Fourth man arrested on suspicion of child cruelty at scandal-hit school

Life Wirral Sports School, New Brighton on the Wirral
-Credit: (Image: Liverpool Echo)

A fourth man has been arrested in connection with a special educational needs school that was the subject of a BBC investigation.

Life Wirral, an independent SEND school, based in Victoria Road in Wallasey, Wirral, made national headlines last month following an undercover investigation by BBC Panorama.

Detectives investigating the allegations of child cruelty at the school have today, Thursday, July 4, arrested another man.

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A 50-year-old man from Birkenhead was arrested this morning on suspicion of child cruelty and has been taken into custody to be questioned.

The arrest comes after three men were arrested yesterday (July 3) in connection to the school. Police confirmed a 43-year-old man from Meols, a 21-year-old man from Wallasey and a 26-year-old man from Irby had been arrested on suspicion of child cruelty.

They were taken into custody to be interviewed and have now been conditionally bailed. Enquiries into the matter are ongoing.

In an initial statement in response to the BBC programme, LIFE Wirral hit out at the corporation, accusing it of acting in a "highly irresponsible manner" and "putting the interests of a television programme ahead of the interests of vulnerable children".

The school accused the undercover reporter of "failing in her basic safeguarding duties to report significant concerns", claiming her actions put more vulnerable children at risk for longer. The BBC has strongly rejected these claims.

Life Wirral has stood by these claims, but has since added to its original statement to offer its apologies to any students and families affected by the behaviour of staff highlighted in the Panorama programme.

A spokesperson said: “LIFE Wirral do not condone the behaviour of a small proportion of staff whose actions were aired on last night’s BBC Panorama programme. We are deeply concerned about our students and their families and would like to apologise to all those affected."

The BBC said in response: “The BBC takes issues of safeguarding and protection of vulnerable individuals extremely seriously and has strict editorial guidelines covering undercover investigations, secret recording and investigations involving children.

"Our investigation was firmly in the public interest and the welfare of the children concerned was our primary consideration. Our undercover reporter gathered evidence over a period of time so we could be confident that what she witnessed demonstrated a clear pattern of behaviour, involving multiple members of staff, and in line with the concerns that had been raised with us.

"Prior to our investigation, the local authority and the school were already aware of safeguarding concerns having previously been made by others, and despite the local authority investigating, this had not resulted in meaningful change."

"In contrast, when we told the local authority about the findings of our investigation, the placements at the school were suspended and new places are being found elsewhere for the children.”

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