Page last updated at 13:31 GMT, Friday, 22 January 2010

Doncaster torture case not 'isolated' - Cameron

David Cameron: "We need to make Britain a reponsible society"

David Cameron has said the case of two young boys tortured in Doncaster was not an "isolated incident of evil" but symptomatic of wider social problems.

The Tory leader said the "truly awful" incident meant people must ask "deep questions" about social breakdown.

In a speech in Kent, he said this was a seminal incident, likening it to the cases of Baby Peter and Jamie Bulger.

Labour accused Mr Cameron of "tarring" the people of Britain by "seizing on one absolutely horrific crime".

'Terrible crimes'

Mr Cameron also used the speech to defend tax breaks for marriage, saying the policy was not "outdated" and the Tory election manifesto would be the most "family friendly" a party had ever produced.

The Tory leader was speaking after two brothers - aged 10 and 11 at the time - were sentenced to a minimum detention of five years for the April 2009 attack on two boys aged nine and 11 in Edlington, near Doncaster.

This is quite an unpleasant speech
Liam Byrne, Labour minister

The Tory leader said he would not flinch from raising the case as he believed it was symptomatic of levels of social breakdown in Britain.

"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 an audience at a community centre in Gillingham.

Mr Cameron denied that his frequent references to a "broken Britain" was an over-statement and "terrible crimes" such as those which had happened in Doncaster could not be ignored.

"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."

And he hit back at critics who have accused him of exploiting the Doncaster case for political ends, saying: "I think it is right to raise it in a responsible way and it is right to have this debate about how we can strengthen our society."

'Tarring people'

Mr Cameron has accused Prime Minister Gordon Brown of a "cover-up" for refusing to publish the full text of a serious case review into the Doncaster attack, rather than the executive summary.

He said the publication of summaries of past serious case reviews had not led to action on the ground.

Seven children known to Doncaster Council have died in the borough since 2004, prompting serious case reviews, Ofsted inspections and a government investigation.

Treasury minister Liam Byrne said people were entitled to be "white with rage" over what happened in Doncaster but he added: "When people read what Mr Cameron is saying today, they will see this is quite an unpleasant speech.

"What Mr Cameron appears to be trying to do is seizing on one absolutely horrific crime and almost tarring the people of Doncaster, if not the people of Britain, with the same kind of standards and I think that people will recoil from that."

Gordon Brown has insisted lessons would be learned from the summary of the report into the Edlington attack.

Labour said the NSPCC had backed the decision not to publish the full serious case, saying "sensitive information must be kept confidential to protect vulnerable children".

Responding to claims that the report's executive summary did not accurately reflect its contents, Liam Byrne said that if that was the case the summary should be rewritten.

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