B.C. Supreme Court Justice Glen Parrett severely chastised the Ministry of Children and Family Development and social workers involved in the cases of Adam Scott Williams-Dudoward and his younger brother.
In reaching verdicts Friday on four charges their stepfather, Lloyd William Cook, has been facing, Parrett said he could not conclude the matter without saying something about the ministry's "role in these tragic events."
Based on the testimony he heard during the trial, Parrett concluded that "no timely and effective action was ever taken" by ministry officials that could have saved the boy's life.
"I am at a loss to understand how it is that case after case similar to this has surfaced in this region over the years," Parrett said.
"The catechism of the approach, it seems, is always the same - at first there is sound and fury, at least partially fueled by the media. This is followed by the announcement either of the investigation or that the problems have been fixed or are being addressed, usually by some high level official. Semblance then returns until the next incident demonstrates yet again that nothing whatsoever has changed."
During the trial, the court heard testimony from Sarah Lloyd, then an intake and investigations social worker, who said the ministry had received a child protection complaint in September 1999, three to four months before Adam's death.
Lloyd said she tried to arrange a joint interview with the family, social workers and the RCMP for Dec. 17, 1999 but the boys' mother, Judy Elaina Williams, did not appear and then said a lawyer had advised her not to meet with them.
On Jan. 12, 2000, "nearly a month later," Lloyd drove to the family home in the evening in an attempt to catch them at home, Parrett said.
"There is no evidence of any other action taken over that month," Parrett said and noted Williams had withdrawn Adam from attendance at Kelly Road Secondary School on that same day, telling officials the family was moving.
Although initially denied access, Lloyd was eventually admitted into the home and spoke to Cook and Williams. When she asked where Adam was, they told her he was living at a home on McIntyre Crescent but Lloyd did not ask for a specific address, phone number or the names of people he was allegedly living with.
During testimony it became "blindingly obvious" Lloyd made no effort to pursue the matter and for "some inexplicable reason" decided it was okay to leave the younger brother with Cook and Williams while arranging another meeting for Jan. 17, 2000.
When Williams again failed to attend, Lloyd "took what she apparently viewed as extreme measures, entering a child protection alert into her computer," Parrett said.
"Unknown to Ms. Lloyd, when she parked behind the family car at the trailer on the Hart Highway, Adam's dead body lay in the trunk of that car a few feet from her bumper. Adam had died five days before her attendance within the month in which the ministry did nothing."
Lloyd testified she did not report Adam missing although she did speak to police about her concerns, Parrett said, and it wasn't for another year that a social worker was once again in contact with Williams, who then said Adam was living in Oliver.
"For this fine body of work, Ms. Lloyd was promoted and made a supervisor," Parrett said.
The second ministry social worker to testify, Karen Johnson, told the court she encountered Cook and Williams in January 2002 when Williams had just given birth to a son in the Oliver hospital.
Williams refused to tell her where Adam was other than to say "he was in a safe place."
At a subsequent meeting that month, when the newborn was apprehended, Williams claimed a lawyer had advised her not to disclose Adam's whereabouts. Johnson remained concerned and contacted local RCMP, the Ministry of Human Resources, social welfare rolls, various schools districts and extended family members to no avail.
"Her inquiries of family relatives found that those who lived in the north believed Adam was living in the south and those living in the south believed he was living in the north," Parrett said.
Williams remained mum when presented with a court order obtained Feb. 15, 2002, and on March 15, 2002, a warrant for her arrest was issued. But according to evidence presented, no further action was taken until Williams went to the RCMP "two-and-a-half years later," Parrett said.