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No indication Tia Sharp was in danger, says report

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MURDERED schoolgirl Tia Sharp's school attendance was so low that legal action was being started against her mother, while illegal drug taking was constant among her family, a new report says. The report published today by Merton Council says that her family had been referred to social services several times, but there "was no direct evidence of abuse or neglect." It adds that authorities may not have tackled problems strongly enough, but there was nothing to suggest Tia was at risk of physical harm. The 12-year-old was murdered in August last year by her grandmother's partner Stuart Hazell, after she went to stay the night at the couple's home in The Lindens, New Addington. Her body was hidden in the loft by Hazell, and found a week later after a massive missing person's search. Hazell pleaded guilty at day five of his trial at the Old Bailey in May, and was sentenced to a minimum 38 years in jail. Prosecutors said the murder was sexually motivated. Today's Serious Case Review looks at Tia's home life and how any concerns about her and the family were dealt with by authorities. Tia lived with her mother, Natalie Sharp, and stepfather, David Niles, in Pollard's Hill, Mitcham, and often stayed with her grandmother in New Addington. The report says the 12-year-old's school attendance had been poor since junior school but had worsened at Raynes Park High, while her mother "avoided all attempts" to tackle the problem. The council started legal action, but Tia's grandmother Christine Bicknell intervened, telling authorities Tia would stay with her and Hazell - weeks before he killed her. Saying Tia was described as a "bright, happy and warm personality," the report adds it is not clear why she was so absent from school. It adds: "Child A's mother avoided all attempts to explore and tackle this issue. "No professional discussed the possible reasons for poor school attendance directly with her or with Child A. "It may be that staff at the junior school were disarmed by Child A's engaging presentation and reasonable levels of achievement." The report says the use of "illegal drugs" in Tia's family was "known to a number of agencies," and that her mother had routinely used cannabis during pregnancy. It adds there is "substantial evidence" that the use of illegal drugs was an "everyday occurrence" in Tia's living situation. "This is likely to have affected her and the care she received throughout her life," it says. "It was not robustly challenged by health professionals in their contact with her family and there may have been an inappropriate tolerance by some professionals of the use of cannabis." The family was assessed by social services once after coming to police attention, the report says. Tia was not spoken to at the time but relevant agencies were contacted and "no concerns were expressed." It adds: "Overall, Ms D (Tia's mother) was said to present as "loving and caring" and there was no evidence to indicate a need for continuing contact with social workers." The report makes recommendations for lessons to be learned by authorities. Those include reminding schools of the possible links between non-attendance and a child's welfare; highlighting the dangers of cannabis; and ensuring that the "voice of the child" is heard.

No indication Tia Sharp was in danger, says report


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