Exclusive: Cameron blasted as Shannon Matthews report kept in limbo

David Cameron has come under fire after the Government admitted it still cannot say when full reports into two of Yorkshire’s most harrowing crimes against children will be released – 18 months after promising their publication.

Serious case reviews found councils missed opportunities to intervene, and Mr Cameron demanded the reports be published in full after learning of apparent discrepancies in one, on the torture of two boys in Edlington, near Doncaster.

Although the reviews were completed in 2010, only short summaries about the Edlington attacks and the abduction of Dewsbury schoolgirl Shannon Matthews have been released, casting doubt on whether all important details have been disclosed.

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The Department for Education confirmed last night it could make no “firm commitments” on the timing of their release, prompting a Yorkshire MP to criticise the Prime Minister for the delay.

The Edlington report’s executive summary, published by Doncaster Safeguarding Children Board in January 2010, showed authorities missed 31 chances to intervene with the family of two brothers, aged 10 and 11, who subjected two younger boys to horrific assaults in April 2009.

The brothers were locked up indefinitely after a court heard how their victims were choked, hit with bricks, made to eat nettles, stripped and forced to sexually abuse each other.

Mr Cameron, then in opposition, demanded the review be published in full after the BBC, which obtained a leaked copy, alleged the executive summary did not “match up” with the rest of the report.

After the general election the coalition confirmed the Edlington and Shannon Matthews reports would be released, after being edited to protect children’s identities, along with two other high-profile serious case reviews.

The findings of the other two – into the deaths of 17-month-old Baby P, Peter Connelly, in Haringey and seven-year-old girl Khyra Ishaq in Birmingham – have been released, in reports each running to more than 100 pages.

Labour MP Caroline Flint, whose Don Valley constituency includes Edlington, said she had raised concerns with Education Secretary Michael Gove about the delay and added: “In January 2010, David Cameron described the partial publication of reports as having the appearance of an ‘establishment stitch-up’.

“Well, now he has been in the driving seat for 20 months. He is the establishment. Where is the Edlington report?”

The Government has taken responsibility for publishing the Edlington review, but the Shannon Matthews report is due to be published by Kirklees Safeguarding Children Board (KSCB).

Karen Matthews and her former boyfriend’s uncle, Michael Donovan, were jailed in 2009 for plotting the abduction of her daughter Shannon, who went missing for 24 days in 2008.

An executive summary of the case was published in June 2010. The full report is expected to give more detail about why social services twice decided not to take Shannon into care despite warnings about her welfare.

Conservative MP for Dewsbury Simon Reevell, a barrister, said: “How long does it take to redact a document? I know from dealing with very sensitive documents in court cases that, of course, it takes a great deal of thought, but usually the expectation is that it will be done within a matter of days rather than years.

“I think people are rightly suspicious of organisations who cannot deal with freedom of information or publishing reports. It creates the impression they have something to hide or their administration is not working.”

KSCB chairman Bron Sanders said: “Work on redacting the overview report has been very challenging, especially as the Serious Case Review does far more than look at the support provided to an individual child – it is a detailed account involving five children over a 13-year period.”

She said the clear priority was the interests and welfare of all the children involved.

Jim Board, of Unison’s Doncaster branch, accused the Conservatives of having made “cheap political points out of the tragedies of child deaths” before the election when they were in opposition.

“As they have assumed power, they have become much more aware of the possible issues and pitfalls of publishing full reports.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Education said it was “vitally important” reports were appropriately edited to protect the privacy and welfare of children.

“This process needs to be conducted very carefully and thoroughly and takes time. Until this process is complete we cannot make firm commitments on timescales.”

• More in Saturday’s Yorkshire Post