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Authorities apologise for failing two sisters

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Authorities apologise for failing two sisters

Post by justagrannynow 1 on 10.03.10 16:02

Police Apologise For Failing Over Rapist Dad

David Crabtree, Midlands correspondent
Police and local authorities have apologised to a family for failing to protect them from their father who repeatedly raped and physically abused them over three decades.

The man in his 50s, who can't be named for legal reasons, fathered nine children with two of his daughters.

Only seven of the children survived, two of which have severe physical disabilities.

The abuse began in 1980 when the girls were aged 8 and 10, and fell pregnant a total of nine times over the next three decades.

Two years ago the man was given 25 life sentences by a court at Sheffield.

Today saw the publication of a serious case review into the role of social workers and police in Lincolnshire and South Yorkshire.

In issuing the apology all the agencies gave assurances that changes in the safeguarding process now offered better protection to children.

Sue Fiennes, from the Sheffield Safeguarding Children Board said: "We want to apologise to the family at the heart of this case.

"It will be clear that we failed the family.

"We are committed to work relentlessly to do all we can to minimise the risk of this happening again."

Throughout the 30 years the man moved his family 67 times to maintain his secret and was only arrested after his daughters eventually found the courage to go to the police.

The case has echoes of Austrian Josef Fritzl, who had seven children with one of his daughters.

The report into this latest case highlights deficiencies in the sharing of information between agencies and of record keeping.

Shortly after the man was sentenced, Gordon Brown said people would want to know how such abuse could go on for so long.

The report includes a number of recommendations for change.


original report from 2008


Agencies face row over 'unspeakable abuse' by father who raped and impregnated sisters

• Two daughters had seven and 12 pregnancies
• Brother contacted police but no action taken

* Esther Addley, Martin Wainwright and Polly Curtis
* The Guardian, Thursday 27 November 2008
* Article history

Child protection agencies in Lincolnshire and Sheffield are bracing themselves for damning criticism over the case of a man who raped and impregnated his daughters, as details of "unspeakable" abuse against the two women begin to emerge.

Repeated incidents brought the family to the notice of the police and education and health authorities as far back as the late 1970s, but though suspicions were occasionally voiced by observers, no decisive action was taken.

Lincolnshire police investigated allegations of abuse in 1997, it has emerged, after being contacted by the girls' brother, but no action was taken. Repeated hospital visits also failed to raise suspicions, and on one occasion, when the younger sister was asked outright if her father was the father of her child, her denials were accepted without further question.

The women, now in their 30s, were even given genetic counselling because so many of their pregnancies - seven for the older girl, 12 for her sister - were resulting in miscarriages or serious developmental abnormalities, but no intervention was made. Of the seven children who survived, a number have significant health problems.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was not arrested until June, when one of his daughters reported the abuse to a social worker. He was given 25 life sentences at Sheffield crown court on Tuesday, after which an urgent review into the case was announced by Sheffield city council's director of children's services.

Gordon Brown yesterday promised to overhaul the child protection system if the review reveals serious failings. "The whole country will be outraged by these unspeakable events. People will rightly want to know how such abuse could go on for so long without the authorities and the wider public services discovering it and taking action," Brown told the Commons at prime minister's questions.

"If there is a change to be made in the system and the system has failed we will change the system."

Part of the case review's remit will be to investigate communication between local authorities, as the family moved repeatedly during the period of abuse between Lincolnshire and South Yorkshire. The Local Government Association yesterday called for the establishment of a central national database of at-risk families. "When social services identify a new family in their area they should be able to cross-check with that database to see whether there is a history. This has to happen," said Les Lawrence, chair of the LGA's board on children and young people.

Medical records show evidence of abuse from very early childhood. The older of the two sisters was found to have bruises on her back, buttocks and arms when she was just five.

Police were involved shortly afterwards when her younger sister was admitted to hospital with a broken arm. Claims from the wider family that she had been thrown across the room by her father were apparently disregarded. Police were contacted again when the older girl, aged 10, arrived several times at school in Sheffield with serious bruising and clearly hungry. Again, there were no consequences. In another incident, the older girl crayoned a picture of monsters in her bedroom, which caused suspicion among teachers, but she was transferred by her father to another school, a tactic he used repeatedly.

According to relatives, the girls' maternal grandmother contacted South Yorkshire police in 1988 but was warned by an officer that a complaint could be considered as slander. "The police could have stopped it," the man's sister-in-law told reporters. "They let those girls down. Our family has gone to the police a number of times over the years."

Speaking in court as the 56-year-old was sentenced, James Baird, defending, said it was "inconceivable" that the abuse could have gone on for so long without being detected. "It's equally incomprehensible that, despite ... real suspicions being raised, nothing was done by social services to investigate how two young women could have endured multiple pregnancies.

"The only apparent male in these young women's lives was their own father. The complainants and their children attended many, many hospital appointments and were in receipt of genetic counselling, and yet, even among the medical experts, no one sought to probe further as to how these cases arose."

The review is being conducted by Professor Pat Cantrill, a former senior civil servant at the Department of Health. Peter Duxbury, director of children's services at Lincolnshire county council, insisted the county's child protection system had "improved a great deal", adding that there had been "a wholesale reorganisation of children's services".

Sheffield city council said the report was unlikely until next year. All agencies which had any dealings with the family will give a timeline and written record to Cantrill. Cantrill's task will be to describe the work of every agency. Her report will not apportion blame.
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