Caleb Ness
July 30, 2001 - October 18, 2001
Find A Grave Memorial

Caleb Ness was brought the Royal Hospital For Sick Children in Edinburgh, Scotland, upon his admission, he was immediately pronounced dead. Caleb had lead a horrible life from the very beginning having been born to a mother who had been addicted to drugs for about 20 years. Shirley Malcolm had tried in the past to get off of drugs, but she was unsuccessful in doing so. Shirley also had a very long history of being a prostitute as well as convictions for other crimes. Shirley used drugs throughout her pregnancy with Caleb and had two other children removed from her care, it was said that she suffered from post natal depression.

Caleb's father, Alexander Ness, was no better, he was known to do drugs and had a conviction for an assault charge related to an incident with an adult. At some point in his life, just a few moths before meeting Shirley, Alexander had suffered some kind of a brain injury that supposedly left him confused and depressed at times.

Caleb didn't stand a chance with these two people as his parents and was born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, which is caused by drug use during a pregnancy. Caleb was taken to the special baby care unit at the hospital right after he was born, where he faced withdrawal from the drugs his mother had been doing. Sadly, though he was born with drugs in his system, someone saw fit to release him into the care of his mother and father three weeks later. Nurses at the hospital warned Social Workers that Alexander should not be allowed to be alone with Caleb, they ignored the recommendation and Caleb went home with his parents.

Before he was able to turn three months old, Caleb was dead, it had only been seven weeks that he was home. During that short period of time, Caleb suffered from at least three separate traumas to his chest which were thought to be the result of his chest being squeezed while he was shaken.

In February of 2003, Alexander Ness was convicted of culpable homicide on the grounds of diminishes responsibility, that was because of his brain injury. Alexander was sentenced to only 11 years for what he did to Caleb.

After he died, the Lothian Area Child Protection Committee asked for an inquiry into Caleb's death. In October of 2003 the results of that inquiry were made public and said:

"No single individual should be held responsible. We identified fault at almost every level in
every agency involved. Many concerned professionals did their best for this family, but too
many operated from within a narrow perspective without full appreciation of the wider picture"


A summary of the report said in detail that there was a series of events that the team concluded had been contributors to the death of Caleb:

A failure to take into account all the relevant information which would have helped professionals make a full assessment of the risk to Caleb, especially where there were factors which were the consequence of the health status of his parents;

A flawed child protection case conference process and ongoing problems with information sharing which meant that Caleb continued to be at risk, even through he had been placed on the Child Protection register;

Differences of understanding about what constituted appropriate monitoring of baby Caleb and failures by some individuals to respond appropriately when the monitoring that did occur suggested he was at increased risk;

A lack of senior social work involvement in the assessment of risk, in the re-assessment of risk, in decision making and in ongoing supervision;

An absence of clear management responsibility and accountability for child protection within health agencies and;

A failure to understand the roles and responsibilities of others with regard to child protection. Amongst the services focussing on children, this took the form of professionals making too many assumptions of what others would be doing. On the part of the services associated with Caleb's parents, the failure was more associated with a lack of understanding that they had a responsibility for child protection. The need for improved training for professionals was identified.

Eventually, the Social Work Director resigned.

In June of 2009, it was reported that Alexander Ness had been let out of prison four years early. He was seen looking at buildings, rolling a cigarette and entering a bar near his home. Alexander had only been in prison for seven years and four months and though he was supposed to be under very close supervision, it was reported that he was alone when a reported approached him:

"I can't speak to the media or I'll be going back to jail on recall"
Alexander Ness

A reporter asked him if he was sorry for killing Caleb and he said yes:

"I'm sorry. I want to get my life back on track now"

It was ordered by Lady Cosgrove that Alexander be closely monitored for four years after he was released from prison. While in prison, Alexander had supposedly said that he was not to blame for Caleb's death and that Shirley was the one who  had killed him, though she had been at the drug store to get her Methadone prescription while Caleb was being shaken to death. A prison claims that Alexander said this to him:

"He went on and on blaming his ex an said he'd catch up with her on the outside. Ness may seem
like a harmless character but once he finds his feet he'll be dangerous. He's got a temper and could
snap again"

Alexander told the reported that he had no interest in Shirley.

Shirley would later say that she didn't blame the Social Workers for what happened to Caleb:

"The only person to blame is the person who took my son and shook him to death. I don't
think anyone could have assumed that Alex would do that. I thought he would have murdered
me but I never thought he would hurt Caleb"

Well, Shirley, if you thought he would hurt you,  you should have left him and Caleb wouldn't have suffered and died at his hands! Shirley admitted that she knew Caleb was not safe with Alexander and said she had only left them alone together less than a handful of times. It only takes ONE time, Shirley, you KNEW he was dangerous and left that poor little Angel who had no way of defending himself alone one too many times. Now he's dead and yes, you should have been held responsible for that since your son had broken ribs that were broken weeks before he died, babies cry when they hurt, you should have seen that something was wrong. Being addicted to drugs is NO excuse!

Others were not happy about the release of Alexander:

"It's disgusting. I think I would represent the vast body of public opinion in saying he should
have served his 11 years and beyond"
Labour Dispute Justice Spokesman - Paul Martin

"Once again we see soft touch Scotland in action. A child dies horribly and this man is out
after less than seven and a half years"
Tory Justice Spokesman - Bill Aitken



Death occurred in Scotland
This page was created on July 29, 2014

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