Doctors abused adopted children
Middle-class doctors were left free to abuse adopted children in a "reign of terror" because social workers were intimidated by their professional status, a review has found.
Three adopted children ''rescued'' from their drug addicted parents went on to suffer a decade of systematic abuse and neglect at the hands of two doctors which was ''predictable'' and ''preventable'', accorind to the serious case review.
Some professionals in the case were swayed by ''perceptions and assumptions'' about the couple's social class, professional status and high academic qualifications, the review concluded.
Research scientist Dr Jill Newcombe-Buley, 45, punched, slapped and smothered the children in a reign of terror which started soon after they were placed with her and her husband, Dr Nicholas Newcombe, 43, at their former home in Prestbury, Cheshire.
She also stamped on one child with a stiletto heel and hit one over the head with a dustbin lid.
Newcombe-Buley was jailed for four years in October after she admitted child cruelty while her husband, who pleaded guilty to neglect after he did not report his wife, was given a 12-month suspended sentence.
A report ordered by Cheshire East Local Safeguarding Children Board today concluded there had been ''many missed opportunities'' to detect the abuse and that the couple should never have been allowed to adopt the children - referred to as Child B, C and D.
Report author Chris Brabbs said: ''The children went from being 'rescued' from the exposure to significant harm within their birth family only to end up being placed in another abusive situation where they were subjected to repeated and systematic physical abuse, emotional harm and neglect.
''The specific nature of the abuse, and the manner in which it was carried out, by adults who chose to adopt vulnerable children, is hard to comprehend.
''The conclusion of this Serious Case Review was that at various stages over the 10 years, the abuse was both predictable and preventable.
''Had the appropriate actions been taken, the abuse may have been detected, and the children helped to disclose, much earlier.
''The Review has identified the many missed opportunities to pick up on the indicators of abuse, or to investigate disclosures made by Child B in particular, but also by Child C.''
He said the adoption process conducted by Stoke-on-Trent Social Services was ''flawed'' due to a number of factors such as the couple having never lived together, questions about their commitment due to work pressures and their complete lack of experience around children.
''The adoption panel allowed itself to be sucked into the attractiveness of the fact that these applicants were offering a rare and highly sought after commodity - a willingness to take a sibling group of three,'' he said.
Following the initial placement in November 1999 there was no re-evaluation of what was in the children's best interests until they were formally adopted in June 2001.
There was little agency involvement afterwards other than the schools the children attended.
Mr Brabbs said although there was evidence of teaching staff showing concern for the children, and trying to mitigate against the excess of their mother's parenting style, the ''inescapable conclusion is that the children were badly let down by all four schools who failed to record, or act on, their direct observations of a number of indicators of possible physical neglect and/or emotional abuse''.
The children had built up ''enormous resilience'' and staff struggled to make sense of the contradictory evidence of the children doing well at school
Mr Brabbs said there were 10 missed opportunities to carry out investigations of the many occasions when Child B in particular disclosed abuse from March 2009.
On many occasions Child B was returned home against his wishes and without being interviewed by a social worker, he said.
This possibly led to all three children believing it would be better to endure the abuse they knew rather than let it develop further.
Prime responsibility rested with Cheshire East Social Care and its emergency duty team but there were occasions when the police should have been more challenging of Social Care's plans and escalated their concerns for resolution at a more senior level, the report found.
It was not until September 2009 that the authorities finally listened to Child B when he was admitted to a paediatric ward after being assaulted by another youngster.
He said he did not want to return home but a social worker said he should go because there was no evidence to support his previous allegations.
He would have gone back to more abuse but for the intervention of a consultant paediatrician.
The report stated: ''Fortunately, for all the children, Child B never gave up and found the confidence one more time to tell the independent reviewing officer the specifics of the abuse he and his siblings had been suffering. In contrast to some of the earlier work, the response was immediate and responsive to the children's needs.''
The review also praised non-professionals who tried to secure help for the children at an earlier stage - especially their school friends - but unfortunately the professionals involved did not give sufficient weight to the information they provided.
It continued that many professionals struggled to maintain a child focus when faced with the ''disguised compliance'' of the couple whose social standing had also affected their judgment.
''Their approach was affected by perceptions and assumptions made regarding the parents' social class, professional status, and high academic qualifications, and the attitude of M and F (Mr and Mrs Newcombe)towards them.''
Nicholas Newcombe, who now lives in Macclesfield, was asked to meet the report author but declined as he cited work commitments and said he was ''still finding the whole situation extremely upsetting''.
He wrote that he felt the couple and the children were ''badly let down'' by Stoke-on-Trent Social Services.
He claimed they were negligent in placing three young children with two parents with almost no experience of looking after children, and that they did not provide sufficient practical and emotional support.
David Mellor, the safeguarding board's chairman, apologised to the children who he said were collectively failed by schools, social services and police.
He said: ''The nine-year period of this review - starting with a flawed adoption process - shows a series of failings by a number of agencies.
''It is clear that teachers had concerns but never recorded or escalated those concerns to raise the alarm. One of the children repeatedly tried to report the abuse, which all the siblings had suffered, to social workers and police. Time and time again they were let down.
''This has been a particularly difficult case for everyone, not least because of the disguised compliance of the adoptive parents which staff in many agencies were unwilling to challenge.
''We are taking action to ensure that failings which occurred will not be repeated in the future.
''I would emphasise, however, that this is a highly uncommon case that covers a significant period of time. We want all children - and particularly these three children - to be reassured that when anyone comes to us for help in the future, they will be listened to and appropriate action will be taken.
''I would stress that the children are now safe, being protected and helped to recover from their terrible ordeal.''