Torture case raises questions over social services

The two brothers involved in the Edlington torture case were well known to social services, the police and the education service, raising questions over whether the tragedy could have been prevented.
At the time of the attack, one was subject to a supervision order after he was convicted of battery and the other was on bail charged with actual bodily harm and burglary.

And in the days before the main attack, the brothers attacked two other youngsters in Edlington.
Children’s services in the South Yorkshire town have been under tremendous public scrutiny following the deaths of a number of children known to social workers.

The fact the two boys were known to the department will only increase the pressure on the council. Questions will also be asked about whether more should have been done after they attacked two other young boys in the days leading up to the main incident.

Few details have been released about social services’ involvement with the two young defendants and their family. Court hearings have been told both boys were on the child protection register and both had been expelled from school. At the time of the attack, both boys had been placed in foster care in the Edlington area. They had only been there since March 10 – about three weeks before the attack.

People living close to the family home said they appealed to the council and police for help to deal with the problems the family were causing. And a friend of the boys’ mother said she had pleaded with social workers for help controlling her sons.

Question will also be asked about whether the boys should have been free to carry out the attacks after a string of previous incidents.

At the time of the attack, the 10-year-old was on bail to appear before the youth court on two charges of actual bodily harm and one of burglary, while his brother had received a 12-month supervision order just two months earlier after being convicted of battery.

The younger boy had no previous convictions but did have reprimands for actual bodily harm and common assault.

Just a week before the attack on the two boys, the brothers carried out an almost identical assault on another 11-year-old.

The boy’s mother claimed she called police immediately but an officer did not visit her and her son for 24 hours and she felt the response lacked urgency.

Police called round twice more in the following week and the brothers were due to be questioned on the morning of April 4 but never turned up at the police station, leaving them free to launch the attack on the two boys just hours later.

Doncaster found itself in the spotlight after it emerged seven children known to the town’s social services had died since 2004.

A routine Ofsted inspection branded children’s services in the town “inadequate”, prompting ministers to order an investigation into the local authority.

One of the children who died was 16-month-old Amy Howson whose spine was snapped by her father, James Howson. Amy also lived in Edlington.

A review into Amy’s death said opportunities were missed to intervene in her family’s life. Amy died in December 2007. Her 25-year-old father was later sentenced to a minimum of 22 years in prison.

The case has drawn parallels with the murder of James Bulger- a tragedy etched in British criminal history. James was only two-years-old when he was abducted and murdered by two 10-year-olds – Robert Thompson and Jon Venables – who had led him from a Merseyside shopping centre.