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Use of noxious substances to cause harm and intimidate

Amendments made: No. 38, in page 68, line 2, at end insert "anywhere in the world".
No. 39, in line 3, leave out "property" and insert—

'real or personal property anywhere in the world'.
No. 40, in line 13, leave out "any person" and insert—

'a person anywhere in the world'.
No. 41, leave out lines 22 to 24—[Mrs. McGuire.]
Clause 111, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clauses 112 to 114 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 115

Information about acts of terrorism

Amendment made: No. 68, in page 70, line 9, leave out "or a procurator fiscal".—[Mrs. McGuire.]
Clause 115, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clauses 116 to 119 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
To report progress and ask leave to sit again.— [Mr. Pearson.]
Committee report progress; to sit again tomorrow.



That, at the sitting on Monday 26th November, the Speaker shall not adjourn the House until any Lords Messages have been received.—[Mr. Pearson.]

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Young Offenders Units

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Pearson.]

10.30 pm

Mr. Jim Cousins (Newcastle upon Tyne, Central): The events with which I am concerned tonight relate to the death of a 12-year-old boy in my constituency called Wesley Neailly, who was reported missing on 5 June 1998. Dominic McKilligan, aged 18, was charged with his murder in July 1998 and subsequently found guilty.

Of course, nothing can bring back Wesley Neailly. Nothing can heal the hurt of his mother, his grandfather and other members of his family. But there are lessons to be learned from the circumstances that led to this dreadful tragedy, and I know that Wesley Neailly's family want those lessons to be learned. They want the bad practice and bad management that is evident in the history of this dreadful affair to be put right once and for all.

I wish to place on record my thanks to my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Clarke). When he was a Minister at the Home Office, he met Wesley Neailly's family with me, leading to the early implementation of the Sex Offenders Act 1997. I also wish to thank the northern region health executive for commissioning the central report that was published last week dealing with the history of this dreadful affair.

There are only a limited number of cases each year in which young people between the ages of 10 and 18 commit violent or sexual offences. They make up a small, very disturbed group of young people. Very few go on to commit homicide—murder—in the way that occurred in this case.

The report demonstrates that there are early signals which could, if the organisation was right, prevent some of the disasters that occurred in this affair. Wesley Neailly was a 12-year-old boy in my constituency. Most of my constituency is very diverse. It comprises a mixture of people living together, of different races, religions, life styles and age groups, and has a very mobile population of the kind that one sees in any big city in which people find themselves and, sometimes, lose themselves.

Dominic McKilligan arrived in Fenham, just one such part of my constituency, at the age of 18, to lose himself and, tragically, to find others. When he came to Fenham, he was already highly intelligent, manipulative and disturbed, a practised abuser of long standing with a long-established capacity for wicked threats and acts for which he showed no remorse. He sought out young Wesley Neailly, befriended him, led him away and murdered him. The circumstances that led up to that tragedy are the subject of the reports and they are a source of great concern to me. I was very shocked and disturbed by their contents.

For example, when Dominic McKilligan was placed in the Fenham area of my constituency—he did not just arrive there, he was placed there—no outreach programme was set up for him. The report says in cold and chilling terms that the consequences of the lack of action in respect of the young man's discharge into my constituency were that no agency that had been responsible for his care when he was discharged from the Aycliffe unit in County Durham had any formal plan in place to visit and support him in the place where he was

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going to live. No statutory agency in the area in which he was going to live was made aware of his presence until two and a half months after his discharge from Aycliffe and six days after the ending of the care order which might have been the basis of some preventive action. The first time that Northumbria police have any record of knowing about Dominic McKilligan's presence in the area was when he himself chose to report to the local police information about the disappearance of Wesley Neailly.

The failure of agencies to share information with each other, with the local community and with the local police is at the disastrous heart of that dreadful tragedy. The report documents in chilling detail the lack of documentation regarding McKilligan's treatment in his first year at the Aycliffe centre. Those records apparently cannot be found. That is a shocking fact, and something that the Aycliffe unit must investigate thoroughly.

It took 10 months from McKilligan's arrival at Aycliffe from Bournemouth for him to receive a full assessment. Why did it take so long? The Kolvin unit at the then Newcastle city hospitals trust, which had the clinical supervision of McKilligan's care, deemed him—at times only two months apart—to be a high risk and a low risk. There must be some inquiry into the conduct of the Kolvin unit and why that confusion of analysis occurred. What other confusions of analysis may have occurred at other times?

The report contains clear evidence not merely of lack of co-ordination between Bournemouth, where McKilligan originated, the Aycliffe unit in Durham where he was cared for, and Newcastle, where he was placed, but of conflict between the caring agencies and of a failure to share information. The arguments between the agencies were more centred on money and finance than they were on the substance of the case.

The record keeping was lamentably poor. There should have been seven recorded reviews of McKilligan's progress, care and treatment at Aycliffe. Only three can be found. McKilligan decided that he would leave Aycliffe after an incident in which he flirted with another boy and was threatened with the child protection board. That triggered his decision to leave Aycliffe. During his time at Aycliffe, a unit under the control of Durham county council, 15 very serious incidents are logged concerning his behaviour, 13 of which were of a clearly sexual nature. The unit's policy was that it did not encourage sexual behaviour and activity between those who were being cared for at Aycliffe. None the less, inadequate action seems to have been taken to deal with this matter.

The report records, in chilling terms, that specialist units—Aycliffe at Durham and the Kolvin unit at the Newcastle city hospitals trust—understandably feel the need to succeed and that behaviours can thus too readily be justified. The report documents 16 agencies as having had the care of Dominic McKilligan, involving 200 members of their staff. Several professions were involved. As I said, there was a failure to share information; there was conflict between some of the caring agencies and there were rows about money and the responsibility for supervision. There was extremely poor record keeping at the Aycliffe centre.

Finally, I point out that McKilligan came to Newcastle to follow a music course at Newcastle college. I want to record my deep understanding of what the professionals at the college—who had no knowledge of that young man

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and his history—must feel about the period in which he was under their care. I have a great deal of sympathy for them.

It is clear from the report and from a similar report produced by Newcastle and North Tyneside health authority that the Kolvin unit at Newcastle city hospitals trust failed adequately to carry out the duty of supervision of that young man that it had agreed to undertake. Durham county council, which is responsible for the management of the Aycliffe unit, did not take adequate action. We must explore the need for further inquiry both by the mental health trust that has taken over responsibility for the Kolvin unit from Newcastle city hospitals trust, and by Durham county council into its actions.

Is there a need to identify the staff responsible and perhaps to carry out disciplinary action or to provide additional training? We must certainly demonstrate to the people of the north-east that the failures recorded in such chilling detail can never be repeated. General words of comfort and general assurances will not do. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister of State will make clear her desire that such inquiries should be carried out speedily and robustly, and that if they are not undertaken by Durham county council and the mental health trust, she will herself ensure that the necessary corrective action is put in hand.

Some important lessons for the Government emerge from this matter. There has been no proper calculation of the number of young people who need that specialist care. There are no consistent standards for care arrangements, for assessment and treatment, for clinical oversight and accountability and for the training of staff. There is no single regulatory inspection system for units that care for such deeply disturbed young people.

Furthermore, there is no geographical consistency or equity of provision. There is a grave shortage of places. That is how Dominic McKilligan, who lived in Bournemouth, came to be placed in a unit in County Durham. Had there been better, and better spread, provision, that would never have happened. There must be co-ordination of the protocols and policies that link all the caring agencies—social services, health, education and, of course, the custodial services that deal with young offenders—so that they will think and act together. They must co-ordinate their records and share information, especially if children and young people leave their home area and switch between responsible authorities, so that those young people can benefit from co-ordinated, specialist support.

The reports highlight the enormous need for nationwide specialist assessment facilities and for skilled remand facilities. There should not be 1,000 young people in that age group in the care of prisons. There should be skilled treatment facilities, including secure treatment facilities, so that other communities can be protected in a way that my community in Newcastle was not.

The Government should take responsibility for the regulation of what is an extraordinary array of different facilities, some run by the NHS, some run by voluntary agencies, some even run for profit by the private sector and some, such as Aycliffe, run by local social services agencies and the county council.

The treatment facilities should be provided on nationwide basis, so that it will never again be necessary for a deeply disturbed young man to be taken from his

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home community—where there was a great deal of knowledge about him, his family and his early life, with all the signals that that gave about his later behaviour—and placed at the other end of the country, where some of that knowledge sadly does not appear to have arrived or to have been properly shared.

At present, there are a very limited number of specialist facilities for young sex offenders. Those that exist are spread across that wide range of different agencies, without nationally agreed standards of care. I hope that alongside the necessary, robust corrective action that must be taken by Durham county council and by the mental health trust, which now has responsibility for managing the Kolvin unit, there will be a programme of national action to correct the deficiencies in the system that the reports highlight—Wesley Neailly's family expect no less.

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