The father of a boy killed in a fire believed to have been started by his mother has spoken for the first time of his grief.
Paresh Patel tells AASMA DAY why he feels his son Jai was let down by the authorities and why he wants to fight for changes, in Jai’s name.
“As a father, you never expect your child to die before you. However, my son Jai died at the hands of his so-called mother and she knew exactly what she was doing.
“There is only one way to describe this – evil.”
Paresh Patel, 43, has spoken of his heartache at losing his first-born son in a fire believed to have been started by his mother Janma Joshi, 40, who also died in the blaze.
Newsagent Paresh, of Hutton, had custody of Jai for more than two years and claims his son was let down by the authorities after his mother failed to return him after having him for a week during the school Easter holidays.
He says despite desperate attempts by him to get Jai back by contacting police, the courts and social services, Jai remained in his mother’s care for four weeks and out of school for two-and-a-half weeks, culminating in his death.
Devastated Paresh said: “Failings by authorities have yet again contributed to the death of another innocent child.
“Jai’s death was entirely avoidable and I feel that the agencies and institutions designed to protect my son have failed him.
“There were several opportunities by the police, courts and social services to safely get Jai back to me.”
Paresh believes a key factor in his son’s death was the value of a court order and the interpretation of whether it was enforceable or not.
He said: “I know I cannot bring Jai back, but if I can save one child by addressing this simple issue so that all police officers, barristers, judges and solicitors know that the wording in a court order means they can remove a child or arrest someone, then the loss of Jai’s life would not be in vain.”
Paresh’s main frustration is centred around the fact that despite the police protection unit and social services instructing Jai to be removed from his mother’s care, nobody carried out these instructions.
He said: “Ironically, if a parent takes a child out of school they are fined. Yet Jai was out of school for two-and-a-half weeks and social services did nothing.”
Paresh, who is now married to Deviyani, with whom he has a three-year-old son and two-year-old daughter, had a relationship with Janma Joshi after meeting her on an Indian matrimonial website.
By the time Joshi discovered she was pregnant, their relationship was already over but Paresh told her he wanted to play an active part in his child’s life.
He said: “I made my position clear – that our relationship was over but I wanted to do everything for my son.
“Jai was born on August 20, 2009, and it was a dream come true for me.
“Jai meant the world to me and I would have done anything for him.”
For the first two years of his life, Jai lived with his mother, and his father had regular time with his son. But when Jai was about two-and-a-half, court proceedings took place and Paresh gained full custody.
“There were concerns for Jai’s emotional well-being and social services were involved and he had a guardian appointed by the court,” Paresh explained. “They determined that Jai should live with me and that it was the best place for him to be.”
Jai went to live with his dad and, at first, he had supervised visits with his mum once a week and eventually unsupervised overnight visits every other weekend.
The Howick CE Primary School pupil went to spend the second week of the Easter holidays with his mum but she failed to return him to his dad.
“She was meant to bring him back on the Saturday,” Paresh said. “But there was a series of excuses. Eventually, she told us she would take him to school on the first day of term and I would pick him up at the end of the day.
“I went to pick him up but school told me she had not brought him in. Alarm bells started ringing then and we knew she was trying to keep hold of him.
“I notified the relevant authorities including police and social services and contacted them numerous times.”
Jai’s mother took the issue to court at the end of April trying to get residency, but as the judge who made the original court order was not there, the judge who took the hearing said Joshi could keep her son for another week but had to take Jai to school in Penwortham each day.
However, she failed to do this and Jai continued to miss school.
On Wednesday, May 7, the matter was taken to court before the original judge who said Jai remained in his father’s custody and needed to be returned to him.
Paresh said: “I was willing to stay in court and wait for the solicitor to get Jai and do the handover there and then.
“But the judge said a court was no place for a child and said that Jai’s mum should take him to school the following morning for me to collect later that day and she attached a penal order to this.
“I agreed reluctantly and just felt relief that the right decision had been made and that Jai would be coming home.”
However, on the Thursday, Jai did not turn up at school again.
Paresh said: “I sent the social worker a message saying they needed to get Jai out of that home and I notified the authorities.
“Then two police family liaison officers came to my home and told me that a woman and a child had been killed in a flat fire in Liverpool and they believed the child to be Jai.
“As soon as they told me, I knew she had done it deliberately.
“I think in her mind, she felt that if she couldn’t have Jai, no one else could have him either.
“She knew the way to hurt me was through Jai. She knew how important he was to me.
“Ultimately, Jai paid the price.”
Paresh now wants independent reviews into the authorities to find out why they did not enforce the court order after Jai’s mother failed to give him back or take him to school.
The matter will be passed to the Lancashire Safeguarding Children Board for consideration by their serious case review panel.
“I feel anger and frustration with Lancashire Social Services and Merseyside Police,” Paresh said. “Social services had various opportunities to get Jai out but didn’t take them.
“In this day and age, I cannot believe that professionals within the justice system have a different opinion as to whether or not they can enforce a court order.
“If a court order is not enforceable, what is the purpose of it?
“We do not want this to go away and for another child to die in the future. We want answers and changes to the system. We have to get something positive out of all this madness.”
Jane Booth, the independent chairman of the Lancashire Safeguarding Children Board, said: “My heart goes out to Jai’s family and friends.
“This is a very distressing case. The circumstances of Jai’s death have been referred to our serious case review group for consideration.
“Any review we complete will be published and any issues about the way in which children and their families are supported and safeguarded will be addressed.”
Louise Taylor, executive director for children and young people, said: “Jai’s death was a tragedy and we send our deepest condolences to his family at this very difficult time.
“This was a dreadful event and the full circumstances will be considered by the Lancashire Safeguarding Children Board’s serious case review panel next month.”
A spokesman for Merseyside Police, said: “Our thoughts are with the family at this time and they can rest assured that Merseyside Police will co-operate fully with Lancashire Safeguarding Children Board in relation to any future serious case review.
“The full circumstances of what happened are currently being reviewed and will be considered both at an inquest and by the Lancashire Safeguarding Children Board.
“It would therefore be inappropriate to comment any further at this stage.”
A spokesman for Lancashire Police said: “This was a tragic incident and our thoughts remain with Jai’s family at what must be an incredibly difficult time. We have specially trained officers offering them support.”
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We are unable to comment on individual cases. However, when a court order is made, the parent involved has a legal duty to follow it.
“If they fail to, police can be called in where appropriate and the person breaching the order can face imprisonment for contempt of court.”
Hilary Chadwick, senior lecturer at the Lancashire Law School at the University of Central Lancashire, said: “A mother of a child will automatically have parental responsibility.
“Because of this, police may be reluctant to remove a child as they would hope the parties would comply with the court order.
“If anyone breaches a court order, the ultimate sanction a court can impose is imprisonment.
“However, in family proceedings, because of the nature of them, especially when children are involved, sending someone to prison would be the last resort and the courts would give the parties every opportunity to return the child.”