England

Children abused for 10 years by adoptive parents

Three children rescued from drug-addicted parents suffered a decade of abuse and neglect by the couple who adopted them, a case review has found.

The systematic abuse at their home in Prestbury, Cheshire, was "predictable and preventable", the review said.

Research scientist Dr Jill Newcombe-Buley punched, slapped and smothered the children. Her husband Nicholas Newcombe ignored the abuse.

The local safeguarding children board has apologised to the children.

The youngsters were originally from Stoke-on-Trent.

'Flawed adoption'

Some professionals were swayed by "perceptions and assumptions" about the couple's class, professional status, and academic qualifications, the serious case review said.

The review's authors said this led to a "flawed" adoption process undertaken by Stoke social services.

Newcombe-Buley, 45, stamped on one child with a stiletto heel and hit one over the head with a dustbin lid.

She was jailed for four years last October, after admitting child cruelty charges.

Her 43-year-old husband, who also has a PhD, pleaded guilty to neglect after he did not report his wife. He was given a 12-month suspended sentence.

A report ordered by Cheshire East Local Safeguarding Children Board found there had been "many missed opportunities" to detect the abuse and the couple should never have been allowed to adopt the children - referred to as Child B, C and D.

Report author Chris Brabbs said: "The children went from being 'rescued' from the exposure to significant harm within their birth family only to end up being placed in another abusive situation where they were subjected to repeated and systematic physical abuse, emotional harm and neglect.

"The specific nature of the abuse, and the manner in which it was carried out, by adults who chose to adopt vulnerable children, is hard to comprehend."

Commitment 'questionable'

The abuse had been entirely "predictable and preventable" at stages during the decade it was carried out, Mr Brabbs said.

"Had the appropriate actions been taken, the abuse may have been detected, and the children helped to disclose, much earlier," he continued.

"The review has identified the many missed opportunities to pick up on the indicators of abuse, or to investigate disclosures made by Child B in particular, but also by Child C."

Mr Brabbs said the adoption process in Stoke was "flawed" because a number of factors such as the couple having never lived together, questions about their commitment due to work pressures and their complete lack of experience around children.

The Chair of the Safeguarding Children Board, David Mellor, has apologised to the children on behalf of all the authorities.

Cheshire East's Director of Children and Families, Lorraine Butcher, has said the council has taken significant steps to overcome what they admit were shortcomings in how they handled the case.

"In actual fact we have had increased investment to strengthen and lessen the case load of our children's social care workers and strengthen the management oversight and support to those frontline staff who are doing a very difficult job," she said.

"We are intervening earlier and trying to stop things getting to the point where situations like this had clearly occurred."

Stoke-on-Trent City Council has also apologised and said there have been major changes both to the law and the council's adoption services since the adoption was approved 12 years ago.

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