Friday, 27 November 2015

Medomsley Detention Centre to be investigated as part of independent inquiry into child abuse

HISTORIC abuse at a notorious North-East detention centre is set to be investigated by the Government’s independent child abuse inquiry.

More than 1,200 former inmates have already come forward to claim they were abused at the Medomsley Detention Centre, near Consett.

The allegations, which cover a period between the late 1960s and the early 1980s, surfaced after former Medomsley prison officer Neville Husband was jailed in 2003 for systematically raping young people. Husband’s colleague, Leslie Johnson, who worked as a storeman at the Home Office-run centre, was also jailed for similar offences. They have both since died.

Now the young offenders centre is to be included in the first tranche of inquiries into the extent to which institutions failed to protect children from sex abuse, as part of the long-running Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse chaired by Justice Lowell Goddard.

The Medomsley investigation was of 12 separate strands set out by Justice Goddard earlier today (Friday) as part of an "objective fact-finding" inquiry into allegations of abuse.

The massive inquiry will investigate controversial claims of abuse linked to Westminster, with the Anglican and Catholic Church, the internet, residential schools and custodial institutions, such as Medomsley.

Michael McCann, the former MP who has campaigned tirelessly for an investigation into Medomsley on behalf of constituent John McCabe, a victim of abuse at the centre, tonight welcomed news that it will form part of the inquiry.

“I am extremely pleased that a last we are getting very close to an opportunity to find out exactly what went on with Medomsley Detention Centre," he said.

“There are so many things which are quite frankly bizarre in how that place was run.

“Some of the behaviour of people like Neville Husband, it was quite extraordinary that nothing was done to take that man out of that environment.”

Mr McCann also paid tribute to victims including Mr McCabe, saying it was their courage in coming forward which had led to new investigations into Medomsley being launched. 

“It is due to them that that we are finally going to be in a position to get to the truth of what went on there,” he said.

Justice Goddard said the investigations will begin immediately, with all likely to lead to public hearings, and the first preliminary sessions are expected to take place in February.

She said: "I am confident that this broad range of investigations will give a voice to victims and survivors who have experienced abuse in a variety of institutional settings or where there may have been institutional failings; and will combine consideration of non-recent allegations of abuse with urgent, contemporary issues of child protection."

The judge said running 12 investigations in parallel is "an organisational challenge that is unprecedented in a public inquiry in the United Kingdom", but added: "We are determined to succeed and expect the full co-operation of all institutions and individuals who can assist us in our work.

"The scale of child sexual abuse in this country requires urgent and careful attention."

A spokesman said the investigation will examine the scale of abuse within the secure estate for children and young people and it has identified Medomsley Youth Detention Centre, County Durham, as the first case study.

Justice Goddard said: “The apparent scale of abuse at Medomsley demands a rigorous inquiry into how such allegations, if true, could have gone uninvestigated and the offending undetected for so long. Our inquiry will pose probing questions of the secure estate for children and young people, the police and the criminal justice system. In addition to the Medomsley example, we will need to consider the extent to which other custodial institutions may have allowed similar abuse to take place.”

Durham Police launched Operation: Seabrook to investigate the allegations shortly after Neville Husband was jailed. The force says the inquiry is the biggest of its type the force has ever undertaken.

Yesterday also emerged that the royal family could be drawn into the wider probe as it considers whether there were "inappropriate attempts" by prominent figures to interfere in the case of a pervert bishop.

Last month Clarence House was forced to deny that Prince Charles made an intervention in the judicial process on behalf of Peter Ball, who was jailed for sexually abusing aspiring priests - 22 years after the claims first came to light.

There have been accusations of an establishment cover-up with Ball, the former bishop of Lewes and Gloucester, counting a member of the royal family among those who wrote letters of support before he was let off with a caution in 1993.

Justice Goddard confirmed the case will be considered by the inquiry, adding that it will "investigate whether there were inappropriate attempts by people of prominence to interfere in the criminal justice process after he was first accused of child sexual offences the case would be considered".

The New Zealand judge did not name any individuals. The royal family has not been specifically identified as an institution being examined but it is understood it has not been excluded from potentially falling under the scope of the inquiry.

The investigations are expected to take between 18 months and several years to complete. Justice Goddard said her aim of the inquiry's work being finished within five years is "achievable".