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Gay couple left free to abuse boys - because social workers feared being branded homophobic

UK Daily Mail | September 6, 2007
PAUL SIMS

A homosexual foster couple were left free to sexually abuse vulnerable boys in their care because social workers feared being accused of discrimination if they investigated complaints, an inquiry concluded yesterday.

Craig Faunch and Ian Wathey were one of the first homosexual couples in the country to be officially approved as foster parents.

They looked after 18 children in only 15 months.

With no previous convictions, they came across as respectable men who simply wanted to help boys with a variety of problems.

In reality, they were paedophiles, who repeatedly abused the children in their care.

Even when the mother of two of the children reported her suspicions to the council, officials accepted the men's explanations and did nothing.

Instead of banning children from staying with Faunch and Wathey, they sent youngsters with more serious problems to them. Between them, the couple abused four boys aged between eight and 14.

In a scathing report published yesterday, Wakefield Metropolitan District Council was condemned for treating the men as "trophy carers".

The children's charity Kidscape said those in charge of overseeing the safety of children in the care of Faunch and Wathey had allowed political correctness to override common sense.

The report, following an independent review of the case, said: "One manager described the couple as 'trophy carers' which led to 'slack arrangements' over placement.

"Another said that by virtue of their sexuality they had a 'badge' which made things less questionable.

"The sexual orientation of the men was a significant cause of people not 'thinking the unthinkable'.

"It was clear that a number of staff were afraid of being thought homophobic.

"The fear of being discriminatory led them to fail to discriminate between the appropriate and the abusive."

The report also accused the council of failing to carry out proper assessments before and after the children were placed with Faunch and Wathey.

"Issues arose in the first longer-term placement of two children, including potential indicators of child sexual abuse, which were inadequately investigated, understood or acted upon," it said.

"More children were then placed with Faunch and Wathey, some successfully, some with concerns which were again inadequately investigated, understood or acted upon.

"The practice of some social workers in this case was deficient."

The report's authors, led by former Surrey social services chief Brian Parrott, said they could not be sure that Faunch and Wathey were "predatory paedophiles" who became foster carers in order to have access to children.

They added: "Our criticisms are much more of those in middle management whose job it was to piece together what was really happening, to ask the right questions and to be critical and probing."

Wathey, 42, was jailed for five years in June last year after being convicted of four counts of sexual activity with a child and one offence of causing a child to watch sexual activity.

Faunch, 33, received a six-year jail sentence after he was found guilty of five charges of engaging in sexual activity with a child and two of taking indecent photographs of a child.

The couple, who lived together in Pontefract, West Yorkshire, were approved as foster carers by the council in August 2003.

Their victims included a 14-year-old boy with Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism,who had a mental age of seven and was forced by Wathey to watch gay pornography.

Another youngster with a "very troubled background" was only in their care for a few weeks before being abused by Faunch.

But social workers had been aware of "inappropriate" behaviour long before then.

Just eight months after they started as professional foster carers a mother of eight-year-old twins, who couldn't cope with raising them on her own, voiced concerns about them with social services.

While visiting the twins, the 34-yearold single mother was shown a picture taken by Faunch showing one of the boys going to the lavatory during a visit to Butlin's holiday camp in Skegness and discovered a similar snap had been taken of the other twin.

A social worker took the photograph and promised a full investigation.

But the court heard that not only did social services staff lose the photo, they decided against contacting police after accepting Faunch's explanation that he was trying to embarrass the boys into shutting the lavatory door.

Police later discovered that, days after the photos were taken, Faunch recorded an indecent video of the twins taking a shower. They began abusing the boys three months later.

Undetected, the offences continued over an 11-month period, Leeds Crown Court was told last year.

Police were called in to investigate the couple only after one of the abused boys told a woman he had been touched by one of the men.

Faunch abused all four boys and Wathey targeted one of them.

Judge Sally Cahill, QC, said neither had shown "empathy, remorse or any responsibility for their actions".

Yesterday's report said that the fostering panel which approved Faunch and Wathey accepted without hesitation their request to look after only boys on the basis that they didn't feel equipped to look after girls.

The report made 41 recommendations for overhauling the council's fostering process.

Last night, Michelle Elliott, a director of Kidscape, said: "Common sense went out of the window when they allowed political correctness to take over in this case.

"I don't care if you are homosexual or bisexual - if you are taking care of children you need to be vetted and subjected to the same investigation as anyone else.

"Child abuse knows no gender boundaries."

Elaine McHale, the council's corporate director of family services, said it would be "inappropriate" to comment on the report until after a meeting of the full council on September 12.

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