No excuse for shameful delay

IT is difficult to comprehend why, more than 18 months after the Government pledged unequivocally to publish the full reviews into what remain two of the most harrowing criminal cases involving children Yorkshire has ever known, there is still no sign of those reports being made public.

Anyone who remembers the shocking circumstances of the abduction of Shannon Matthews, or the sheer horror of the Edlington attacks, will be well aware of the vitally important issues surrounding these cases - and of the need to ensure public accountability where mistakes were made.

But lest there be any doubt, let us reflect on the words of David Cameron himself in January 2010, spoken days after the summary of the Edlington report was published, while still leader of the Opposition.

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Two children had been “tortured to within an inch of their lives”, Mr Cameron said. “Aren’t we in danger of a cover-up if we don’t publish (the report) in full?”

Two full years have since passed. Mr Cameron is now Prime Minister. Yet still his Government fails to carry out his stated policy. Indeed, it cannot even name the date when it plans to do so.

It is time Mr Cameron addressed his own question.

Clearly, the sensitivities around publication are considerable. It is vital the children concerned are protected; important too that individual staff are not publicly scapegoated. Nobody is suggesting these documents do not require some redaction.

But for the authorities to claim they are still working on that process, 18 months after publication was promised, and two full years after the Edlington report was completed, is simply not credible.

It smacks of complacency, of a lack of leadership - or of something even worse.

It should not need saying that the protection of children is one of the most important jobs our authorities have to contend with. Their safety must always come first.

For that reason alone, as Mr Cameron himself made clear two years ago, these full reports must be made public, to give people confidence that lessons are being learned. Anyone who read the 135-page report into the death of Baby Peter Connolly - published in full in October 2010 - cannot fail to see the importance of the details contained within.

This affair now extends to the whole issue of trust in Government.

Mr Cameron himself chose to make the Edlington review a political issue, just weeks before a general election. He now has a clear responsibility to deliver what he promised.

Indeed, he should have done so long ago.