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Battle over information about death of 16-year-old in Kidderminster
7:20am Tuesday 7th May 2013 in News
A BATTLE has broken out between the county's coroner and council over attempts to block disclosure of confidential information into a 16-year-old's death.
The clash, between coroner Geraint Williams and the council at London’s High Court, was prompted by his request to see highly sensitive material in the Worcestershire Safeguarding Children Board's report into the death of Dana Baker.
The young karate star was found hanging from a tree in Worcester Road, Kidderminster, in March 2011 after periods of foster care and abuse by her karate instructor, Jaspal Riat.
Riat, formerly of Denewood Avenue, Handsworth Wood, Birmingham, was jailed for eight years last year after being convicted of sexually assaulting the teenager.
Dana was described at the hearing as a highly gifted youngster with a passion for karate, who represented Great Britain in the martial art.
But the coroner's barrister, Jonathan Hough, said she had a "troubled" background, giving "cause for concern from her early years".
There were acute stresses on her family, said the barrister, particularly following a catastrophic car crash 12 years ago which left her mother "seriously injured and disabled".
Her father had to give up work to care for her mother, said Mr Hough, and in 2009 the county council arranged a placement for Dana with a private fostering company.
In May 2009, she had taken a medication overdose which appeared to be a "genuine suicide attempt", Mr Hough disclosed.
He added her death came soon after the fostering company decided to end her placement.
The coroner wants to secure access to past reviews carried out by "10 bodies" involved in Dana's case - plus additional documents contained within the serious case review report.
Mr Hough said the coroner needed the material to prepare for a pending inquest into Dana's death, although he does have access to an "overview" of the report.
Mr Justice Jeremy Baker reserved his decision on the case after several hours of intense legal debate.
After the hearing, a Worcestershire County Council spokesman said: "Worcestershire Safeguarding Children's Board (WSCB) is a strategic partnership of senior representatives from key organisations across Worcestershire, one of which is Worcestershire County Council.
“While the Worcestershire Safeguarding Children's Board is committed to assisting the Coroner, we consider that we are under a duty to respect the confidential nature of the information gathered as part of the Serious Case Review process.
“That duty prevents us releasing all of the documents on our file to the Coroner and we have therefore, quite properly, asked the Court for guidance on this difficult issue."
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