By Kevin Donald Location: Medomsley
More than 80 people have contacted police to report abuse they suffered as inmates at a centre for young offenders in the late 1970s and early 1980s.In August this year detectives from Durham Constabulary announced they were launching a fresh investigation into claims young men sent to Medomsley Detention Centre, near Consett, County Durham, were subjected to abuse at the hands of staff.
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.
In 2003 a previous police investigation, ‘Operation Halter’, led to the conviction of Neville Husband, a prison officer at the centre.
Husband was initially sent to jail 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 subsequenty jailed for a further two years for these attacks.
After being released from prison he died from natural causes in 2010.
So far the new investigation has led to 83 victims coming forward whom police were previously unaware of. The other callers have been potential witnesses or people ringing in with additional information.
Around 60 detectives, drawn mainly from the force’s major crime team and safeguarding units have now been tasked with enquiries to conduct for the investigation which goes by the name of ‘Operation Seabrook’.
They are each being assigned individual victims to interview and take initial statements from, a process which should begin in a few weeks time.
The man leading ‘Seabrook’, Detective Superintendent Paul Goundry pledged all those who had come forward would be treated with the utmost care and sensitivity.
“We have experienced detectives working on this case including many who are specially-trained to deal with victims of sexual abuse.
"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.”