South West Wales

Authorities failed south Wales paedophile abuse victims

A report into how a paedophile was able to abuse four children over a period of many years has found failings by the authorities.

Staff showed a "lack of urgency" and did not follow procedures, even though the children tried to report the abuse.

The review follows the man's conviction for abusing the children in 2009.

The Neath Port Talbot Safeguarding Children Board has apologised to the children involved.

When in 2007 allegations of multiple rapes of four children were made it took over a year for the abuser to be arrested by South Wales Police. He is now serving a life sentence.

The report makes over 60 recommendations to improve training, communication and procedures. Neath Port Talbot, Caerphilly and Pembrokeshire councils, as well as South Wales Police, were all involved in the case.

The independent review looked at the three councils.

'Sincere public apology'

Tony Clements, chairman of the board, said: "On behalf of everyone involved, I want to say how very sorry we are.

"Today, we make a sincere public apology to each of these children. The children suffered serious sexual abuse and were let down by all of the agencies who should have protected them.

"The safeguarding children boards involved in this review fully accept all of the recommendations and are committed to protecting the most vulnerable children in our society. All of the agencies are working hard to make sure we are meeting the highest standards expected of us."

Keith Towler, the children's commissioner for Wales, said the children were let down "because the agencies failed to get the basics right".

"The report details how the lack of knowledge and understanding of roles and lack of communication between the 46 agencies who were involved at various times had led to four vulnerable children being left to suffer in silence.

"These children tried to speak out on a number of occasions but they weren't listened to and their calls for help were not heard. We cannot allow this to happen again."

'Saddened and distressed'

Mr Towler is a member of the National Safeguarding Forum, and he said it was looking urgently at implementing changes.

Deputy Minister for Social Services Gwenda Thomas was "very saddened and distressed to read about the abuse and neglect that these children had to endure over many years and of its impact on their lives".

She has met the councils and police forces involved and said she "stressed to them the importance of them working together to address the concerns raised swiftly".

"Whilst, sadly, we have to accept that we will never eradicate all abuse, this is a door that will never be finally closed and I remain determined to take whatever action I can to ensure that children living in Wales can grow up in families and communities which will not tolerate abuse of children in any form," said Mrs Thomas.

Hywel Francis and Brian Gibbons, the MP and AM respectively for Aberavon, said they welcomed the acknowledgement by Neath Port Talbot social services of failures, and a willingness to "subject its own performance to diligent scrutiny".

"This is an important first step in making sure the important lessons of this case are learned."

Imelda Richardson, chief inspector of the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW), said the victims had been "let down by the professional services who have a duty to protect children".

The CSSIW is taking various steps, including an inspection of safeguarding children boards.

She said: "If there's one overriding message to take from this case, it is that society has a moral as well as a legal duty to look out for young children to listen to them, and act in their best interests in the support and services they need".

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