Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Two former staff members arrested as part of historic abuse inquiry at Medomsley Detention Centre

by Gavin Engelbrecht Updated on in News

 Detectives investigating historic abuse at Medomsley complete initial interviews of prison staff

Detectives investigating historic abuse at Medomsley complete initial interviews of prison staff

 TWO FORMER prison officers have been arrested on suspicion of physical and sexual assaults at a County Durham young offenders’ centre, it has been revealed today.

The men aged 69 and 58, were questioned as part of a major probe by Durham Constabulary into allegations of historic abuse at Medomsley Detention Centre, near Consett, County Durham.

The announcement comes as police revealed they have completed the initial phase of interviewing former members of prison staff, as part of Operation Seabroook – a new investigation announced by the force in August 2013.

Efforts are also in hand to trace and interview at least a dozen more former members of staff.

The ex-detainees were all in their teens when they were sent to Medomsley at various dates from the 1960’s to when the centre closed in 1988, for what were often relatively minor offences.

They typically spent six to eight weeks at the Home Office-run centre before being released.

Previous police investigations in 2003 and 2005 led to the conviction and jailing of Neville Husband and Leslie Johnson, former members of staff at the centre who have since died.

Since August 2013, a total of 1,123 men have contacted the Operation Seabrook team to report they were victims of either sexual or physical assaults. Of these, approximately one-third have reported they were sexually assaulted by either Husband or Johnson.

In November 2014 police began the process of interviewing ex- members of staff who worked at Medomsley during the 1970s and 1980s.

While several have died in the intervening years, 16 who are still alive have been identified in this initial phase. All have now been spoken to, the majority as voluntary attenders at local police stations.

However, two of the 16 – now aged 69 and 58 – were arrested and questioned before being released on police bail. Both were detained on suspicion of physical and sexual assaults on Medomsley inmates.

The officer leading Operation Seabrook, Det Supt Paul Goundry said there had always been a number of key objectives for the investigation.

He said: “Our initial priority was to gain a full understanding of how Medomsley Detention Centre operated during that time. We also needed to make counselling and professional support available to anyone who needed help, and I am really pleased that over 250 victims have taken up this offer.

“In the last few months a key objective has been to identify and then trace a number of former staff so we could speak to them about the allegations. As part of our enquiries, we established several had since died.

“The first phase of the interview process has now been completed with our initial 16 and we will be discussing the results of these with the CPS in the near future.

“There are also further interviews we need to carry out with other staff, including former governors of Medomsley. This work will continue over the coming months.”

Counselling and support for victims of Medomsley remains available via the local Sexual Assault Referral Centre, known as The Meadows – 0191 301 8554.