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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 December, 2003, 10:21 GMT
'Action' needed on island's care homes
By Chris Summers
BBC News Online in Douglas, Isle of Man

The families of two teenagers who were in the care of social services on the Isle of Man have demanded action after a man was found guilty of murdering their children.

The murders of Samantha Barton and George Green have called into question the island's system of contracting out key services to private contractors.
Newbery was described by police as "seriously disturbed"

Earlier this month, the managers of a Manx old people's home were jailed for the manslaughter of Marion Dennis, 77.

On Monday Peter Newbery, 23, was found guilty of the murders in February 2002.

After the verdict was read out Samantha's mother, Rose Burnell, and George's parents, Eddie and Margaret Green, said: "Our confidence in the authorities charged with their care has been shattered.

Public confidence in social services on the Isle of Man needs restoring. We wish to ensure that no other families have to go through what we have been through over the past two years
Victims' families

"Public confidence in social services on the Isle of Man needs restoring. We wish to ensure that no other families have to go through what we have been through over the past two years."

On Tuesday the island's Social Security Minister Clare Christian told BBC News Online: "The deaths of these two young people shocked the Island community.

"This has been a terrible ordeal for the families and friends of Samantha and George, and the social services division has been doing its best to provide support for them at this very difficult time."

Last year another Manx youngster in care, Matthew Crosby, died. He had a solvent abuse problem.

Some of the island's politicians - known as Members of the House of Keys (MHKs) - believe a comprehensive overhaul of social services is required.

John Houghton MHK has been one of the most vocal critics and several months before the murders of Samantha and George he submitted an emergency motion because of his concerns about teenagers in the island's children's homes.

The Isle of Man is a crown dependency but is responsible for all its own affairs, save for defence and foreign policy.

Several years ago the UK threatened to intervene when the House of Keys dragged its feet on decriminalising homosexuality.

Leece Lodge Two...scene of the murders
But a spokesman for the UK's Department of Constitutional Affairs ruled out intervening this time and told BBC News Online: "We would not get involved in a matter involving the island's legal system. The Isle of Man is pretty autonomous."

Earlier this month Dennis Latham, from Lancashire, and Barbara Campbell, from Scotland, were jailed for the manslaughter of Mrs Dennis, who died from septicaemia, resulting from bedsores which reached down to her bones.

One of the hospital staff told the court the smell of rotting flesh was so great they had to move her to a different bed away from other patients.

Latham, who was jailed for two-and-a-half years was the nursing services manager at the Ballastowell Gardens home in Ramsey and Campbell, who was sentenced to 12 months, was his deputy.

Ballastowell Gardens was run by private contractors, as was the Leece Lodge complex near Douglas where Samantha Barton lived.

Since the introduction by the Isle of Man Government of a staff cap several years ago many key services, such as childcare and old people's homes, are contracted out to private contractors.

Sam Barton spent time in Victoria Road prison at the age of 12
Ironically on the day that Samantha and George were murdered a delegation from the House of Keys, the Manx Parliament, was touring the Leece Lodge complex.

MHKs were looking around a barn - which was being turned into a resource centre - only yards from where Samantha's body was later found.

Samantha's mother, Rose Burnell, told the trial of her daughter's troubled childhood.

'Tantrums'

Ms Burnell said: "The problem with Sam was she was born with spina bifida, learning difficulties and hearing problems. She also couldn't use her hand properly.

"She had tantrums. It was all to do with the way she was born, and she suffered frustration."

Samantha was taken into care when she was 10 after Ms Burnell suffered a nervous breakdown.

When she was 12 she assaulted several social workers and was sent to the island's Victoria Road prison.

The island's authorities were described as "barbaric" for locking up a child and were threatened with action under European law. The story made headlines all over the UK.

Afterwards she was sent to a care home in Wales and did not return to the island until she was 16.

Latham and Campbell
Dennis Latham and Barbara Campbell are now in jail
Trevor Noden, the island's Assistant Director of Social Services, admits that was a mistake and says things got worse from that point on.

Samantha was so strong-willed - she refused to have a social worker living in with her - that Nugent Care, the contractors who ran Leece Lodge, decided to house her alone in a cottage called Leece Lodge Two.

'No go area'

Social workers living elsewhere on the campus were supposed to keep an eye on her.

But under cross examination one of the social workers, Karen Bannon, admitted her place was a virtual "no go area".

Another social worker, Kathleen Cooke, told the trial she had seen George Green in Samantha's cottage high on drugs - and had done nothing.

Mr Noden told BBC News Online mistakes had been made at Leece Lodge but he said: "Nobody can plan for murder."

But he admitted they were very anxious about the situation and said he had expressed concerns long before Christmas 2001.

Marion Dennis died of septicaemia after being neglected
"We were well aware that things were not right. We were at pains to do something within the law. It was almost an accident waiting to happen."

He pointed out social services on the island was only created in 1990 and a childcare section did not come into being until four years later.

"Since 1994 there has been a major development from a standing start. Our childcare budget this year is 10.5m, which compares favourably to most UK local authorities," he said.

Earlier this year the White Hoe secure unit at Braddan, near Douglas, was opened to house up to five of the island's most "difficult" youngsters.

Mr Noden said the state-of-the-art centre was not a "kneejerk" reaction to the murders of Samantha and George.

He said they would probably have met the criteria for being housed there and pointed out White Hoe had a secure fence and a single entry point.

We were well aware that things were not right. We were at pains to do something within the law. It was almost an accident waiting to happen
Trevor Noden
Assistant Director of Social Services
"Only approved people can visit and they have to leave things like keys and mobile phones at the reception desk," said Mr Noden.

White Hoe is being run by Nugent Care but the contract, like all those on the island, will be put out to tender again in April.

He said legislation was also going through the House of Keys which would set standards which contractors running children's homes would have to meet.

Mr Noden, who authored the legislation, said the island would also gets its own children's homes inspector.

Nugent Care Society issued a statement saying: "We have great sympathy for the families and friends of Samantha Barton and George Green. We are also deeply aware of the distress and sadness felt by staff and young people.

"The society will obviously co-operate fully with any inquiry."


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Gill Dummigan
"Social services had looked after both victims and the killer in the past"



SEE ALSO:
Isle of Man: profile
12 Dec 03  |  UK


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