Doncaster child services criticised over brothers who attacked boys in quarry
Social services in Doncaster missed more than 30 opportunities to intervene in the lives of two young brothers who went on to beat, torture and sexually assault a pair of boys last year, according to a leaked investigation report.
A total of nine separate agencies failed in their dealings with the family of the brothers, and their eventual attack was both predictable and preventable, the Safeguarding Children Board, which represents the organisations involved, said.
The boys, then aged 10 and 11, persuaded the victims, who were nine and 11, to follow them onto semi-wild parkland on the edge of Edlington, just outside Doncaster, South Yorkshire, in April last year, before subjecting them to a long ordeal of torture, sexual humiliation and severe beating.
During the attack the older victim begged his attackers to kill him, such was his torment. He later had a ceramic sink smashed against his skull, causing severe injuries. The younger boy suffered a deep wound to his arm which was then burned with cigarettes. Other parts of the attack are considered too distressing to be reported.
The attackers, who cannot be named for legal reasons, pleaded guilty to grievous bodily harm and other offences in September. The severity of the case meant they appeared before an adult court.
They are scheduled to be sentenced this week and the report into social services’ dealings with them is due to be published after the case is over.
The BBC’s Newsnight programme said it had seen a copy of the investigation, which revealed there had been 31 missed chances to intervene with the attackers’ family over a period of 14 years. The brothers grew up in Doncaster and were moved into a foster home in Edlington, a quiet former pit village, three weeks before the crime. The report says this move, which saw the boys live with a couple in their 60s, was not properly planned.
It makes for yet more discomfort for the much-criticised children’s services department of Doncaster council, where seven children officially marked as being at risk have died since 2004. The council, whose children’s services department was taken over by central government last year, is not commenting until the report is officially published. But the leader of the Safeguarding Children Board, Roger Thompson, told the BBC the services in Doncaster had been “dysfunctional”.
“It went very wrong here. The services were not being properly provided, there was poor leadership. Multi-agency working was not as effective as it should be,” said Mr Thompson.
Friends of the family, and neighbours from when they lived as a large, noisy household of seven sons in a suburb of Doncaster, told the Guardian they had repeatedly contacted social services about their concerns.
These included worries that the boys, and their younger siblings, were not being properly looked after by a mother who was described as a drug user prone to depression and a heavy-drinking, violent father. They also said that local people had long harboured fears about the boys’ behaviour, which had moved from anti-social nuisance to vandalism, and then violence and abuse, before they were placed in foster care,
“The biggest shame of all is that it took something like this to happen for something to get done,” one neighbour, who knew the family well, told the Guardian. “The council were too slow. Everyone could see what was happening with those kids.”
A close friend of the family said that when the brothers were taken into foster care, after their father left and their mother proved unable to cope, the friend had “begged” council officials to put them in separate homes for fear of what they might do together.
According to Newsnight, the report draws up 18 recommendations and lists several incidents involving the brothers which should have prompted action, including the exclusion from school of one of them in 2006 for threatening a member of staff with a baseball bat.
The following year there were complaints they had been involved in arson and killing ducks at a local park, but nothing was done.
Finally, another boy in Edlington suffered a prolonged assault a week before the two boys were attacked. On the day that took place the brothers had been due to be questioned by police.
The attack brought comparisons with the murder of the toddler James Bulger in 1993 by two boys then aged 10, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson.
As with this case, media organisations have asked the trial judge to remove the anonymity of the Edlington brothers. A decision on this will take place after the sentencing hearing, which begins on Wednesdayand is due to run for three days.