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Review needed into foster care abuse case

The disturbing case of Brian Jackson, who abused young girls placed in his care, raises serious questions for social services and the processes used to vet and monitor foster parents.

Jackson and his wife were approved as foster carers in 1985 and in subsequent years fostered around 50 children.

However, in October 2012, one of the children they fostered made a complaint, saying Jackson had abused her several times.

Belfast crown court heard yesterday he targeted the girl four or five times a month when she was aged between 12 and 14.

Another victim was removed from Jackson's home when she reported he had stuck his tongue in her mouth.

A third victim, who has learning difficulties, told her grandmother she had been abused by Jackson when she was 13. On one occasion he had abused her `under the guise of playing,' the court heard.

In all, Jackson, from Beersford Hill in Dromore, admitted 13 charges against three children over a period of 12 years from 1998 to 2010.

Given the greater awareness of crimes against young people, it is deeply alarming that a person in a position of trust could carry out such crimes until relatively recently.

It is distressing to think of these vulnerable young girls, who had been sent to a home which should have been a place of love and safety, being preyed on by someone supposed to be looking after them.

The victims who took the courageous step of reporting their ordeal also deserve praise. They have ensured a serial abuser has been brought to justice.

Jackson will spend 18 months in prison and a further 18 months on probation but there is no doubt he has caused lasting trauma to his victims.

There also needs to be a detailed review of all aspects of this case and how a child abuser came to be responsible for looking after young children who were in the care of the state.

Thankfully, such a grotesque abuse of trust is relatively rare in the care system.

It must be stressed that foster carers play a vital and valuable role offering their homes, their time and support to youngsters who have been taken into care because of difficulties in their own family situation.

It is important that appalling abusers such as Brian Jackson do not undermine the good work done by so many.

But it is also essential robust measures are in place to safeguard children and these need to be kept under review.

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