BOY RAPIST INQUIRY: Agencies failed to share information

Sunderland Echo chief report Marissa Carruthers has studied the report.
Sunderland Echo chief report Marissa Carruthers has studied the report.
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SUNDERLAND City Council today offered a full apology for mistakes that led to an 11-year-old schoolboy raping a nine-year-old.

In a Serious Case Review published today, the authority has admitted letting down those left devastated by the child-on-child rape which shocked the city.

Keith Moore, director of children's services at sunderland city council

Keith Moore, director of children's services at sunderland city council

Today they have vowed to learn lessons from the incident.

It was in June 2009 that the boy lured his victim, with the promise of playing Pokemon games, into a bedroom where he then subjected him to a horrific rape.

The report has found that the mental state of the young rapist, dubbed Child X, was not flagged up in the months prior to him carrying out the attack. He is in a detention centre after admitting the rape.

It also identified a series of errors in communication between the agencies involved in his care.

This included two letters of warning written by a child psychologist to the council’s children’s services department regarding Child X’s behaviour – both of which were not acted on.

The council today said it has not issued any disciplinary action to staff involved with the youngster.

But the Echo understands two social workers closely involved with the case have since died.

Meg Boustead, head of safeguarding at Sunderland City Council, said: “Given the length of time and number of staff involved with the individual and the complexity of the case, there was not one person who could be held solely culpable.”

In the report, Child X is described as having “significant difficulties”, was “maltreated”, suffering “significant behavioural problems” and “in need of protection”.

It says systematic failings in communication and sharing information between up to 21 agencies involved with the troubled youngster led to the system failing to protect him – and others.

And it added there are serious lessons to be learned and changes to be made to ensure the same mistakes are not made again.

Keith Moore, director of children’s services at Sunderland City Council, added: “We would like to offer a full apology for the mistakes made at the time.

“We hold our hands up and there are clearly lessons here for us to learn.

“We recognise and regret the impact the events covered by the Serious Case Review on all those involved.”

In November 2009, the youth was sent to a detention centre for four-and-a-half years after admitting the attack.

The rape took place while the youngster was awaiting trial after being accused of sexually assaulting two 10-year-old girls in December 2008 and an 11-year-old girl between March and June 2009.

These charges were later dropped in court.

When the boy was being sentenced, Judge Beatrice Bolton raised concerns that Sunderland’s children’s services ignored troubled calls twice.

She said the offence may have been avoided if the warnings had been heard.

Consultant child psychiatrist Dr Stephen Westgarth, based at Sunderland Royal Hospital, had sent two letters to the department urging them to take action just weeks before the attack.

Mr Moore said: “We also accept that the failure of children’s social care to respond to the two letters from the child psychiatrist should not have occurred,

“All of the recommendations relating to Children’s Social Care are in place and will continue to be reviewed as part of our improvement plan.”