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Serious Case Review published into child sexual abuse

They were public figures in a position of trust. A vicar from Spencers Wood in Reading, and a teacher from Thatcham - both jailed last year for sexual offences against children.

Today a Serious Case Review - which looked at the handling of offences committed between 1985 and 2015 was published - by the West Berkshire Safeguarding Children Board.

It found there were missed opportunities to prevent the abuse of children and adults with statutory responsibilities could have followed up issues of concern more quickly.

The Report made a series of recommendations to keep children safer in the future - as Richard Slee reports.

We're making the suggested changes, says council leader

A Serious Case Review has been published investigating how organisations in West Berkshire handled allegations of sexual offences against children, committed by people in positions of trust.

I welcome this comprehensive report from the Safeguarding Children’s Board and accept the recommendations it makes for safeguarding practices. We recognise that there is learning for us and other agencies. The council has already started making the changes suggested for us.

Protecting young people from harm is the priority for the council and one of the most crucial roles that councils perform. We have 25,000 pupils at school in the district and school safeguarding policies and procedures are very important to us. The interests of young people are at the centre of everything we do. We work closely with schools to ensure we have plans which are robust and regularly reviewed. This review will help us further improve them.

In working closely with schools the Local Authority’s role is to both support them in improving and on occasions to challenge their performance with regards to safeguarding. We are committed to continually improving the safeguarding of all West Berkshire children wherever they are educated. We will work closely with all schools and through the LSCB to ensure this. I am very grateful to the West Berkshire Safeguarding Children’s Board for this review and together we will ensure the recommendations continue to be implemented without delay.”

– Councillor Roger Croft, Leader of West Berkshire Council


The Church will not tolerate abuse by clergy, says Bishop

A Serious Case Review has been published investigating how organisations in West Berkshire handled allegations of sexual offences against children, committed by people in positions of trust.

We welcome the findings of the Serious Case Review. We have created an action plan in response to the findings in the report and have already begun to implement the recommendations.

The Diocese of Oxford takes safeguarding extremely seriously and we are investing more resource in training, following new national guidelines.

Any case like this [case of Reverend Peter Jarvis] is a matter of sorrow and regret for the Church of England. We recognise that the suffering of survivors of sexual abuse is profound and long lasting.

The Church of England will not tolerate abusive behaviour in its clergy or anyone else for whom we have pastoral responsibility. We take allegations of abuse extremely seriously and always work with the statutory authorities to ensure abusers are brought to justice and that pastoral care is offered to those directly affected.”

– Rt Revd Andrew Proud, Bishop of Reading

We will strengthen our safeguarding practices, says West Berkshire Children’s Services

A Serious Case Review has been published investigating how organisations in West Berkshire handled allegations of sexual offences against children, committed by people in positions of trust.

Anyone reading this report will be troubled to learn that agencies missed opportunities to protect some young people from harm.

We really value the learning in this report and have been implementing changes as we identify opportunities for improvement. Safeguarding practices develop over time and are unrecognisable from those in place when the first offences were committed in the 1980s. However, we know that there are always ways to improve further.

We have already taken steps to improve how we work and this includes an immediate review of all the agencies’ safeguarding practices, a move to three-yearly DBS checks, more training and a refreshed toolkit for schools to conduct their own reviews.

We already have robust safeguarding practices in place and this report will help us strengthen them further still.”

– Rachael Wardell, Director of Children’s Services, West Berkshire Council

Child sexual abuse could have been prevented, finds review

Peter Jarvis (left) and Robert Neill (right) were jailed for sexually abusing children

A Serious Case Review has found there were missed opportunities to save children in West Berkshire from being abused by people in positions of trust.

The Review follows the convictions of former teacher, Robert Neill, 63, and Peter Jarvis, 51, a vicar from Spencers Wood, Reading. Both were jailed for sexually assaulted children in Thatcham. Neill was sentenced to 21 years for offences between 1986 and 2003 and Jarvis was sentenced to 15 months for offences between 2008 and 2012.

The Review investigated how organisations handled allegations of sexual offences against children, that had been committed by people in positions of trust.

The West Berkshire Local Safeguarding Children Board found there were missed opportunities to prevent the abuse of children and that those with statutory responsibilities could have followed up issues of concern more quickly.

Alex Walters, Independent Overview Author:

The purpose of a Serious Case Review is to help keep children safe from harm by strengthening what is already done well and identifying areas of weakness which need to be improved in the future. As a result of this review I have found that there are a number of areas around the recruitment, training and knowledge of staff which I believe will help keep our children safer in the future.

My recommendations are focused around some key themes; raising awareness amongst staff of safe recruitment policies, making sure whistle-blowing procedures are in place and their use is reviewed to ensure they are effective, making sure that staff are vigilant in spotting potential signs of harm and feel empowered to report it. Organisations have already started implementing these recommendations and I wish them success as they continue this over the coming weeks and months.

Now that my review is complete I would like to thank all the individuals and organisations who wrote reports, shared records and had conversations with me. In particular, I would like to thank the courageous members of the public who heard my appeal and called me to provide information. It cannot have been easy for them but by sharing information and suggestions they made a valuable contribution to this report.”

– Alex Walters, Independent Overview Author

In West Berkshire it’s not often that we need a Serious Case Review but on this occasion it was absolutely right that we look at how we might learn from this. We fully accept the conclusions of the report and will continue our work implementing the recommendations as quickly as we can.

Many of the recommendations included in the report were identified at an early stage and activity has been taking place since then to quickly implement changes. All the organisations involved share a commitment to improve working practices and we will continue to work together to ensure that the safety of our young people remain at the heart of everything we do.

The West Berkshire Safeguarding Children Board will robustly monitor the actions taken by the individual agencies in responding to these recommendations.”

– Fran Gosling-Thomas, Chair, West Berkshire Local Safeguarding Children Board


Mother's epilepsy campaign after death of daughter pregnant with twins

Pregnant Kirsty Walker died after having an epileptic seizure last year

The mother of a heavily pregnant woman who died on Christmas Eve, just weeks before giving birth to twins, is urging people to be more aware of epilepsy and how to help someone who has a seizure.

Debbie Walker from Thatcham in Berkshire, wants to raise awareness of the condition and how people can help in an emergency. Her daughter Kirsty was due to give birth to twins next month, but she died after suffering an epileptic fit. Paramedics were unable to save Kirsty or her unborn twin girls.

Penny Silvester's report includes an interview with Leigh Slocombe, the Chief Executive of Epilepsy Research UK.

The NHS Choices website has advice on what to do if you see someone having a seizure. The tips covered include:

  • move them away from anything that could cause injury – such as a busy road or hot cooker
  • cushion their head if they're on the ground
  • loosen any tight clothing around their neck – such as a collar or tie, to aid breathing
  • when their convulsions stop, turn them so that they're lying on their side
  • stay with them and talk to them calmly until they have recovered
  • note the time the seizure starts and finishes

New flood defence scheme for Thatcham

Parts of Thatcham were devastated by flooding in 2007 Credit: ITV Meridian

Work is underway on a new flood defence scheme in West Berkshire.

The £1.2m project will help protect Thatcham from flooding - previously the town's surface water sewers couldn't cope.

A new embankment will be built which can hold back 50,000 square metres of water.

Parts of Thatcham were devastated by flooding in 2007 Credit: ITV Meridian

"This new scheme will be a significant asset to the town and will reduce the risk of flooding for many local residents. Throughout the scheme a priority for us has been to preserve the local area as much as we can and, once completed, the bank will be landscaped and the area returned to fields.

"We're continuing to work with our communities to introduce additional protections against flooding. This is the second flood scheme in the area with others to follow over the next four years and all of which have been identified as necessary by a surface water action plan agreed in 2010."

– Councillor Garth Simpson

Chinese takeaway cook tried to kill head chef with meat cleaver over argument about marinaded chicken

A Chinese takeaway cook tried to murder his head chef with a meat cleaver over an argument about how to prepare marinaded chicken.

The argument began after Qiang Gao took exception to Kok Yuan Woon interrupting his food preparation and led to the defendant storming out of the kitchen.

The two men twice had to be separated by co-workers after going face-to-face with each other, before they took their argument outside the Chinese Takeaway in High Street Thatcham, Berks, a jury heard.

Mr Woon initially swung a meat cleaver at Gao in a courtyard at the back of the takeaway and smashed him around the ankle with a heavy duty metal ladle before heading back into the kitchen.

Gao – who suffered a cut to the arm and heavy bruising to his ankle – then retaliated, furiously hitting Mr Woon twice over the head and in the shoulder and leaving a series of horrific injuries.

Gao, of Acorn Drive, Thatcham, will be sentenced on December 22

Violent crime has no place in our community and will not be tolerated. This conviction is an example of how Thames Valley Police works to protect the community and bring offenders to justice.

– Investigating officer, Det Con Gareth Perry, Thames Valley Police

Persistent shoplifter banned from local shops

Adrian Lewis given Criminal Behaviour Order Credit: Thames Valley Police

Following an investigation by Thames Valley Police, a man has been issued with a Criminal Behaviour Order restricting entry to shops in Thatcham.

Adrian Lewis, aged 50, of Old Bath Road, Newbury, was given a Criminal Behaviour Order at Reading Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday (29/7).

The order bans Lewis from entering the following places in Thatcham:

The Co-op in 22-26 The Broadway

The Co-op in 54-55 The Broadway

The Co-op in Burdwood Centre, in Station Road

The Co-op in Harts Hill Road

The Co-op food petrol station in London Road

Waitrose in The Broadway

Sainsbury’s Local in Coombe Square, Chapel Street

Lloyds Pharmacy in Crown Mead, Bath Road

Lloyds Pharmacy in Kingsland Centre, The Broadway

The order will last for two years and was put in place due to Lewis’ persistent shoplifting.

Lewis is also prohibited from remaining in any retail establishment in West Berkshire if asked to leave by staff.

Investigating officer, PC Greg Jones, from the response team based at Newbury police station, said:

“The gaining of this order demonstrates Thames Valley Police’s conviction to deal with individuals who commit anti social behaviour in whatever form it takes.

“Any breaches of Criminal Behaviour Orders can be reported to the Force by calling our non-emergency number 101.”

– Thames Valley Police
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