Dec 2 2008 By Staff Reporter
A REPORT has revealed a catalogue of care failings leading up to the brutal murder of a man at the hands of a 13-year-old boy.
Birkenhead man Stephen Croft, 34, was savagely beaten and his body thrown on a bonfire in the early hours of November 6 last year.
His killer Jamie Smith, 13 at the time, was on the run from a care home.
The well-built Wirral youngster was locked up indefinitely for the crime in April and told he must serve at least 13 years behind bars.
An independent report into Smith’s care, commissioned by Wirral’s Safeguarding Children board, reveals:
Assessments of Smith and his family were poor – and not even kept in a file.
Opportunities to assess risk were missed because Wirral Youth Offending Service knew nothing about a string of offences he committed while housed in Huddersfield.
Despite a history of neglect, contact with Smith’s family was increased in Wirral during summer and autumn 2007 – leading to an increase in aggression.
The report said the case had national implications as to how agencies involved in youth offending communicated.
It said: “The Serious Case Review has emphasised the need for the assessment process to consider both the risk to the young person because of their personal circumstances and family background and also the potential risk to the general public.”
Speaking from his home the victim’s dad Stephen Croft snr, 56, said: “If he had been put in a more secure unit my son would still be alive and Smith would have a future – everyone has been let down.”
Referring to the death of Baby P, Mr Croft added: “We’ve seen in Haringey what can happen when agencies don’t communicate.
“Why, given the nature of his dysfunctional family and his father’s violent background, was he allowed back for increased visits?
“There was a breakdown in communication.
“But because he was committing criminal acts in other places they were under no obligation to inform Wirral.
“They had no idea about the escalation in his criminality and it resulted in murder.”
A Wirral council spokeswoman today said parental contact was always a difficult issue which was continually reviewed.
Training into assessments had been established and all young people placed away from Wirral would now have a manager allocated to maintain links with Wirral’s Youth Offending Service.
Director of Wirral Children's Services and chairman of the Local Safeguarding Children Board Howard Cooper said: “The Serious Case Review has identified a number of areas where assessments, multi-agency work and information sharing were not of a sufficient standard.
“All the organisations involved have welcomed the Serious Case Review and have co-operated fully with it.
“I would like to take this opportunity publicly to again express our deepest condolences to the family of Stephen Croft.”