More than a 120 victims have come forward with allegations of sexual abuse at Medomsley Detention Centre in County Durham.
The centre operated a “short sharp shock” regime between 1975 and 1990. The phrase “short, sharp shock” means “a quick, severe punishment” and was used under the Thatcher government, when the then Home Secretary Willie Whitelaw introduced the treatment at detention centres for young criminals (advertised as part of the 1979 Conservative Party Manifesto).
Inmates were subjected to brutal violence from some staff members with victims reporting they had been forced to submit to rape after having a bread knife held to their throat while another victim said he had been ligatured, blindfolded and raped by three men after a member of staff had taken him off the detention centre premises.
The rise in allegations follows a police announcement in August stating they would re-investigate child abuse claims from the 1970’s and 1980’s and appealed for victims who had not previously come forward to do so. The investigation was re-opened following a former inmate coming forward. Durham police have said they intend to have interviewed all new alleged victims by early this year.
The investigation also comes following the conviction of a prison officer at the detention centre for teenage boys in 2003 at Newcastle Crown Court. Neville Husband, a former Gateshed clergyman, was convicted of sexually abusing five inmates between 1974 and 1984, after pleading not guilty. In 2005 Husband’s sentence was increased to 10 years after new victims came forward and he admitted to four more attacks. Husband left prison in 2009 but the 72-year-old, of Shortly Bridge, County Durham, died the following year.
Father-of-one Husband, the main perpetrator who was in charge of the kitchens at the Borstal from 1975 to 1981, may have hand-picked hundreds of boys to abuse on a daily basis over a 17-year period. Previous investigations carried out by Durham Constabulary in 2002 and 2005 resulted in two more men being convicted. Another member of staff at the detention centre near Consett, storeman Leslie Johnson, was imprisoned for six years for abusing a boy at the centre. Johnson also died after being released from prison.
In 2006, it was revealed there were documents showing Husband had been investigated for importing homosexual pornography into the prison service 10 years before he preyed on inmates at Medomsley. Statements given to police by prison officers who worked with Husband suggested suspicions were rife about his preference for young boys in the kitchens, where sex toys and pornography were found when searched.
Transcripts of interviews also revealed thousands of indecent pictures of children were found on computers seized from Husband’s home and a URC church office. Further evidence emerged that colleagues of Husband suspected he was molesting boys at the time but did nothing.
The centre closed in 1988 after the abuse came to light but has since reopened as a secure training unit.
Jordans Lead Child Abuse Solicitor, Lisa Jackson, said: “Jordans has acted on behalf of a many victims of Medomsley Detention Centre for a number of years and continue to do so. Durham police have confirmed to us that there will be an expose on Medomsley Detention Centre on BBC Inside Out, Monday 27th January 2014. We hope that viewers will gain a better understanding of the horrific crimes that took place.”