Durham police, who are investigating sexual abuse at Medomsley detention centre in County Durham, believe they have uncovered an organised paedophile ring operating in the 1970s and 80s with more than 500 potential victims.
The head of a major inquiry into historical abuse at the detention centre said the inquiry was triggered by mounting evidence about isolated individuals. However, they were now investigating a complex paedophile ring in what is the biggest investigation into abuse at Medomsley undertaken by the police force.
Neville Husband, a former prison officer at the centre who had sole charge of the kitchens, was jailed for eight years in 2003 for committing sex attacks on five young male inmates between 1977 and 1984. His sentence was increased to 10 years in 2005 after new victims came forward and he admitted to attacks on four more boys.
In 2012 it was revealed he had raped boys on a daily basis for more than 15 years, while other staff allegedly turned a blind eye. His former colleague Leslie Johnson, a storeman, was jailed for six years in 2005 for sexual offences.
The pair, who have since died, were originally thought to be “bad apples”, but now Durham police are convinced that Husband was part of a group of paedophiles who systematically preyed on vulnerable teenagers, particularly those who had been in care and did not have family who would visit them.
Victims have spoken of how they were sometimes raped at the centre, and other times at Husband’s home by a number of abusers. After being released one former inmate went to Consett police station to report what had happened at Medomsley and was told it was a criminal offence to make such allegations against prison officers when he was on licence.
In 2009, the then Labour government paid out a total of £512,000 in compensation to 12 Medomsley victims. For six years, the Home Office had fought compensation claims, using the statute of limitations to avoid payment in a costly legal fight that went all the way to the House of Lords, and even suggesting that one victim was “genetically predisposed” to being abused.
Those who were compensated hoped for an apology from the government, but the home secretary at the time, Jack Straw, told them “the terms of the agreement did not include an apology”.
Anyone with information that may assist the inquiry can contact Durham police on 101 or 0345 60 60 365.
Timeline (Sourced from The Guardian)
1969: Prison officer Neville Husband is arrested for possession of pornographic material while working in a kitchen at Portland Borstal in Dorset. The material depicts teenage boys. Police and the prison service accept his explanation that he was researching a book on homosexuality.
1970: Husband moves to Medomsley.
1977: Immediately after the inmates release he reports being raped by Husband to local police. He is told he will be arrested for making complaints about prison officers.
1985: Storeman Leslie Johnson is arrested at Medomsley. Prison officers find pornographic material and sex aids in Husband’s locker. Husband is transferred to Frankland prison. No action is taken against him.
1990: Husband retires from the prison service and receives an Imperial Service medal for serving with “diligence and fidelity”.
1990: Johnson pleads guilty to sexually assaulting two boys, one at Medomsley. He receives a nine-month suspended sentence.
2003: Husband is jailed for eight years for attacks between 1977 and 1984.
2005: Husband’s sentence is increased to 10 years after he admits further abuse.
2005: Johnson is jailed for six years for separate sexual offences.
2007: The Crown Prosecution Service decides it is “not in the public interest” to proceed with charges that Husband abused a boy at Deerbolt youth offenders’ institution after he left Medomsley and Frankland.
2009: The government pays £512,000 in compensation to 12 victims.
2010: Husband dies.
2012: It is revealed that Husband’s abuse was on a greater scale than previously thought. Police re-open the investigation after more victims come forward.
2014: Durham police say they are investigating an organised paedophile ring operating from Medomsley with more than 500 potential victims.