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“Completely untrue” that children’s services interfered with police, council says

Blackpool Council has issued a statement criticising comments made by MP Scott Benton that the council’s children’s services had “compromised” a police investigation into antisocial behaviour in the region.

25/10/22

“Completely untrue” that children’s services interfered with police, council says

Blackpool Council says that allegations its children’s services interfered in a police investigation are “completely untrue”.

The allegations were made by Scott Benton, Conservative MP for Blackpool South, speaking in Parliament this month raising concerns about a “gang of teenagers” committing “hundreds” of crimes in the Talbot and Brunswick regions.

The MP laid the blame for the antisocial behaviour on an 11-year-old who was responsible for more than 80 offences but said the police could not prosecute the “ringleader” because of the council’s children’s services refusing to “criminalise teenagers”.

“The ringleader is an 11-year-old boy who has been responsible for over 80 different offences, including assaulting a female police officer,” Benton said.

“Sadly the efforts of Lancashire Police to bring him to justice have been compromised by Blackpool Council’s children’s directorate, who refuse to criminalise teenagers.”

However, Blackpool Council has now issued a statement saying it is “completely untrue to suggest that there has been any interference from children’s social care in the work of the police to address criminal acts or youth antisocial behaviour.”

The council said its Youth Justice Partnership in Blackpool takes a ‘child first' approach to antisocial behaviour among children, but that this does not mean that offending is taken lightly.

“To suggest that an 11-year-old is the ringleader of a gang of teenagers is both harmful to individual children and detracts from the very real national issue of county lines, where vulnerable children are exploited and used to commit criminal acts to protect adults from arrest and prosecution,” the statement read.

“Uninformed comments are unhelpful and add nothing to the work that is underway to address these issues.

“There is strong evidence of joint working across our town. The police, local authority and local community organisations have worked hard to address the concerns of local residents and engage vulnerable children and young people in positive activities. Whilst some serious and impactful issues remain, we have seen a drop in the number of incidents in the specific wards concerned – we will continue to work to further drive down these instances.”

Cllr Lynn Williams, Leader of Blackpool Council, accused Benton of "political grandstanding" and questioned the information he had received, saying he had not verified it with the council or the police.

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