Review calls for more special units for treatment of young sex offenders

The catastrophic breakdown in
inter-agency communication that led to a teenager killing a young
boy shortly after being discharged from a young sex offenders unit
could be repeated at any time, the author of a report into the case
warned this week.

John Fitzgerald was speaking in
Newcastle at the publication of a review of the care of Dominic
McKilligan, convicted of murdering 11-year-old Wesley Neailey in

Fitzgerald, who chaired the review
panel set up by Bournemouth, Durham and Newcastle Councils, slated
the current lack of provision of specialist care for young sex
offenders and called for a nationally co-ordinated

Asked if he thought a similar case
could happen again he said: “The short answer is yes. There
are over 450 children convicted of sex offences each year. There is
no way that placements [at a specialist unit] are going to be found
for all 450.”

As a result, young sex offenders
were often shunted between different care agencies, up and down the
country. Their care became fragmented and vital information was
often lost within the system. 

The review highlights a number of
failures by all three social services departments involved in
McKilligan’s care – Dorset, Bournemouth and

These include poor recording
practices, a failure to plan and implement an appropriate aftercare
programme, withholding of critical information about
McKilligan’s previous sexual offences, and a lack of
inter-agency discussion over conflicting assessment

However, Fitzgerald stressed that
many of the breakdowns in inter-agency relationships could, at
least in part, be attributed to the geographical distances involved
in the case and the lack of any nationally agreed strategy on how
to deal with young sex offenders.

“There are a limited number of
specialist residential facilities for young sex offenders, which is
why McKilligan was moved from Bournemouth to Durham,” he
said. “There is no national strategy and as a consequence
there is no consistency in terms of care arrangements, treatment
methods or staff training. There’s no single inspection or
regulatory system and there’s no geographical

Childhood Lost by The
Bridge Child Care Development Service on behalf of the area child
protection committees of Bournemouth, Durham and Newcastle,


Do you think there are shortfalls
in treatment services for young sex offenders? Would a national
strategy help deal with the shortfall? To ‘Have your
say’ and join the online discussion forum e-mail us


More from Community Care

Comments are closed.