Child protection services failed to act on serious concerns about a baby girl living at a NSW Mid North Coast property where an eight-year-old boy was ultimately found locked in a shed.
Police raided the farm in Elands on December 18, 2015, finding a sophisticated underground cannabis-growing set-up and a young boy who had been detained, beaten and malnourished at the hands of his mother's partner.
The property was run by a violent enforcer who is now serving two separate jail sentences for cultivating the crop, weapons offences, animal torture and beating other occupants of the home.
More than two months before the raid, fears were raised for the man's three-month-old daughter after his then-partner, with whom he fathered the child, was taken to hospital following an alleged assault.
According to Children's Court documents seen by the Herald, a risk of serious harm (ROSH) report was received by the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) on October 22 as a result of deliberations by hospital social workers following the woman's admission.
"Information was reported that [the woman] disclosed she was worried she had head injuries from a physical violence incident on 10 October 2015," one document reads.
"The reporter said [the woman] reported regular beatings and that she did not want police involved as she was fearful of repercussions from her partner.
"No assessment was conducted by Community Services at this time."
The Herald contacted FACS to ask why the October 22 ROSH report wasn't acted upon. A spokesperson responded that the department could not comment on individual matters.
"The Department of Family and Community Services takes all allegations of abuse and harm against children and young people extremely seriously," the spokesperson said in a statement.
"FACS understands that at times the public’s concern is at odds with our statutory requirement to protect privacy."
The man, the woman and their child – none of whom can be named for legal reasons – were missing from the rural property at the time of the raid, which was triggered by a previous police visit following welfare concerns for the boy who had been missing school.
Another ROSH report in relation to the young girl was received by FACS on December 23, after police heard details of the enforcer repeatedly assaulting the boy rescued from the property.
"This report gave further information around [the enforcer's] role in ... drug cultivation and for abusing the children over a period of nine months," reads the document, prepared by a caseworker during a later court application to have the girl put into state care.
"Other adults who had resided in the home gave information that [the enforcer] controlled the children's home environment by not allowing them to cry and imposed excessive discipline methods on children aged one and two.
"[The enforcer] also threatened to bash [the woman] with [the girl's] lifeless body."
Police and health caseworkers issued a statewide alert requesting a safety assessment be undertaken in the event the trio were located.
On December 31, 2015, police found the mother and daughter at the home of the woman's father on the Central Coast. The mother was arrested and the daughter was placed in state care the following day. The enforcer was still on the run from authorities.
Despite the caseworker's report saying the baby girl had been the subject of the October ROSH report, in the same paragraph the document said the infant came to the attention of FACS due to police trying to find the family following the December raid.
The enforcer was last month sentenced in the NSW District Court to at least 4½ years in prison for assaulting the mother and another woman, as well for animal cruelty, including one incident in which he whipped chickens to death.
The mother, who has served jail time over her role in the cannabis cultivation, said in a victim's impact statement during the man's sentencing hearing that she was subjected to repeated abuse.
"I have had my tooth knocked out whilst pregnant, my jaw broken while my daughter was lying in a suitcase on the ground, and have suffered countless black eyes and bruising," she told the court.