Torture boys 'should have been stopped'

Authorities had 31 chances to deal with brothers who brutally attacked 11-year-old

Social services in Doncaster missed 31 opportunities to intervene in the lives of two young brothers who went on to torture and sexually assault a pair of boys in a Yorkshire quarry last year, says a new report.

A serious case review report from the Children's Safety Board, which was ordered in wake of the attack, identified numerous failings by nine different agencies and said 31 chances to intervene were missed over a period of several years.

The brothers, then aged 10 and 11, pleaded guilty following a brutal assault on two boys aged 11 and nine in Edlington, South Yorkshire, on 4 April last year. A court heard how the pair were lured to an abandoned quarry where they attacked them with bricks, sharpened sticks and lit cigarettes.

This is the local authority's eighth serious case review since 2004 and came in the wake of a government order for a major overhaul of Doncaster council's children's services department. It now transpires that the brothers, who will be sentenced this week, were known to police and social services before the attack.

BBC's Newsnight obtained a copy of th report earlier this week. According to the programme, an injunction was sought by Doncaster Council to ban its publication but was overturned yesterday at the High Court by Mr Justice Tugendhat after the BBC argued that its content was in the public interest.

The report identifies key failings in Doncaster, where seven children known to the authorities have died since 2004. Among them were 12 lessons that, the report says, should have been learnt from previous cases in the area in the run-up to the attack.

Some of the report's main criticisms are directed at the council's children's services department, which is blamed for a lack of leadership and accountability. The report also throws the inner workings of Doncaster council into the spotlight. It states that the family of the brothers had been in contact with nine different agencies over 14 years, but a lack of coordination between agencies meant 31 chances to intervene were missed.

The report, chaired by Roger Thompson, says that despite a "pattern of violent behaviour against other children", the two brothers were merely treated as naughty boys.

According to Newsnight, the report said a series of events in 2006 and 2007, which signalled the boys' worsening behaviour went unnoticed. In 2006, one of the two boys was excluded from school 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 in a local pond but no follow-up action was taken despite legal requirements, according to Newsnight.

The programme said the report highlighted the professionals' lack of ability to connect the boys' violent behaviour with their neglectful family background and said they were treated as naughty children. The boys grew up in Doncaster and were moved to a foster home in Edlington three weeks before the 4 April attack, in circumstances described as "chaotic" according to the programme. The full report will be published this week, coinciding with the sentencing of the two brothers.

Yesterday Doncaster council's director of children's services, Nick Jarman, said: "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."

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