'Chances missed' to stop child abuse

There were many missed opportunities to detect the abuse of three children at the hands of their adoptive parents, a serious case review has found.

The children were first placed with research scientist Jill Newcombe-Buley and her husband Nicholas Newcombe in Prestbury, Cheshire, in 1999.

The study found there was no re-evaluation of what was in the children's best interests before they were formally adopted two years later.

It concluded there was evidence of teaching staff showing concern for the children, but their observations were never acted upon.

The report, ordered by Cheshire East Local Safeguarding Children Board, said staff struggled to make sense of the contradictory evidence of the children doing well at school.

It said there were 10 missed opportunities to carry out investigations on the many occasions when one of the children, known as Child B, disclosed he had been abused from March 2009.

Prime responsibility rested with Cheshire East Social Care, the report said, but there were occasions when the police should have been more challenging of the department's plans and escalated their concerns.

Newcombe-Buley was jailed for child cruelty and her husband Newcombe, who also has a PhD, admitted neglect after he did not report her.

He was given a 12-month suspended sentence at Liverpool Crown Court.

Newcombe-Buley had started punching, slapping and smothering the children soon after they moved in to the family home.

She also stamped on one child with a stiletto heel and hit one over the head with a dustbin lid.

No experience

The authorities finally listened to Child B in September 2009 when he was admitted to hospital after being assaulted by another child.

The report stated: "Fortunately, for all the children, Child B never gave up and found the confidence one more time to tell the independent reviewing officer the specifics of the abuse he and his siblings had been suffering."

Newcombe claimed the couple and children were "badly let down" by social services.

He said they were negligent in placing the siblings with two adults with almost no experience with children and they did not provide enough support.

David Mellor, chairman of the local safeguarding children board, said the children were failed by schools, social services and police.

"Time and time again they were let down," he said.

He added: "We are taking action to ensure that failings which occurred will not be repeated in the future."

He said it was a "highly uncommon case" and said the children were now "safe, being protected and helped to recover from their terrible ordeal".

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