Police promise bespoke service to victims of sexual and physical abuse at North-East detention centre

The Advertiser Series: Victim co-ordinator Marian Garland, The Meadowfield Sexual Assault Referral Centre manager Bev Stoker and Detective Superintendent Paul Goundry Victim co-ordinator Marian Garland, The Meadowfield Sexual Assault Referral Centre manager Bev Stoker and Detective Superintendent Paul Goundry

It was meant to be a short sharp shock.

Teenagers convicted of petty crimes were given a jolt of discipline and hard work in the hope it would bring them to their senses and persuade them to mend their errant ways.

But what happened at Medomsley Detention Centre near Consett, in County Durham, in the late 1970s and early 1980s went far beyond what was intended by the judicial treatment.

Many suffered an appalling catalogue of sexual abuse at the hands of Neville Husband, an officer at the centre, who was jailed for ten years for attacks on several of the then teenagers.

He died of natural causes after being released and it only now that the full scale of abuse at the centre is becoming apparent.

Bottling up their trauma for decades, many other victims have now come forward – most not having told relatives or friends of their experiences.

In a groundbreaking approach officers at Durham Constabulary are determined to provide each victim with the best care available - setting up a network of support.

Detective Superintent Paul Goundry, who is heading Operation Seabrook, says: “We are in new territory and are offering each victim a bespoke service and care package.

“For me this is totally different to any prosecution or any other investigation that I have led.

“An investigation is usually about a successful outcome for a victim being a prosecution, whereas in this case that isn’t necessarily the priority.

“We have to think a lot deeper about what we can do to make things better for these individuals, who have been to hell and back in Medomsley - because many of them are aware the people responsible are already dead.

“We need to ensure that each victim gets a good outcome and they don’t find themselves in a worse place in a years’ time than what they were before reporting it.

“Hence we are involving experts in the counselling field and partners such as Rape Crisis, the Meadows Sexual Assault Referral Centre (Sarc), the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (Napac) and the NSPCC.

“And we have appointed a specialist victim co-ordinator Marion Garland to make sure no victims slip through the net.”

He adds: “When the police inquiries all done and dusted then we have to make sure we have something in place for them.

“We don’t want to use them and discard them and consequently we are looking at victim forums and circles of support for once the inquiry is finished.

“If the Crown Prosecution Service decides to charge some people and not others and we establish that others are dead, we don’t want to say just say “thank you very much it’s all finished” and then send them off.

“I don’t want them saying , “you have stirred everything up and left me in a darker place than what I was.

"That isn’t a successful outcome for a victim. A successful outcome is being in a better place than what they were in a year before reporting this crime.”

He adds, the NSPCC has a 24-hour helpline primed about the investigation – and it is going to facilitate events after any prosecutions.

Sarc manager Bev Stoker says: “We are providing ongoing support in a weekly basis to quite a few of these victims.

“They have been in Medomsley and they haven’t told anybody at all.

“They have walked around and held it as best they can for 30 to 40 years - trying to deal with it but not actually being fully able to.

“There are lots of feelings going around, including shame, anger, anxiety and depression.

“Obviously with the press coverage that has opened the lid of of the box again and all these feelings have come pouring out again.

“It is re-traumatising people in some respects – to take the step now to come forward and call us and wanting to know what options are available.”

“We have had 17 victims call the Sexual Assault Referral Centre directly just for advice and we have reported it to the police on behalf of 16 of them. “One of thjem didn’t feel able to report it officially, because it’s such a difficult thing for him to deal with.”

She adds: “We get them into counselling we give them weekly sessions and even after one session we have had such good feedback from some of the chaps.

“If there are any criminal proceedings we have a sexual violence advocate who will support them through that process.

“For moment it is about their mental health and well-being and trying to ease the burden they have been carrying for all these years.”

Det Supt Goundry says: “If a victim tells us of another victim we will not go cold calling on them. We don’t want people to be anxious about us.”

Anyone with information should contact the police on 101 or visit a dedicated page set up on www.durham.police.uk.

Alternatively anyone not wishing to speak to the police can call The Meadows on 0191-3018554.

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