Birmingham City Council has defended its decision to bring in an expert to support its media operations after a girl starved to death.
Khyra Ishaq’s agonising and drawn-out starvation occurred after numerous visits to her Birmingham home by teachers, police, social workers and council home schooling experts.
The council, which was aware of concerns about the seven-year-old’s welfare almost five months before her death, came under fire within days of the tragedy in May 2008.
It emerged during the trial of Angela Gordon and Junaid Abuhamza that the council had been notified of concerns about the child’s welfare when she was withdrawn from school in December 2007.
Following Khyra’s death, and a row over the care offered to the youngster, the council brought in former journalist Terry Brownbill to handle its media operations.
It defended its decision to bring in Mr Brownbill, saying he provided “strategic support and advice” to the council.
In a statement, the authority said: “Media relations is a specialism, which is why the majority of press officers at the council are former journalists.
“Being such a small team, there will be occasion when we need additional specialist support, which is why Terry Brownbill, a former national journalist himself, was retained.
“Terry Brownbill attended court every day during two trials regarding the Khyra Ishaq case, to liaise with media, which given the low staff numbers, the press office did not have the capacity to do.”
It added: “Terry Brownbill has considerable specialist knowledge of supporting local authorities, particularly where children have died in suspicious circumstances.
“His role includes providing wide-ranging support to frontline staff, as well as senior managers.
“In addition, his daily attendance at court provided invaluable detailed information about the progress of the case, both for senior managers, and for central government.”
During the original trial of the two defendants, the court heard the deputy headteacher of Khyra’s school made three phone calls to social services within the space of 24 hours to express concerns for her welfare.
It is known that several visits were then made to Khyra’s Handsworth home, although she was seen by social workers on only one occasion - for around ten minutes on her mother’s doorstep.