Kent social services 'sorry' over Margate child sex abuse

Sam and Nick Smith were both abused as children
Image caption Sam and Nick Smith were both abused as children

A council has apologised for failing two young boys sexually abused by their father and his friend for years.

Sam and Nick Smith have waived their right to anonymity to speak about the historical abuse they suffered in Kent.

Glen Smith officially adopted Sam and was abusing him from around the age of five in their Margate home while Sam's mother was working night shifts.

Smith also allowed his friend Arnold Bracs, a convicted paedophile, to abuse his biological son Nick.

A playgroup leader at the time, Smith never answered for his crimes.

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Media captionKent man speaks of abuse by adoptive father

He killed himself in 2004, a few weeks after Sam, aged 14, gave a police interview detailing the abuse he suffered.

Sam, now 27, told the BBC he blocked out most of what happened but said the ordeal "will affect me for the rest of my life".

Soon after Smith's suicide, Nick, then aged eight, made allegations about Bracs.

However, because of his autism he struggled to explain the abuse to professionals and said he was accused of being a "naughty, lying child".

Now aged 20 he still feels "disgusting", and suffers nightmares.

Image caption Arnold Bracs was a known paedophile, but not monitored

It took six years for police to find enough evidence to arrest Bracs and in 2013 he was jailed for life for repeatedly raping Nick.

It emerged during the trial Bracs had historical convictions for child sex offences from the 1980s.

In an unpublished "lessons learnt" review in 2014 Kent County Council (KCC) and Kent Police both admitted various failings.

They included:

  • Not monitoring Bracs after his initial abuse convictions
  • An "unacceptably long delay" between Sam disclosing Smith's abuse and interviewing Sam about it five months later
  • Closing the investigation into Smith at the point of his death meant they did not interview other children which "may well have identified other offenders, including Bracs"

Four years later, KCC corporate director for children, young people and education Matt Dunkley has now apologised.

"I'm really sorry for what happened to Sam and Nick. What they went through was dreadful, it shouldn't happen to anybody," he said.

"Necessary lessons have been learned."

Det Ch Supt Tom Richards, head of public protection at Kent Police, said: "The provisions we now have for the registration of sex offenders and the monitoring of [them] would make a huge difference in how we deal with such matters today, but at the time, that legislation did not exist."

Image caption The boys were abused while mum Sara Setterfield was out of the house

The boys' mother, Sara Setterfield, was unaware of the abuse until she and Smith split up and shared custody of Sam, Nick and their three other children together.

When they all returned from staying at Smith's house looking unkempt, she asked Sam about it.

Concerned Smith was also abusing his siblings, Sam opened up about his ordeal and Ms Setterfield went straight to social services.

Later, she was told by a social worker abuse allegations had been made about Smith in the 1990s by children he had fostered.

Mr Dunkley said there was no way to check this as foster records were destroyed after 10 years.

The family now want a public inquiry and other victims of Smith and Bracs to have the confidence to come forward and know they will be listened to.

See more on this story on Inside Out, on BBC One South East on Monday 29 January at 19:30 BST, and later on the BBC iPlayer.

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