March 2010

Paedophile Steven Watts left free to rape five-year-old

A CONVICTED paedophile was left free to repeatedly rape a five-year-old girl because of failings by child protection bosses.

Steven Watts befriended the mother of his victim and offered to babysit.

But while the girl’s mother was out playing bingo Watts was left alone to carry out a number of sex acts against the schoolgirl.

An independent Serious Case Review has now found that a number of child protection agencies across the region were guilty of major failings in the case.

Most significantly child protection bosses were blasted for their failure to inform the girl’s mother that Watts had a history of sexually inappropriate behaviour with underage girls.

The 43-year-old had been convicted in 2007 of enticing teenage girls under his care at a Territorial Army centre in County Durham to send him topless pictures by mobile phone. Stockton-on-Tees Local Safeguarding Children Board, Cleveland Police and the probation service were monitoring Watts after he moved from County Durham to live in Billingham.

Jane Humphreys, chairman of the Stockton-on-Tees Local Safeguarding Children Board, said: “Speaking on behalf of all the agencies, we are profoundly sorry for our failures in this case.

“We particularly regret we did not provide the mother of this child with information to enable her to adequately protect her daughter.

We are continuing to offer support to the family.

“The well-being of children is of utmost importance and we deeply regret the impact this case had on the child.

“We fully support the report’s recommendations and will continue to work in partnership across all agencies to address the shortcomings highlighted to strengthen the services we offer.”

The report revealed there were failings by a number of agencies to consider the protection of the child and undertake a full assessment of risks.

It said: “There were clear failures to consider the protection of the girl and undertake a full assessment at the point agencies became aware of the original offending.

“The seeking and sharing of information is fundamental to effective child protection.”

Watts was jailed for six years last year after admitting five counts of raping the five-year-old.

He was also ordered to register as a sex offender for life and banned from recreation centres and from having contact with children.

Watts admitted the offences when interviewed by police.

He handed himself in to police, saying he had sexually abused the girl for weeks and was unable to control himself.

He even told probation officers that he would be willing to be surgically castrated to prevent further offending.