Attack on Edlington boys could have been avoided - new report

AN attack on two young boys in South Yorkshire which left them seriously injured could have been avoided, it was reported today.

Edlington attacks: Full coverage

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Two brothers, aged 10 and 11 at the time, will be sentenced this week after they admitted brutally attacking an 11-year-old and a nine-year-old boy in Edlington near Doncaster last year.

A report from the Children's Safety Board, which was ordered after the attack, is due to be published next week but was seen by the BBC ahead of its release.

According to the corporation's Newsnight programme, the serious case review identifies numerous failings by nine different agencies and says 31 chances to intervene were missed over a period of 14 years.

The report, which is the latest serious case review centred around Doncaster where seven children known to social services have died since 2004, highlighted 12 lessons that should have been learnt from previous cases in the area and in the run-up to the Edlington attack.

The pair responsible for the attack, who cannot be named for legal reasons, were known to police and social services before the attack on April 4 last year.

The family of the brothers had been in contact with nine different agencies over 14 years but a lack of leadership and cohesive work between agencies meant 31 chances to intervene were missed, according to the BBC report.

Police were alerted on April 4 after the nine-year-old boy who was attacked was found wandering, covered in blood, in the former pit village.

The youngster told the people who found him where to find his uncle, who was discovered unconscious in a nearby wooded ravine.

Previous court hearings have been told that the two victims were hit with sticks and bricks, one had a sink dropped on his head, one had a noose put round his neck and the other was burned with a cigarette on his eyelids and ear.

A district judge was told in April the younger boy had a sharp stick rammed into his arm and cigarettes pushed into the gaping wound.

Their tormentors also tried to force the boys into performing sex acts on each other.

The nine-year-old tried to ram a stick down his own throat after he was told to "go away and kill himself" by one of his tormentors.

An injunction banning the publication of details in the serious case review was lifted today by Mr Justice Tugendhat at the High Court, a spokesman for the Judicial Communications Office said.

According to the report from the Children's Safety Board, which represents the agencies involved, there was no proper supervision of the boys' foster care placement and no clear plan for their management.

It said that professionals focused on the mother, rather than on the needs of her children.

A series of events through 2006 and 2007 that signalled the boys' worsening behaviour also went unnoticed, the report said.

In 2006, one of the two boys was excluded from school when he was aged eight after threatening staff with a baseball bat.

A multi-agency meeting was held but no action taken.

In November 2007, there were complaints of arson and the killing of ducks at a park - no follow-up action was taken despite legal requirements, according to Newsnight.

The programme said the report highlighted a lack of professionals' ability to connect the boys' increasingly violent behaviour to their neglectful family background and suggested they were treated simply as naughty children, rather than as exhibiting violent tendencies towards other youngsters.

Roger Thomson, chairman of Doncaster Safeguarding Children Board, which is responsible ensuring the report's recommendations are implemented, told Newsnight: "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. So it was really a dysfunctional service in Doncaster."

According to Newsnight, the report will make 18 recommendations, four of which involve training staff at all levels.

It also calls for better monitoring of children excluded from school.

Nick Jarman, Doncaster Council's director of children's services, said: "First and foremost, our primary concern is with the victims and their families at this time.

"We will be addressing findings of the Serious Case Review once this is officially published by the Doncaster Safeguarding Children Board when sentencing for this case has concluded."