More than 120 come forward with claims of sex and physical abuse at North-East detention centre (From The Advertiser Series)
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More than 120 people come forward with claims of sex and physical abuse at Consett detention centre
Victim co-ordinator Marian Garland, The Meadowfield Sexual Assault Referral Centre manager Bev Stoker and Detective Superintendent Paul Goundry
More than 120 victims have now come forward to say they were subjected to a catalogue of horrendous sexual and physical abuse at a North-East detention centre.
Seasoned officers have been shocked by some of the new claims being made by the then teenage victims in what is developing into one of the largest inquiries of its kind - centred on Medomsley Detention Centre, near Consett, County Durham.
The allegations from victims living throughout the country follow Durham Constabulary’s announcement in August that it was launching a fresh investigation into claims that inmates were abused during the late 1970s and early 1980s.
About 80 experienced officers along with a support network - including Rape Crisis, The Meadows Sexual Assault Referral Centre and the NSPCC - have been drafted in to help deal with the unprecedented number of complaints.
Abuse at Medomsley first made national headlines when a previous investigation led to the conviction in 2003 of Neville Husband, an officer at the centre.
He was sentenced to ten years in jail for systematically raping several teenagers – some of whom came forward following his initial conviction.
After serving his sentence, the 72-year-old disgraced United Reformed Minister died of natural causes at his home in nearby Snows Green, Shotley Bridge, in 2010.
Husband’s friend, storeman Leslie Johnson, was jailed for six years for similar offences. He too has since died.
Detective Superintendent Paul Goundry, who is leading the inquiry codenamed Operation Seabrook, said: “We were told by existing victims of earlier prosecutions that if we made a media appeal a lot more people would come forward.
"We did not expect the numbers that have contacted us.
“About half of them are complaining of physical assault, but well over the kind you would expect from the short, sharp shock that was intended.
“Members of the investigation team, not just me, are shaken by some of the tales we have been told to date.”
He added: “We want every person who has been in Medomsley 60s, 70s and 80s to know about this police investigation and then make a conscious decision about whether or not to contact us, if they have been physically or sexually abused.
“We would particularly like to hear from anyone who may have been taken off the site.”
Det Supt Goundry: “Seasoned detectives have found it quite traumatic dealing with the experiences of these victims.
“They were effectively the most vulnerable kids in society, often placed miles away from home.”
Marian Garland, who has been appointed victim co-ordinator, said: “Initial inquiries would suggest that the sexual abuse went wider than Husband and Johnson.
“However, this needs to be confirmed by further careful investigation and analysis.
“There are allegations of physical assaults and sexual assaults. I think it was all about where you worked in Medomsley and where you were given your duties – and whether you were targeted for it.”
Det Supt Goundry said every victim would be seen by a Durham Constabularly detective regardless of where they have lived.
He said: “What we have to concentrate on is giving each victim a bespoke service and see that each victim gets a good outcome and that they don’t find themselves in a worse place in a years’ time than what they were before reporting it.”
He added all victims were expected to interviewed by February Det Supt Goundry said: “Identifying potential witnesses and suspects from nicknames descriptions will be a painstaking task.
“We have dedicated researchers and analysts who will produce a timeline, so we get a true understanding who was in the centre at what times.
“All that has to be done very carefully and slowly. And then we’ll move on to identifying potential perpetrators and suspects - if they are still alive.”
The centre was closed in 1988 and later reopened as the privately-run Hassockfield Secure Training Centre in 1999.
Anyone with information should contact the police on 101 or visit a dedicated page set up on www.durham.police.uk.
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