Communication breakdowns in young paedophile murder case could be repeated

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

John Fitzgerald was speaking in Newcastle at the publication of
a part 8 review into the care of Dominic McKilligan, convicted in
1999 of murdering 11-year-old Wesley Neailey.

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 strategy.

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

Fitzgerald outlined how 16 different agencies and over 200 staff
had been involved in the care of McKilligan.

First taken into care in 1993 by Dorset social services after
allegations of sexual abuse against other children, McKilligan was
initially placed with foster carers before being transferred to
Collingwood House, a specialist unit in County Durham. Although he
remained the legal responsibility of Dorset and later Bournemouth
social services, McKilligan stayed at Collingwood until his
discharge in September 1997 when he moved to Newcastle.

It was only after McKilligan’s care order ran out in
November 1997 that Bournemouth informed Newcastle social services
that he was living in the area. Seven months later Wesley Neailey
went missing from home. His body was found in July 1998 and
McKilligan was charged and convicted of his rape and murder. The
rape conviction was later overturned.

The review highlights a number of failures by all three social
services departments involved in McKilligan’s care. These
include poor recording practices, a failure to plan and implement
an appropriate after care programme, withholding of critical
information about McKilligan’s previous sexual offences and a
lack of discussion across agencies 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

“There are limited numbers 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 consistency.”








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