A serious case review into a nursery worker who was jailed for sexually abusing a child has found a catalogue of errors and missed opportunities that could have raised the alarm and prevented further abuse from taking place. Nursery worker Paul Wilson was convicted in 2011 and sent to prison in July of that year, for the rape of a child at Little Stars Nursery in Birmingham.
Wilson was arrested following an investigation by the police into the online grooming of a 13 year old girl. His computer was examined and a number of indecent images of were found on the computer, including a video of him raping the toddler at the nursery.
In a recent serious case review the relationship between Wilson and the toddler was described as being “special’. It was also reported that Ofsted and the council were aware of this and yet failed to intervene to prevent the abuse. The abuse continued because of failings in both enquiries made by the local authority and poor nursery management.
The serious case review mentioned how Ofsted had received an anonymous complaint from a member of the staff at the Little Stars Nursery about the way that Wilson treated the toddler. He would often cuddle the little girl for long periods of time, and would refuse to leave her. Ofsted reported this matter to the nursery itself, who decided that this was a complaint about the nursery’s practices rather than child protection. Ofsted ultimately graded the nursery as “good’.
The nursery had logged a further incident when the toddler had been heard to cry out “I want my mummy’, when they were alone with Paul Wilson in the sleep area. No further investigation by the nursery was carried out.
The review reported that there was a lack of thoroughness with the investigation as a whole, including lack of supervision of Mr Wilson, and a weak safeguarding policy. In effect the errors within the investigation had supported the perpetrator’s offences.
Jane Held, the independent chair of the safeguarding children board, stated “there were unfortunately a number of weaknesses in the way that nursery was run and a number of opportunities to intervene earlier and prevent the continuation of abuse which were missed’. The report included eight recommendations which are to be addressed.
Birmingham City Council have also apologised for their failure to intervene. Approximately six different members of staff made complaints about Wilson to the local authority relating to his behaviour in the nursery. Birmingham City Council admitted that a referral was not properly followed through, and this led to Wilson remaining working within the nursery despite having received a written warning. The local authority confirmed that improving their services to children was their “top priority.’
It is tragic that once again, warning signs have been missed by the authorities that could ultimately have prevented further abuse from taking place. As a solicitor specialising in abuse claims, we come across instances where opportunities to raise the alarm about abuse have been missed time and time again, often with terrible consequences.
It is only hoped that the eight ‘key recommendations’ made following the review are put into practice and enforced so that at no point in the future will we be faced with another story of ‘weaknesses’ and ‘poor communication’ allowing sexual abuse to happen.
By Jonathan Bridge, Head of Abuse Compensation Claims