Torture brothers won't be named
'Evil' pair and their 'toxic' family will remain anonymous to prevent them being ostracised or harmed in future, write Paul Stokes and Nigel Bunyan
Published 24/01/2010 | 05:00
The two young brothers who carried out a brutal, sustained and torturous attack on two boys aged nine and 11 in Edlington, South Yorkshire, last April, were granted anonymity for life last week by the judge who sentenced them to five years in custody.
In a case that shocked Britain, Sheffield Crown Court heard gruesome details of the attack carried out by the boys, who were 10 and 11 at the time of the assault last year.
Mr Justice Keith sentenced the boys to a minimum of five years in custody for the attack in which their victims were strangled, beaten, stripped and forced to sexually abuse each other, leaving one of them close to death.
But despite the "appalling and terrible" nature of the attack, the judge turned down an application from the families of the victims to name publicly the "evil" brothers, instead saying they would be given new identities when they were released, at a cost to the taxpayer of £2m (€2.3m) per year.
Mr Justice Keith told the boys he was sure that they posed a "very high risk of serious harm to others" but did not want them to be "ostracised or harmed" while they were held in secure units.
His comments dismayed the victims' families, who believed that the brothers and their parents should be publicly shamed like Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, who were named on their conviction of the murder of two-year-old James Bulger in 1993.
Doncaster council offered an "unqualified apology" to the victims and their families after a report on the case identified 31 individual failures by the authorities. It admitted that the assault was "preventable".
Mr Justice Keith handed down an indeterminate sentence to each of the boys, now aged 11 and 12, telling them that they must serve a minimum of five years, meaning they could be released before they reached adulthood if they were judged no longer to be a risk.
He told the victims' families: "I have no doubt that (you) would have preferred to see them locked up for very much longer . . . but I hope (you) will appreciate that five years is the very least they will serve. They may well be in detention for much longer than that."
As the brothers were led out of court, the mother of their younger victim shouted abuse and said: "I hope someone does that to you."
The boys had pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm with intent, intentionally causing a child to engage in sexual activity and robbery during the attack in Edlington, South Yorkshire, in April last year.
They had denied a more serious charge of attempted murder, which was accepted by the prosecution at Sheffield Crown Court, leading to a three-day sentencing hearing with no trial.
The court heard that the two brothers lured their victims to a secluded spot before subjecting them to what the judge described as 90 minutes of "prolonged, sadistic violence for no reason other than that you got a real kick out of hurting and humiliating them". They were beaten with sticks and heavy objects, throttled with ropes, made to eat nettles and sexually humiliated.
They stole a phone from one of the boys and used it to film part of the attack. It was played in court and showed the younger brother tormenting one of the boys, who was covered in blood. The brothers said they stopped only because their arms started to ache. The younger victim ran to get help, and was covered in so much blood that the first person to see him thought he had been painted red.
The older victim, who was the uncle of the younger boy, told his nephew to get help while "I'll just die here". He was unconscious when he was found and experts said he would have died if he had been there much longer.
When the two attackers were asked why they had done it, they told police it was because "there were nowt else to do".
The brothers had been put into foster care a month before the attack because of their "toxic" home life with a violent father and uncaring mother at a council house in Doncaster, that had a sign saying "Beware of the Kids".
They were well known to the authorities. On the day of the crime, they had been due to be interviewed by police over a similar attack on another 11-year-old boy days previously, but they failed to turn up at the station.
Mr Justice Keith told the brothers that they "got a real kick out of humiliating and hurting" their victims and that reports compiled about them made "grim reading".
"You chose your victims because of their vulnerability and you wanted to assert your dominance over them by the use of aggression, extreme violence and sexual degradation, targeted to inflict maximum pain in order to gain a sense of power and control over their lives," he said.
"The fact that you couldn't care less what happened to (the two boys) was a strong indicator you harm people simply because you want to."
Police said the boys had shown "no remorse" over the attacks at any time.
A 150-page serious case review by Doncaster Council listed 31 individual failures and missed opportunities to stop the boys earlier.
"The perpetrators had shown an escalating pattern of violence against other children over a period of several months. There were opportunities to intervene more effectively right up to the week before the assault," it said.
The report was critical of the fact that the brothers had been placed with elderly foster parents who proved incapable of keeping them under control.
It also criticised police for a delay in interviewing them following the previous attack on a boy.
Nick Jarman, who was appointed interim director of children's services three days before the attack, admitted that things had been going "terrifyingly wrong" in Doncaster for a decade, adding: "The public can be assured that people will have to be called to account."
Despite the "systemic" failures, the council admitted that no one had been sacked or reprimanded, although one person was due to appear before a disciplinary panel next month.
After the two boys had been sentenced in court, Mr Justice Keith gave his reasons for granting them lifelong anonymity. As well as the possibility of them being attacked by other inmates, he had considered the cost of having to rehouse their family if their identities were made known, and said naming them could have an adverse impact on their rehabilitation.
David Davies, a Tory member of the Commons home affairs select committee, said the whole family should be named. "The last thing they should receive is anonymity," he said.