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Merseyside brothers grooming abuse fears 'not listened to'

Ilvarasan and Vinothan Rajenthiram Image copyright Merseyside Police
Image caption Ilvarasan, left, and Vinothan Rajenthiram, right, were described as "calculating sexual predators" by police

Concerns about vulnerable girls being groomed "were not listened to", the chairwoman of Wirral's safeguarding board said after two men were jailed.

Brothers Ilvarasan and Vinothan Rajenthiram sexually assaulted nine girls after plying them with alcohol.

All the victims were known to Wirral social services and one was in its care, the BBC understands.

"Lessons are already being learned," said Dr Maggie Atkinson, from Wirral Safeguarding Children's Board.

Responding to claims nothing was being done when social workers were reporting what was going on, Dr Atkinson told BBC Radio Merseyside: "Things were done too slowly.

"Things were not done early enough, things were not listened to as they ought to have been but please remember this is not just social care."

'Past mistakes'

Dr Atkinson commissioned a serious case review after lvarasan, 26, and Vinothan, 27, were arrested last year and the findings are due to be published in July.

The pair were found guilty on Monday of a total of 30 offences including sexual activity with a child between 2010 and 2016 and jailed for 22-and-a-half years and 18-and-a-half years respectively.

They gave 14 and 15-year-old girls free sweets and mobile phone top-ups at convenience stores they worked in at Birkenhead, Walton and Garston before taking them to unoccupied flats for their "sexual gratification".

The pair were also ordered to sign the Sex Offenders' Register for life.

Image copyright Stephen Richards/Geograph
Image caption Ofsted rated leadership and management at Wirral Council's children's services as inadequate

Wirral Council's director of children's services, Julia Hassall, resigned on Monday after the pair were jailed and following a damning Ofsted report, the BBC understands.

Last September, its children's services were rated "inadequate" after Ofsted found investigations into abuse "are not always compliant" with guidelines and it did not react as quickly to those at a "lower risk".

Dr Atkinson said: "Under Julia's direction those things were already changing. It's very sad she's decided to go.

"A great deal of change has happened in Wirral since this awful, awful set of circumstances.

"We have to own our difficulties and past mistakes and we have to make a difference and it's really important that we do.

"I can't say how sorry the public agencies are in Wirral for what's happened. If I took you into those agencies today you would find lessons will be learned and lessons are already being learned."

Ms Hassall has been contacted for a comment.

Image caption One of the victims said the experience had ruined her life

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