Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Seven former Medomsley prison, in Consett, officers in court charged with abusing teenage inmates

Seven former Medomsley prison, in Consett, officers in court charged with abusing teenage inmates

Neil Hunter Crime Correspondent
  SEVEN former prison officers who worked at a detention centre appeared in court today charged with abusing teenage inmates in the 1970s and 1980s.

The ex-staff members who worked at Medomsley Detention Centre in Consett, County Durham, were at Teesside Crown Court for an unusual hearing.

Dozens of alleged victims were in court, and a court room next door had to be used to house the others - with a live video-link relaying proceedings.

None of the accused - who are now all in their 60s and 70s - entered pleas to the allegations they face, and dates for fresh hearings were set.

The charges are the result of one of the country's biggest inquiries into sexual and physical abuse - Operation Seabrook, which was launched in August 2013.

All the former prison officers are charged with misconduct in a public office and physical abuse. Four of them are also charged with sex offences.

The defendants are:
  • Kevin Blakey, 65, charged with two counts of misconduct, two counts of wounding and two of assault.
  • Alan Bramley, 69, charged with misconduct, wounding and two counts of assault.
  • Johnson Brian Greenwell, 70, charged with misconduct, false imprisonment, two counts of assault and a further count of committing a serious sexual offence.
  • David McClure, 62, charged with misconduct, wounding and four counts of assault.
  • John McGee, 73, charged with misconduct, four counts of assault, two counts of indecent assault, wounding and a further count of committing a serious sexual offence.
  • Christopher Onslow, 71, charged with two counts of misconduct, two of buggery without consent, two counts of wounding, two counts of wounding with intent, three counts of assault and one of indecent assault.
  • Neil Sowerby, 60, charged with misconduct, two counts of assault, four counts of indecent assault and three counts of committing a serious sexual offence.
Their addresses cannot be reported for legal reasons, and none of the alleged victims can be identified.

The detention centre, which was closed in 1988, was used for teenage offenders who often had committed minor crimes. They were usually held there for six to eight weeks.

Almost 1,500 former detainees claimed they were abused at the young offenders' institution.

Prosecutor Jamie Hill, QC, told Judge Howard Crowson during the hour-long hearing that the expected trial would last between 12 and 14 weeks.

Mr Hill said there will be around 15,000 pages of material linked to the case, along with 235 witnesses - 70 of whom are likely to be complainants.

"This is a police investigation which has lasted approximately four years, and the police have had over 1,400 complaints relating to events at Medomsley, principally in the 70s and 80s," said Mr Hill.

"The way the indictment is drafted, and there are 49 counts for these seven defendants, there are individual charges highlighting the most serious allegations against them and a small handful of common complaints.

"It is conceded this is a large case . . . [but] this is a huge distillation of the case. This case will have evidence from roughly 70 of the 1,400-plus complainants.

"Our current time estimate for these seven is approximately 12 to 14 weeks, taking into account prosecution evidence, defence evidence, speeches and summing up."

A provisional date for the trial to start - as all the men are expected to plead not guilty at some stage - was set by Judge Crowson for September 3.

The defendants were all released on bail.