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Yarl’s Wood staff censured for poor probe in child sex case

`Case should have led to complex inquiries’

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15th June 2010: Yarl’s Wood is back in controversy. Its staff has come under fire for poor investigation into child sex case.

An official report has found detention centre at fault for not dealing properly with the case of two five-year-olds allegedly found engaging in sexual activity involving an older child aged 11 or 15 in September 2009.

The report says the social workers failed to properly investigate the case of two five-year-olds found engaging in sexual activity at Yarl’s Wood detention centre; and the case should have led to "complex inquiries", but the authorities concerned did not react suitably.

The police, the UK Borders Agency and Serco, which runs the centre, too have come under criticism in the independent review carried out by Bedford and Central Bedfordshire safeguarding children boards.

It said the arrangements to keep children safe were "ultimately ineffective and relied too heavily on the input and decisions of other agencies".

The local authorities’ managers and social workers misunderstood the significance, which should attach to the age of criminal responsibility in such circumstances, the report said, adding they erroneously took the view that their inquiries into the adequacy of safeguarding arrangements for these children could be limited by the fact that the children could not be the subject of criminal charges.

They failed to investigate concerns that older children may also have been involved in the sexual abuse of a child, and that these older young people might pose a continuing threat to other detainees.

"None of the agencies involved in this case gave adequate weight to the particular inherent vulnerability of children in detention, nor to the issues of diversity affecting these children and their families," the executive summary of the review said.

The report said the case highlighted a gap in the regulation of services to children in immigration detention.

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