One of Wales’ worst abuse scandals provokes compensation claim
A council is facing a major compensation claim after a sex abuse victim found that social workers had had grave concerns about the care he was getting.
Documents disclosed to a victim of one of the most horrific cases of child sexual abuse ever seen in Wales show staff outlining their worries about his care standards.
The victim – now aged 30 – was abused by his father, the leader of a Pembrokeshire paedophile ring, from an early age, as well as by his own elder brother and other men. The brother who abused him was sent to the same children’s home as the victim.
In 1994 the boys’ father, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was jailed for 15 years for conspiring to sexually abuse young children. Four other men were also jailed for participating in the ring, which initially abused boys and girls in their own families, but went on to involve group sex sessions with other paedophiles in barns and on beaches.
When he was six or seven, the ringleader’s son was abused on a boat by his father and another man and dropped into the sea a mile offshore. The adults then circled around him while he was told he would be left in the water next time if he ever spoke about what happened.
Now, following an application made under the Data Protection Act, the victim has had 11 box loads of documents released to him by Pembrokeshire County Council that expose major worries within the authority’s predecessor, Dyfed County Council, about the way his case was handled. Wales Online has seen some of the material.
Among the documents is a memorandum written by a senior social worker expressing strong concern about plans to send the victim’s older brother, who had abused him, to the same children’s home.
The social worker wrote: “From my knowledge Steven [not his real name] has negative feelings towards Mark [also not his real name] ie ‘he’s mad, he enjoyed it, the sexual abuse’. Steven has strong feelings of anger and hatred of abusers and seeing Mark who represented a child who seemingly ‘enjoyed it’ will I suspect evoke a strong reaction and outburst.
“Mark, I feel, will be a constant reminder to Steven of abusive situations and this I feel will trigger flashbacks for Steven, which will in turn affect his behaviour and the way he perceives himself.”
Despite the social worker’s recommendation that Mark should not be placed in the same home as Steven, the two were put together.
Two weeks later minutes of a meeting of social workers and carers at the home state: “Weekend had been a difficult time for staff. Steven [aged 12 at the time] said that Mark had introduced him to well known drug dealer. [The home’s] staff confirmed this was very disturbing. Steven had taken cannabis and alcohol at the weekend.
“[A social worker] reported that Steven was psychologically and emotionally under a lot of pressure from Mark. Mark has told Steven his grandfather is going to get him – he knows where he is; his mother was going to write a letter to tell him she didn’t want to see him. This very much distressed Steven who is feeling very low at present.
“After a lengthy discussion, it was agreed by all professionals that Mark was having a devastating effect on Steven and that he should move on to an alternative placement.”
Further documents show that while Dyfed’s director of social services initially indicated an intention to appeal against the decision of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board to award Steven compensation of £12,500 on the grounds that it was lower than the going rate for the abuse suffered, the appeal was not pursued.
A senior social worker wrote a memorandum saying he was appalled at the short time of preparation given to Steven before having to give evidence in the court case involving his father and other paedophiles. He stated: “In September 1993 I had a consultation with [a consultant child psychiatrist] regarding Steven. [The psychiatrist] was emphatic in is opinion that Steven will need thorough preparation before giving evidence at court.
“… It is clear that Steven will effectively have two or at the most three days in which to be prepared for a very traumatic event in his life. I must state in the strongest possible terms that I am appalled that a child in local authority care in such a major criminal court case receives just two days preparation, when the department have known since December 22, 1993 that Steven needed to be ready to give evidence on January 17, 1994.”
Other material shows the depth of concern by professionals at a failure to find an appropriate placement for Steven in the run-up to the court case. At the time he was being looked after by non-specialist and casually employed carers. The minutes of a meeting state: “[A social worker] was concerned that there had appeared to be a complete lack of liaison with the education department until today. He felt that Steven was currently at the [named centre] because social services did not know where else to place him. Steven’s current needs have to be properly assessed.”
Another professional stated it was “not healthy” for Steven to be living in the isolation he was currently experiencing. He was said to be “extremely frightened and anxious”, to have nil self-esteem and a reading age of seven [when he was 11].
The minutes of the meeting stated: “Steven is statemented, with the recommendation that he have a full-time care assistant, although [a named educational psychologist] believed that this would be refused due to cuts within the education service.”
A year later, complaints continued that not enough money was being devoted to Steven’s care. An internal social services memo said: “The casework with Steven had prepared comprehensively for his next stage to family care via the Parents For Children agency. The use of Parents For Children was not proceeded with by the deputy director’s instruction due to financial reasons at that stage.
“Since then, there has been no effective planning possible for this highly disturbed young person, due to no substitute for the Parents For Children service being made available. This ‘drift’ in planning terms is potentially highly damaging to Steven and reinforces our clearly expressed professional opinion for Parents For Children to be used as the only effective agency available.”
Steven said: “I believe the documents disclosed to me show that for years I was badly let down by Dyfed County Council. The time is now right for me to be properly compensated for what I went through and what I have to live with every day. A specialist firm of solicitors is now looking at the material and I am expecting to receive detailed advice soon. In the mean time I have written to the council myself, asking for compensation to be considered.
“I advise any other people who were abused at the time and believe they were let down by Dyfed County Council to use the Data Protection Act to get access to their files and do the same thing.”
A social worker who has been advising Steven but who has no previous connection with the case said: “If he had received the proper support he deserved as a child and a young adult, he would be in a much better position to cope with the consequences of the horrific abuse he was subjected to.”
A spokesman for Pembrokeshire County Council said: “We are aware of the allegations, which mainly appear to relate to the days of the old Dyfed County Council, predating this current authority. We are unable to comment on individual cases but we always seek to resolve any concerns the public have in as timely a way as possible.”
Steven has received a letter from the council advising him that his letter seeking compensation has been referred to the authority’s insurers.