Haringey Council failed teenage killer, report finds
PUBLISHED: 17:11 28 May 2015 | UPDATED: 17:33 28 May 2015
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Haringey Council has come under fire for failing a teenage killer who stabbed a stranger to death in the street.
Ochaine Williams, who was 15 years old at the time, knifed budding architect Steven Grisales through the heart in a row over conker-throwing in Edmonton in 2011.
Williams was sentenced to 12 years in jail for the murder of the 21-year-old student.
A serious case review into Williams’ contact with various authorities has revealed he was a serial offender and the council had failed to intervene.
The review cast light on a home life blighted by domestic violence between his mother, who had multiple criminal convictions, and her female partner.
“Extraordinary levels of violence, emotional and physical abuse and criminality were accepted by many professionals as the norm for the household with no consideration of its long-term impact on the children,” it said.
Although incidents of domestic violence were reported to police, medical and social work professionals, they were not followed-up in terms of child welfare as “there seems to have been an assumption by professionals that they were less serious and less harrowing to the children than heterosexual partner violence”.
Williams came to the UK in 2000 from Jamaica with his mother, who was seeking asylum, and siblings.
He was described as “a troubled, displaced and stressed young man with a growing history of aggressive actions and criminal behaviour,” and as “vulnerable, unstable, and rootless”.
He had convictions for burglary and assault, and had been arrested or interviewed by police in relation to 14 other crimes, including drug-related incidents, theft, assaults and gun and knife crimes. He had also run away from home several times and had deliberately harmed himself.
Although the review made clear the murder “could not have been predicted”, it said Williams “was in a highly vulnerable state and in all likelihood was going to harm someone or be seriously harmed”.
The report revealed that Haringey social workers were too busy in the wake of the Baby P scandal, and missed several opportunities to remove Williams from his chaotic home environment.
Haringey has admitted that children’s services at the time “were not operating as effectively as they should have been”.
The report said that although the family were seen for “thousands of hours” by almost 70 professionals, “very little changed” for Williams and his siblings throughout their time in the UK.
The report criticised various agencies, with failings going as far back as 2004, when Williams was let down by GPs who failed to communicate child protection concerns, and by Sheffield children’s services, who lost contact with Williams’ family when they moved within South Yorkshire and then to London.
The report said that between late 2006 and 2010 Haringey Children and Young People’s Services (CYPS) failed to respond to repeated referrals and requests for intervention.
Haringey CYPS and Youth Offending Service (YOS) were also criticised for failing to transfer Williams to Enfield professionals when the family moved in 2010.
The report said: “The more structured, co-ordinated support and more insightful assessments evidenced by Enfield services might have secured [Williams] the intervention he needed.”
A Haringey Council spokesman apologised for the local authority’s failings, saying: “We accept the findings of the review, which makes it clear that we should have taken more robust action both to support the child in this case and to ensure that harmful behaviour was properly addressed, and we are sorry that we failed to do so.
“This case occurred at a time when children’s services in Haringey were not operating as effectively as they should have been... We have made a number of improvements since this case, which address many of the issues raised.
“These include additional measures to ensure that the child’s perspective is reflected at the heart of our work and support for families from an earlier stage to prevent difficulties from escalating.
“We are committed to ongoing improvements across all areas of our children’s services, and our new approach will focus directly on reducing delays and improving services further.”