Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Medomsley Detention Centre child abuse probe now biggest in UK

Alleged victims of staff at the Consett institution now outnumber those in all other child sex abuse cases combined

Neville Husband
The investigation into assaults on inmates at Medomsley Detention Centre is now the biggest child abuse inquiry in the UK.

And the staggering 1,123 men who have reported being physically or sexually assaulted while at the County Durham institution make up half of all alleged victims in the country, it has been revealed.
Two former prison workers Neville Husband and Leslie Johnson, who have both since died, were jailed 10 years ago for abusing youngsters at the centre

But after more victims came forward Durham Police launched ‘Operation Seabrook’ in 2013 to look into the allegations of repeated sexual and physical abuse of the young inmates, in the 1970s and 1980s.

Since then more than 1,000 new victims have come forward, and detectives have interviewed 16 former members of staff, arresting two.

The huge number of victims makes the Medomsley enquiry the biggest of its kind in the UK, ahead of those involving the late Liberal MP Cyril Smith and the alleged sexual abuse centred around Dolphin Square in Westminster.

Police say around one third of the new Medomsley victims have reported being sexually assaulted by either Husband or Johnson.

In November Operation Seabrook detectives began the process of interviewing ex-members of staff who worked at the centre, in Consett, during the 1970s and 1980s. While several have died 16 who are still alive have been identified.

All have now been spoken to, the majority as voluntary attenders, at local police stations.
However, two men, 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.

And officers say 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 1960s 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.

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

“Our initial priority was to gain a full understanding of how Medomsley Detention Centre operated during that time,” he said. “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.

“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.”