Two senior members of staff who were trusted to care for children with learning and emotional difficulties at two residential schools for vulnerable children instead groomed and sexually abused the boys they were meant to care for.

It is alleged complaints about the abuse at Feversham School, in Walbottle, Newcastle, and Shotley Park, in Shotley Bridge, Consett, were ignored at the time and it was not until 23rd April 2014 that the pair were jailed at Newcastle Crown Court.

John Duncan, 61, began working as a social worker at the Dr Barnardo’s home at Shotley Park in 1977, where he was promoted to team leader during the abuse. In 1986 he began working as a residential social worker and lived onsite at Feversham School. He was promoted to senior social worker in 1987 and by 1989 he was deputy head of care.

Duncan had been imprisoned for nine years in 2001 after admitting sexually abusing two boys at Feversham School and Shotley Park. Further attacks came to light more recently and he was convicted of sex attacks against a further seven boys at the two schools.

One of those victims took to the witness box and read out a victim impact statement. “I told staff what he (Duncan) had done but I was made to feel like a liar. I was taken to the local police station and pressured by the police, who said I was a troubled child and Les (Duncan) was a respected member of staff. The police told me I was a liar and I would not be believed.”

Kevin Brown, 58, began working at Feversham School in 1978 as a residential social worker when he was 22. Shortly afterwards he was promoted to become a senior residential child care officer and was in charge of a unit. Between 1978 and 1996 Brown launched sex attacks against a number of young boys.

Brown had already been jailed for eight years in 2011 for the abuse of three children at Feversham. As part of the latest prosecution he abused a further seven boys.

The court heard that although the two men were at Feversham School together for nine years there is no evidence they carried out the abuse together. One victim was abused by both Duncan and Brown on separate occasions.

Duncan, of Gateshead, got 15 years for various offences including buggery, indecent assault and indecency with a child. Jamie Hill QC, for Duncan, said he maintains denials about the abuse. Brown, of Benwell, got six years for offences of indecent assault. Toby Hedworth QC, for Brown, read a statement to the victims from his client which read, in part: “I’m truly sorry for the harm, damage and distress I’ve caused to so many people.”

Both men must sign the sex offender register for life and were made subject to sexual offences prevention orders aimed at curbing their behaviour once they are released.

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