiality.”

It was submitted, amongst other things, that Judge Stokes had repeatedly stated that the child could have died from her injuries, when there was no evidence to back that up.

It was also argued that his tone had radiated “veiled contempt and derision for the defence” during his summing up to the jury.

But Appeal Court judge Sir Brian Leveson dismissed these claims, describing Judge Stokes’ summing up as “measured, controlled and appropriate in manner.”

“This trial was fair and the convictions were inevitable. This appeal is dismissed,” he concluded.

Detective Inspector Yvonne Dales, from Notts’ child abuse investigation unit, said after Atkins was sentenced last year: “Christopher Atkins was a sadistic and controlling individual who put a defenceless child through untold pain.”

September 2013

Paedophile Atkins Jailed For 17 Years

A sadistic paedophile whose sexual abuse of a toddler was “almost beyond comprehension” has been jailed for more than 17 years.

Christopher Atkins, 32, carried out a life-threatening sexual assault on the girl after social services failed to conduct background checks.

Atkins, from Cotgrave, Nottinghamshire, committed the “wicked and vile” sex attack two years ago after lying to social services about his personal life.

After Atkins was found guilty of sexual assault in July, it emerged he was already known to authorities before the horrific offence, having been suspected of abusing another child in the Manchester area.

In sentencing Atkins at Nottingham Crown Court, the city’s most senior judge Michael Stokes QC said: “The child in this case was a vulnerable, innocent little girl when you committed an offence of unspeakable cruelty and perversion, an offence which all right-minded people would regard as repellent.

“You are in my judgment a predatory and sadistic paedophile and unless whatever issues you have are addressed you will present a serious risk of causing harm to other children.

“How any human being could do this to a little girl is almost beyond comprehension, but the fact is you did. I have no doubt that you would have been content for the grievously injured child to go without medical attention of any kind.”

Atkins, whose offences will now be the subject of a serious case review, was sentenced to 16 years for sexual assault and a consecutive 18-month term for child cruelty.

He was told he must serve half his sentence before being released on licence.

The victim, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was treated for severe internal injuries after being taken to hospital, where medical staff also found 18 bruises on her face and scalding to her back.

Atkins is known to have supplied his name and his correct date of birth to social services before attacking the toddler, but checks which would have “flagged up” his past were not carried out.

The victim’s father was in court to witness Atkins being jailed and is considering legal action against the council.

The man, who cannot be named to protect his daughter’s identity, said: “Social services have not listened to a word I’ve said – I asked them to check on Atkins and they didn’t bother.”

Nottinghamshire County Council’s director for children’s social care, Steve Edwards, said action had been taken to address “shortcomings” within the local authority.

Sarah Sheppard, 25, now living in Farnborough, Hampshire, received a 12-month prison term, suspended for a year, for an offence connected with the case. 

Sheppard pleaded guilty to child cruelty by neglect.

13

Timeline

April 2011 – Sheppard met Atkins online through her Xbox.

June 10 – Sheppard moved to Nottingham with the child.

June 14 – Nottinghamshire children’s services were told by Devon social services about the infant.

June 29 – First home visit by a social worker Sharon Smith to Sheppard’s home in Nottingham, where Atkins was introduced as her cousin.

July 5 – The father’s concerns about Atkins were raised at a meeting of Nottinghamshire Children’s Services and the youngster was put under a child protection plan. It was agreed to carry out checks on Atkins but these never happened.

July 15 – Social worker Smith visited Sheppard’s house but child wasn’t there as she had been taken out by Atkins. Sheppard denied having a partner.

July 27 – Another social worker visited Sheppard but there was no-one home.

August 1 – The child’s father called Nottinghamshire children’s services, “very worried” that he hadn’t seen his daughter for eight weeks.

August 3 – Social worker Smith began three weeks’ sick leave followed by two weeks’ holiday.

August 17 – A Sure Start worker visited Sheppard’s house and found that the child had a very red eye and was told she had hit herself in the eye with a spoon and had been taken to A&E for treatment.

August 19 – A third social worker visited Sheppard but didn’t have access to the notes from previous visits.

August 22 – The child was taken to A&E where doctors found she had been sexually and physically abused.

August 23 – Sheppard was arrested.

August 25 – Atkins was arrested.

July 2013

Sadistic pervert left free to sexually abuse toddler despite being suspected of previous child attacks

Social workers failed to carry out background checks that could have prevented a sadistic pervert sexually assaulting a 23-month-old girl.

Christopher Atkins, 30, was behind bars last night after being warned he is likely to face a life sentence for the savage attack which left the toddler with horrific life-threatening injuries.

And, amazingly, it was revealed that he was able to strike despite being suspected of a string of previous assaults on another child.

Case workers also failed to spot a series of injuries on the latest victim, who was under a child protection plan for neglect and cannot be named for legal reasons.

She was taken to hospital bleeding heavily and doctors found 18 separate injuries on her body, including bite marks, burns and a fracture.

This week, a jury at Nottingham crown court found Atkins guilty of sexual assault and child cruelty by neglect.

His former partner Sarah Sheppard, 24, from Bideford, Devon, had earlier pleaded guilty to child cruelty by neglect.

A Mirror investigation found that the child’s social worker in Nottingham, Sharon Smith, had concerns about Atkins – who Sheppard falsely claimed was her cousin – 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”. 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 injuries to a second child.

The 18-month-old boy in that case suffered a catalogue of serious injuries, including a fractured leg and a broken nose.

But police could not prove whether Atkins or another adult was responsible.

An independent review found “considerable shortcomings” by Nottinghamshire children’s services and said proper checks could have “lessened the possibility of abuse occurring”.

Yesterday, the victim’s father blamed social services for failing her. He 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.”

The court heard that when the tot was admitted to hospital on August 22, 2011, her injuries were so severe that without medical attention she would have died.

Sheppard initially protected Atkins but later said she had left him to change the child’s nappy and returned after hearing a “high-pitched scream” to find him with blood on his hand.

Atkins at first 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.

Judge Michael Stokes, QC, warned Atkins: “I regard this as a quite appalling piece of behaviour. I am certainly thinking of passing a life sentence.”

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.”

He claimed that Atkins had no previous convictions, though the court heard he had admitted three counts of criminal damage in 2003 and was given a conditional discharge.

Mr Edwards said the council had taken formal action “to address shortcomings”.

He added: “Where we have concerns about individual practice we do take appropriate steps and we did so in this case.”

Three years ago Ofsted inspectors criticised “inadequate” safeguarding services for children in Nottinghamshire.

A later inspection found the service had improved to adequate.

But one in four local authorities are still ranked as inadequate.

The latest shocking case comes as experts warn of increasing risks to vulnerable children, with social services facing budget cutbacks and increasing workloads.

Bridget Robb, chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers, said: “Cuts are leaving more children at risk of harm and neglect.

“Councils don’t have enough staff and social workers are struggling with stress. It is becoming a vicious circle.”