Edlington torture boys trigger political spat

A sign outside the brother's house in Edlington
A sign outside the brother's house in Edlington

By politics.co.uk staff

The prosecution of two brothers for the torture and beating of two young boys has triggered a wave of recrimination in British political life.

David Cameron seized on the case, which concluded today with both boys being given indeterminate sentences, as a sign of Britain's 'broken society', as he unveiled the latest chapter of his draft manifesto.

The case was further evidence of moral decline under Labour, Mr Cameron said, although he admitted some social problems in Britain had been occurring for decades.

Liam Byrne, chief secretary to the Treasury, accused the Tory leader of "tarring" the people of Doncaster by politicising the case.

"I think when people read what Mr Cameron is saying today they will see that it is quite an unpleasant speech," he told the BBC.

"Mr Cameron is seizing upon one appalling crime and almost tarring the people of Doncaster and the people of Britain."

Meanwhile children's secretary Ed Balls branded it an exceptional case, but insisted support would be offered to the boys in prison so they could things round.

"We have to ensure they get the support in custody to try and turn things around for them," he told Sky News.

"My response is the same as mums and dad around the country," Mr Balls added.

"This is a terrible act and it's hard to comprehend how children could do this to one another."

Mr Cameron insisted in his speech the incident was an "isolated incident of evil" but a symptom of a wider social malaise.

"I think when things like this happen it is right to stand back, reflect and ask ourselves some deep questions about what is going wrong in our society," he told the audience in Gillingham.

"I don't think it is right every time one of these events takes place to say that it is just some isolated incident of evil that we should look away from and forget about.

"Are we going to do that every time there is a Jamie Bulger or a Baby Peter or a Ben Kinsella or a Gary Newlove or what has happened in Doncaster? We shouldn't. We should ask about what has gone wrong with our society and what we are going to do about it."

During this week's PMQs the Conservative leader insisted the full serious case review into the case should be published, not just its executive summary.

The summary was published this afternoon. It found the assault was a "preventable incident" but that its severity could not have been foreseen.

Local children's services were criticised for lack of planning and leadership and the review offered 18 improvements in terms of coordination or services in Doncaster and limiting parental influence over the actions of the children's services.

Over the past 14 years, the brothers and their parents had been in contact with nine separate agencies, the report said, but the reliance on "agreements and warnings" was clearly ineffective.

The case, which is particularly gruesome and tragic, saw the brothers admit causing grievous bodily harm with intent.

Mr Cameron listed some of the policy habits which have worsened Britain's social problems during his speech today, including encouraging people to split up through the tax system and a professional culture where following rules is more important than moral bravery.

"When parents are rewarded for splitting up, when professionals are told that it's better to follow rules than do what they think is best, when single parents find they take home less for working more, when young people learn that it pays not to get a job, when the kind-hearted are discouraged from doing good in their community, is it any wonder our society is broken?" he said.

The speech is a clear attempt by the Tory leader to get back on the front foot, after several weeks of dithering on the married couple's allowance policy, which has been criticised by Labour, the Liberal Democrats and many child support groups.


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