JADEN MOODIE was just 14 when he was murdered on 8th January 2019. A formal Serious Case Review has now reported on what happened to him – and concluded that opportunities to save Jaden were missed by the authorities. The system which is supposed to protect our children failed again.
Public bodies are supposed to take care of children and teenagers. They’ve co-opted a word to label it: “safeguarding”. They probably all have a policy which says they are committed to it as a priority. It probably costs us a great deal of money. And we are still no nearer to understanding why some children are failed.
The Review found that Jaden had been mixed up in “County Lines” – a relatively new kind of drug-running in which the bigger drug pushers use teenagers to carry drugs from London and other big cities out to small towns for distribution. “County Lines” are taken very seriously: the Government requires everyone who works with children to be aware of the system and its dangers and how to report suspicions that children may be caught up in it or are even at risk of being caught up in it.
Jaden slipped through that safety net. Three months before he was killed, Jaden was found in a flat in Bournemouth which police knew was used by “County Lines” drug pushers. Found in the flat with him were an older boy, a quantity of cocaine and £325 cash. Surely safeguarding procedures were triggered? No. Dorset police took Jaden back to London – but they did not contact child exploitation workers or anyone who was in a position to step in and help him.
Because of his age, an “appropriate adult|” was called in to sit in while the police who had found him interviewed Jaden. This person told the Review that Jaden seemed to be frightened by what was happening to him and seemed vulnerable. There is no sign that the “appropriate adult” told anyone of these concerns or followed them up at the time. One wonders what the point of them being there was.
The Review found that no one told Jaden’s school that he had been arrested in Bournemouth. He had only been in school for a total of three months over the 22 month period before his death: there is no information about how the school handled this prolonged absence. All we know is that in November 2018 the school excluded the child who was hardly there anyway. He had been seen, in a video on Snapchat, holding something that looked like a gun. He was charged with being in possession of an imitation gun in a public place and pleaded guilty. We do not know if the school, police or courts asked why this young boy committed this criminal act and whether he needed help. By the end of 2018, Jaden had been offered a place in a pupil referral unit. Eight days into 2019, he was dead.
There is no report of what happened to the “older boy” found with Jaden. Between August 2018 and August 2019, 36 young people from London were found in Bournemouth in similar circumstances. We don’t know what has become of them either.
Jaden did not have the easiest start in life. His father was convicted of drug dealing in 2009 and, consequently, deported to Jamaica. At the time, Jaden was living with his mother in Nottingham, but he began to get into trouble at secondary school, where he was accused of bullying. Someone came looking for him and threatened his mother with a knife. His mother decided that they would come to London and try to have a new start in life.
When he died, his mother had been homeless and sofa-surfing while Jaden stayed at his grandmother’s home in Leyton. She was allocated a flat just two weeks before Jaden was stabbed. The Review found that their housing situation could have been handled more quickly, not least because of Jaden’s vulnerability – though it’s not clear if the housing authorities knew about it when they processed the application, or whether they asked the questions that might have uncovered it.
The Review concluded that there had been “poor communication” between the police (the Dorset and Metropolitan forces) and Waltham Forest Social Services. Jaden’s family has said that they agree with many of the report’s findings.
John Drew – a former Chief Executive of the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales who conducted the Review – called for a national system to be put in place to deal with County Lines exploiting children. He said that there should be locally based “rescue and response” systems to protect young people. It seems an odd conclusion. Local areas already have systems in place which are supposed to protect young people. If these existing systems are not working, why respond by setting up new systems? If there are factors which would make new systems work, why not apply them to the existing systems?
Mr Drew also found that none of the authorities over which Jaden’s file had passed realised how little time there was to intervene and help Jaden before something went badly wrong. Really? How much time did they think they had, then? Do they think that teenagers wait in limbo until their case comes to the top of some Local Authority in-tray?
Mr Drew also found that these same authorities could not have anticipated that he was in mortal danger based on what they knew about him. Really? Was that because, in the sea of poor communication, no one knew all the facts – or didn’t bother to ask for information and explanations of what was going on?
Cllr Clare Coghill, Leader of Waltham Forest Council, referred to the Review as “an excellent piece of work”. She did not explain where she saw the excellence. She said that the Council has now taken on board all the recommendations. She hoped that the Government would do likewise and set up a system to deal with County Lines. “We need co-ordination and leadership from central government,” she concluded – as if the Council were a toddler crossing the road. The words “grow up, Clare” spring to mind.
Ayoub Majdouline, 19, was convicted last December of murdering Jaden. He was jailed for life, with a minimum term of 21 years. He had grown up in Leyton. His parents had split up and his father was later murdered while selling drugs. Majdouline spent time in foster care. As a teenager, he became involved in drug dealing and was found with knives, which led to short prison sentences, and the authorities became concerned that he was being exploited by older youngsters. As a result, the National Crime Agency had identified him, in 2018, as a victim of “Modern Slavery”, but the concerns and the label do not seem to have resulted in any action. The authorities’ failure to safeguard Jaden began with their failure to safeguard Ayoub Majdouline.
The authorities have not only failed these two young people. Jaden Moodie was a member of a gang which sold drugs in Waltham Forest, and Ayoub Majdouline was a member of another gang which sold drugs in Waltham Forest. The Court heard that the gangs preyed on each other: two other local murders were referenced in Court and there was even a fight in the cells during the trial as two gang members encountered each other. Hundreds of young lives are in danger, and there is nothing in the aftermath of this judicial process to suggest anything has changed or will change.
The Government must also take a share of the blame, for concentrating more on appeasing the right wing agenda rather than understanding the lives of the mass of ordinary people. Why are fathers deported for drug dealing? To show voters that the Government is tough on crime. Why are human rights rubbished? To denigrate those who point to the universal human right to family life as a reason not to deport fathers. Successive governments, and opposition parties, have criticised single mothers as spongers who get pregnant to get housed and dismissed young people who become involved in knife crime as inherently evil criminals. To them this is the vote winner, and they refuse to understand, let alone explain, the material causes for crime. Shame on them.
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