Wednesday, 16 October 2013

80 'abuse victims' contact police

More than 80 people have told police they suffered abuse while they were inmates at a young offenders' centre in the late 1970s and early 1980s. 
Detectives announced in August they were starting a new investigation into claims young men sent to Medomsley Detention Centre near Consett, County Durham, were abused by staff.

In 2003, a previous police investigation called Operation Halter led to the conviction of Neville Husband, a prison officer at the centre.

Husband was initially jailed for eight years after being found guilty of abusing five youngsters.

The publicity surrounding the trial then led to others coming forward and Husband was subsequently jailed for a further two years for these attacks.

After being released from prison he died from natural causes in 2010.

The fresh investigation has so far led to 83 new victims coming forward - ex-inmates have not previously complained to police.

The unit had a capacity of over 130, but at any one time typically held around 70 offenders, mainly from across the north of England.

Many were first-time offenders and had been detained for relatively minor crimes. The centre was closed in 1988.

Around 60 detectives, drawn mainly from the force's major crime team and safeguarding units, are working on the inquiry named Operation Seabrook.

They are each being assigned individual victims to interview and take initial statements from, a process which should begin in earnest in a few weeks.

Det Supt Paul Goundry, leading the investigation, pledged that all those who had come forward would be treated with sensitivity.

"We have experienced detectives working on this case including many who are specially-trained to deal with victims of sexual abuse," he said.

"They will go to see our victims in person, wherever they are, answer any queries they may have and steer them towards the appropriate counselling services if they need them.

"This will be a lengthy process but I am confident we have the resources in place.

"We are also in regular contact with the Crown Prosecution Service who will ultimately advise on whether criminal charges should be brought.

"Many of those sent to Medomsley were first-time offenders, often detained for relatively minor offences.

"These days they might be dealt with by issuing a caution, or putting in place a restorative solution designed to keep them out of the criminal justice system.

"We owe it to all the former inmates of the centre to investigate every possible lead and ensure no stone is left unturned."