“If the police don’t do their job, we will do it for them”

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Mums Leanna, Lisa, Jade and Toni protested outside their local police station

Children as young as 11 have been violently attacked by teenagers in a Lancashire town – with the attacks filmed and shared on social media.

The victims’ mothers say the police are not doing enough to stop the group and have taken matters into their own hands.

A girl’s mother said she was told her daughter could have been one hit away from losing her life.

Lancashire Police say they take assault and anti-social behavior seriously.

The BBC spoke to eight groups of parents in Chorley whose children were violently attacked.

The parents believe the police have not responded quickly enough and say that’s why they feel compelled to share their footage further – and have asked us to show it. They also want to show the seriousness of the attacks.

It is believed that the same group of teenagers were responsible for all the incidents.

Videos show children crawling on the ground – squealing and shouting as they try to protect their heads from kicks and punches. Voices of others are heard, off-camera, capturing the attackers.

Filming such violence and humiliation, and then sharing it on the Internet, became known as a “pattern” – with the aim of further embarrassing the victims by promoting the videos across the web.

The BBC News investigation spent months talking to people in England and Wales about their experiences of reporting crime – victims who say they have been left desperate, forced to do their own detective work and waited too long for help from the police.

Lisa’s daughter – 14-year-old Bethany – was attacked by a group of girls and severely beaten. She managed to call her mother during the attack in April last year.

“I got a phone call – absolutely screaming ‘Mom, please. They have me. My hair has been taken. My hair is falling out. Now I’ve been stepped on everywhere.”

“I could hear what the girls were saying. “Do it again. Kick her again. She’s down, kick her again.”

The violence was also filmed and would soon be posted on social media.

“They punched her several times and stamped on her head. Everyone was taking turns. They pretended to let her up, but then they knocked her back to the ground and did it again,” Lisa says.

“The doctor actually said that one more stamp on the head would probably have taken her life.”

Lisa says the police were called as the attack was taking place.

“We dialed 999 while he was on the phone. We begged them. No one showed up [police] it never arrived for 48 hours.”

Lisa says despite calling 999 there was “no emergency” despite officers knowing the group had caused trouble across the city. It took weeks, he says, to catch Bethany’s assailants. Two of the girls involved have now written letters of apology after being given conditional caution.

Although Lisa thinks it’s not a case of the officers not caring. “I get the impression that the police thought it was pointless – that nothing would come of it.”

Lancashire Police told us: “When people call us in an emergency, we will always be there to answer the phone and send officers as soon as possible where there is an ongoing threat or danger.”

Leanna

“These girls feel vulnerable. They’re scared. They’re all over social media,” says Leanna

Another mum, Leanna, remembers the moment her 11-year-old daughter, Indie, came home after being attacked in a park.

“She came through the door, her face was swollen. She had a chapped lip and her hair was falling out. I’ve never seen her so scared and upset in my life.”

Leanna says they headed straight to Chorley Police Station to report what had happened. At reception, she says she asked to see an officer – but was told there was no one available to see her.

“I was shocked, in disbelief really,” he says – explaining how it took officers four days to get a statement. Two of those involved in the attack will later receive a voluntary warning.

“The police are the ones who are supposed to protect the kids. They’re supposed to be there to dispel concerns and say, ‘Don’t worry, they’re not going to do it again.’

In a statement, Lancashire Police said: “Where there is no ongoing danger or threat or crime in action, we will arrange to visit people at a time that is convenient for them so that we can investigate and solve the crime and deliver the best possible outcomes for all. “

But Leanna believes the police response to these types of crimes needs to change.

“These girls feel vulnerable. They’re scared. They’re all over social media.”

Another 11-year-old, Ellissia, was attacked on the same day as her daughter Leanna, on a subway in the same park, by the same group.

“They are just brutal. It’s horrible to watch [the video]says Ellissia’s mom, Jade. “I feel like he’s just a baby. And that’s your baby on this floor. I’m very angry with them.”

Images of a boy and girl being attacked in Chorley

Excerpts from the videos of the attacks on his son Toni and his daughter Jade

After calling the police, Jade says it took two weeks for an officer to visit the family. She says she was told police would only arrest the perpetrators if her daughter’s injuries were more serious – such as brain damage.

Two of those involved in the attack were given voluntary cautions, which Jade says is completely unacceptable given the violence used.

“You expect the police to do everything to make sure you get justice for your child – and when they don’t, you feel like they’ve let you down and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Jade says that the group of teenagers has been allowed to riot for too long.

“They’re not just attacking 11-year-olds, they’re attacking members of the public, bars, pubs, people’s businesses.”

“If [the police] had reigned then, none of this would have happened.”

Lancashire Police say they are proud of their “proactive approach to policing” in Chorley and elsewhere.

“We regularly carry out operations aimed at tackling anti-social behavior as part of our aim to deliver great services to the public and build trust.”

If you have been affected by the issues raised in this report, details of organizations offering bullying information and support are available through the BBC Action Line.

Every mom we spoke to described not only the physical, but also the mental scars they left on their children after the attacks.

Jade thinks Ellissia has lost his confidence, but tries to “put on a little show to stay afloat for everyone else”. Leanna says Indie is resilient but scared.

Lisa says Bethany hasn’t left the house for a year and has now been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She should be going out locally and making memories – Lisa says – but instead she travels to other cities with her friends to avoid her attackers.

In a statement, Lancashire Police said: “We recognize the impact these incidents have had on the victims and their families and have done a huge amount to both support them and keep them informed.”

Families protesting outside Chorley Police Station

“If there’s a police officer looking out the window, that’s my daughter’s face after being stamped on so many times,” Lisa shouts.

Outside Chorley police station last month, parents gathered to show their frustration and anger – each mum holding a large photo of her child.

“If there’s a policeman looking out the window, that’s my daughter’s face after being stamped on so many times,” Lisa shouts to the assembled crowd – her photo shows Bethany’s red, swollen face.

“If I had done that to my child,” she says, “rightfully so, I would have been taken immediately.”

Another mom – Toni – is there. Her son suffered one of the worst attacks. He was knocked to the ground by a group of boys.

“[The gang] punched him, kicked him, headbutted him. He could have come home a lot worse. He could not have come home [at all].”

Toni says she has repeatedly asked the police for updates but, four months on, she is still waiting for a result.

Lancashire Police say they are still investigating the attack on his son Tony.

The force says all calls relating to all incidents in this article have been “dealt with appropriately”.

“We have identified and arrested the offenders and they are being dealt with in accordance with national guidelines for dealing with minors.”

Some parents, Toni says, want to inflict their own form of justice on teenagers.

“I’m glad they haven’t. But something has to give before a family ends up being destroyed.

“Will someone end up dead? Either it’s one of our kids or one of his kids.

“Then they’ll wake up and do something about it? It’s too late by then as far as I’m concerned.”

In the meantime dozens of parents are proactive – patrolling the park where the children were attacked.

Mothers patrolling a Chorley park

“Look what we have to resort to,” Leanna says as she patrols the park with other moms

“I can’t believe it’s come to this, but I understand why it has, because our children are not being protected,” Lisa says. “I have to make sure that if my daughter is down here, I have to do police work. I have to make sure she’s okay.”

The mothers claim police patrols are non-existent – and say when they called 999 nothing happened. “What good has it done us?” Leanna says.

“Look at what we have to resort to. We trust the police to be there to protect our children. And because they can’t do that, we have to.”

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