THE parents of murdered Stornoway teenager Liam Aitchison have called for an independent inquiry into the way the 16-year-old was cared for by protective public agencies who they claim failed him prior to being stabbed to death.
Norrie and Claire Aitchison say their son, who had been in and out of care and subject to children’s hearings, was left to fend for himself by the authorities when he was just 15 and moving into adult life.
The youth from South Uist was found dead in a derelict building near Stornoway Airport in November 2011.
The tragic teenager had been beaten and stabbed repeatedly.
Islanders Johnathan Mackinnon and Stefan Millar, both 22 at the time, were convicted of his murder after a trial at the High Court in Glasgow in 2013 and jailed for a minimum of 18 years.
Retired social worker Andrew Walker, independent advocate David Harris and freelance journalist Iain Maciver set up their own review group to examine Liam’s case.
The trio have demanded an independent inquiry and used freedom of information legislation to try to obtain the results of an internal investigation by Western Isles Council.
Mr and Mrs Aitchison said: “We remain totally bereft to this day since Liam’s most brutal murder and have no doubt at all that the authorities failed Liam on many occasions in their duty of care obligations.
“No-one is prepared to admit responsibility and to be held accountable for Liam’s death. We are of the opinion that there has been, and remains to this day, a complete lack of accountability by the responsible authorities.”
The couple claim they were not actively involved in the Significant Case Review (SCR) process carried out by the local authority – with only one telephone call being received.
They added: “This only contact was very impersonal and lacking in any sense of empathy and understanding of how distressed we felt about how Liam had been deserted by the caring services in the last few months of his short life.”
Liam had been placed in the couple’s full-time care shortly before Christmas 2010 from his aunt Kate MacDonald, who had acted as kinship carer for a three-month period.
Dr MacDonald could not cope with Liam’s aggressive outbursts, and she was concerned that he was also placing himself at serious risk by abuse of alcohol and substances.
Liam’s parents said: “At a review children’s hearing on 16 February 2011 we were flabbergasted when a decision was taken to discharge all formal supervision, given Liam’s recent history, his vulnerability, and poor coping mechanisms.
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“We pleaded with the children’s hearing to keep Liam on supervision – our pleas were ignored. Liam was approaching his 16th birthday and gravitating towards criminal behaviour. He needed to be protected and cared for by those employed for this purpose.
“Liam had indicated a strong desire to move away from home, but he was not ready in so many ways to live independently.
“He of course failed to appreciate this, showing little insight into the likely and predictable consequences of bad decision-making in terms of the doubtful company he was at times keeping.
“Liam remained elusive, and refused to return home. We were massively concerned as a family at this stage, with the onset of winter.”
The couple say they discovered that Liam was accessing a local children’s home unofficially, with overnight stays, without the knowledge of the authorities or care staff.
They added: “By behaving in this way Liam was clearly indicating that he needed care and supervision - and also warmth, food and shelter.
“He was often of no fixed abode, homeless, and without employment – the social workers and children’s hearing panel members had told us that when Liam was discharged from all supervision that support services would remain in place on an informal basis. We saw absolutely no evidence of this.
“Liam’s scheduled court appearance on the 23th November 2011, the alleged date of his murder, would not have occurred if Liam had remained under children’s hearing supervision.
His parents said they fail to understand how it has taken over three years for the Outer Hebrides Child Protection Committee to prepare a report.
They added: “We are at present taking legal advice about how we should proceed to seek redress and legal accountability against those persons and/or agencies, who acting together as “corporate parent” failed so tragically to meet Liam’s most basic of care needs.”
A spokesman for the Western Isles Child Protection Committee said: “The family’s statement has been passed to all members of the Western Isles CPC and we will make appropriate arrangements to engage with the family to discuss their concerns.”