A review into the circumstances surrounding the murder of vulnerable adult Lee Irving has found that despite repeated warnings from his family, extensive contact with social services, the police, the NHS and other agencies, there was a lack of a "co-ordinated" response.
As a result, the review found there were "missed opportunities" when planning for his care, and that it will "never be known" whether a different course of action would have saved Lee's life.
The report highlights that Lee was a difficult person to help and his case was complex.
It concludes that: "The behaviour of Lee was perhaps interpreted by some professionals as consistent with his choice of an anti-social and criminal lifestyle.
Whilst not held by all agencies, this interpretation meant that his criminal conduct was not always considered as a symptom of his disability, increasing vulnerability or the exploitation that he was subject to".
The report has made eight key recommendations:
- Agencies had safeguarding procedures in place and most shared information well. Despite some administrative delays, agencies dealt with Lee’s case as a partnership issue.
- Many agencies were involved in Lee’s case but not all appreciated the risk between his lifestyle and disability.
- While some risks were identified, they were not weighed or considered in a multiagency setting when planning for his care.
- All the agencies worked tirelessly to provide services to support Lee and keep him safe.
- There were some difficulties in communication between agencies, when professionals found it difficult to contact one another.
- Care provided to Lee from childhood into adulthood was considered disjointed by his family. However, legal options available to children’s services were no longer available when Lee reached 18.
- Lee’s reluctance or inability to engage with services meant his care was interrupted.
- Not all agencies had a sufficient understanding of the powers and legal requirements of the Mental Capacity Act and opportunities for assessments were not always acted upon.
Last December James Wheatley was jailed for life with a minimum term of 23 years for murdering 24-year-old vulnerable adult, Lee Irving, in June 2015.
Barry Imray, Wheatley’s mother Julie Mills and his former partner Nicole Lawrence were jailed for causing or allowing the death of a vulnerable adult and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Imray, who also had learning difficulties, has served his sentence, but Mills and Lawrence recently had their sentences extended to 10 and 7 years respectively.
During last year’s eight week trial, a jury heard how Lee, who had a learning disability, was battered to death over a period of weeks by the people he thought were his friends, before his body was dumped on a path in Kenton, Newcastle, next to the A1.
Over the course of two weeks in 2015 Lee was subjected to at least two vicious attacks. The court was told he was kicked, punched and stamped repeatedly and eventually died of respiratory failure due to his extensive injuries.
He had 27 separate rib fractures, a broken nose and jaw, facial and scalp including extensive bruises, grazes and lacerations, leg abrasions and bruising to his lung.
During his ordeal he was held in Julie Mills’ home in Studdon Walk, Kenton. Sedated with a combination of drugs, including morphine, valium and buprenorphine (medication for heroin addicts), he was beaten again and again. The four defendants prevented Lee from getting urgent medical attention on several occasions.