Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Officer leading Medomsley detention centre abuse investigation steps down

Det Supt Paul Goundry has assured victims that the three year investigation will not be impacted by his retirement


16:47, 8 NOV 2016


The officer leading Operation Seabrook, Det Supt Paul Goundry


The senior officer leading the investigation into sex abuse at the infamous Medomsley detention centre in County Durham has stepped down.

Detective Superintendent Paul Goundry has headed up Operation Seabrook since it was established in August 2013. He has now retired to take up another role outside of the police force.

In a recent letter sent to victims he moved to assure them that the three year investigation will not be impacted by his retirement.

He said: “I have been invited to take on a newly created role outside of the police service, working as the project lead on an initiative which will serve the needs of sexual assault victims of all ages across County Durham and Darlington.

“In this position I will be working with all the relevant statutory agencies, looking at how we support victims of sexual abuse and whether the services which currently exist can be improved and co-ordinated more effectively.

“In order to take up this position, I have had to retire as a police officer which in turn means I had to give up my position as the senior investigating officer for Operation Seabrook.

“Please let me assure you, this will make no practical difference whatsoever to our ongoing investigation.”


The investigation into assaults on inmates at Medomsley Detention Centre is now the biggest child abuse inquiry in the UK. Operation Seabrook detectives in their office at Chester-Le-Street Police station.


Det Chief Insp Steve Chapman is set to take over the leadership role with Det Chief Insp Mick Callan remaining in post as deputy senior investigating officer.

In his letter Det Supt Goundry went on to say: “As you know, Mick has been involved in Seabrook from the outset therefore the investigation could not be in safer hands.”

The operation is one of the largest abuse investigations in UK criminal history and is attempting to establish what happened at Medomsley detention centre near Consett from the 1960s to 1988 when it closed.

More than 1,240 former inmates at Medomsley detention centre have now come forward to report being physically or sexually abused while being held at the facility.

The scale and complexity of the investigation meant the force bought in a team of experienced retired detectives.

The former detainees were all in their teens when they were sent to Medomsley for what were often relatively minor offences.

They typically spent six to eight weeks at the Home Office-run centre before being released.


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Thursday, 20 October 2016

Operation Seabrook - Medomsley Detention Centre 12/10/2016

‘Operation Seabrook’ is the criminal investigation into allegations of sexual and physical abuse perpetrated by staff against detainees at Medomsley Detention Centre near Consett, County Durham.

It was launched in August 2013 and is investigating incidents which happened over many years, principally the 1970's and 1980's. 

The three main aims of the investigation are:
* to ensure support is provided for victims so they are in a better place after contacting the police    
* to gain the fullest understanding of how Medomsley operated during those years 
* to secure evidence so that any potential offenders are brought to justice.

Anyone needing to make contact with the team in writing can email  operation.seabrook@durham.pnn.police.uk

The 'Seabrook' team has now heard from more than 1,350 former inmates at Medomsley who have reported they were abused while detained at the centre.

All of the surviving main suspects - 31 in total - have been identified, interviewed and prosecution files submitted to the CPS for advice.  This advice will then identify those individuals who are likely to be charged and also which victims or witnesses are likely to give evidence.

Update on the current state of the investigation; October 2016

There has been a recent change at the head of the Seabrook team, with the retirement of Det Supt Paul Goundry, who was the senior investigating officer (SIO).

In a recent letter sent to victims he said; "I have been invited to take on a newly created role outside of the police service, working as the project lead on an initiative which will serve the needs of sexual assault victims of all ages across County Durham and Darlington.

"In this position I will be working with all the relevant statutory agencies, looking at how we support victims of sexual abuse and whether the services which currently exist can be improved and co-ordinated more effectively.

"In order to take up this position, I have had to retire as a police officer which in turn means I had to give up my position as the SIO for Operation Seabrook.

"Please let me assure you, this will make no practical difference whatsoever to our ongoing investigation.

"Detective Chief Inspector Steve Chapman (pictured left), a very experienced SIO has been appointed to succeed me with Det Chief Insp Mick Callan remaining in post as deputy SIO.

"As you know, Mick has been involved in Seabrook from the outset therefore the investigation could not be in safer hands."

 Detective Constable Tracey Etchells remains the victim co-ordinator and Detective Sergeant Claire Errington continues to lead the dedicated team working full-time on Seabrook. In fact the Seabrook team has just increased its numbers with the appointment of Andy McConnell, a recently retired police inspector as the identification officer.

His role within Operation Seabrook will be to carry out the identification procedures which are governed by a set of rules to make the system as fair as possible.

Important - If you are a victim and your contact details have changed, for example, you have moved house or have a new phone number then please email the Seabrook team or call them via 101 so they can update their records.

Durham Constabulary continues to work with various organisations to provide the best possible support for victims. Access to support is available without the need to contact the police for those who feel unable to do so.

Independent Psychotherapist Zoe Lodrick





The following organisations can be contacted independently of the police for support .

NSPCC FREEPHONE HELPLINE (24 hrs):
National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children                                                                                    0808 800 5000
The helpline is available for anyone who has concerns about a child or anyone including adults who wish to discuss their own experience of abuse as a child or young person.
Contact can also be made via e mail : help@nspcc.org.uk  or by text 88858
Contact can be made anonymously if the caller so wishes.

NAPAC
National Association for People Abused in ChildhoodFreephone from all landlines and mobile networks 0808 801 0331.
Calls do not show on your bill; lines are open 10am to 9pm Monday - Thursday, and 10am to 6pm on Friday. NAPAC is unable to take messages or ring back. 

The Meadows:
The Meadows Sexual Assault Referral Centre (Darlington and Co Durham) 0191 301 8554
The Meadows will accept calls between the hours of 9am-3.30 pm Monday to Friday and can arrange one-to-one counselling sessions and can make referrals to similar centres throughout the UK.

Counselling does not involve discussing what has happened in relation to the assault, it aims to help you work through your feelings to aid the healing process.
Staff at the Meadows will not contact the police without your consent unless there are current concerns in respect of a child or vulnerable adult.

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Saturday, 1 October 2016

Durham Police ask for extra £1.5m to fund Medomsley Detention Centre abuse probe

The investigation is one of the biggest child abuse investigations in the UK with more than 1,300 victims coming forward 


Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
Ben Emmerson QC

Durham Constabulary has asked for an extra £1.5m on top of its normal budget to handle the massive investigation into abuse at Medomsley Detention Centre.

The force applied to the Home Office in 2015/16 for a special grant to help handle the costs of Operation Seabrook which is now the biggest child abuse inquiry in the UK.

A staggering 1,350 men have reported being physically or sexually assaulted at the County Durham detention centre during the 1970s and 1980s.

The Home Office and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) have yet to come to a decision on whether or not to agree with the amount suggested by Durham Constabulary in their bid.

Similar child sexual abuse investigation like Operation Hydrant, in Norfolk, and Operation Pallial, in North Wales, have been awarded special grant and have been granted at least half of the amount they requested.

Last year South Yorkshire Police requested £17m in extra funding for Operation Stovewood, the National Crime Agency-led investigation into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham and were granted £1.6m was agreed for 2015/16 and up to £5.9m for 2016/17.

The news comes as Ben Emmerson QC, the most senior lawyer working on an independent inquiry into historic child sexual abuse in England and Wales resigned.


Dave Higgens/PA Wire
Professor Alexis Jay

In his resignation letter, Mr Emmerson said he was no longer the “right person” for the role, but denied he had stepped down due to a difference of opinion with chair Professor Alexis Jay.

The inquiry was set up in 2014 to examine whether public bodies including the police have failed in their duty to protect children from sexual abuse. It will also examine claims of abuse involving “well-known people”.

Prof Jay is the fourth person appointed to lead the investigation.

She was appointed after its third chairwoman, New Zealand judge Justice Lowell Goddard, resigned in August this year, citing the “magnitude” of the inquiry and the “legacy of failure” from its beginnings.

An attempt to start the inquiry in 2014 was abandoned after two proposed chairwomen resigned.

Operation Seabrook is attempting to establish what happened at Medomsley Detention Centre, near Consett, in the 1960s, 70s and 80s.

The scale and complexity of the investigation meant the force bought in a team of experienced retired detectives to work on the case.

So far 31 suspects have been identified and interviewed and the CPS is currently reviewing prosecution files.

Last year detectives trawled the archives of the Chronicle to look for clues in any articles written about the detention centre.

Det Supt Paul Goundry
Det Supt Paul Goundry, who has led the two-year investigation, told ChronicleLive at the time how the victims’ accounts of horrific abuse have left even the most hardened long-serving detectives sickened.

He said: “This investigation is probably one of the most challenging the country has faced, not just due to the number of victims but also because Medomsley closed in 1986, which means we are talking about events that occurred between 30 and 50 years ago.

“The investigation team is made up of very experienced detectives who have built up close bonds with many of the victims. Some hardened detectives have been quite traumatised by the accounts of the victims.”

Overall, across England and Wales, police forces applied for £64m in special grants from the Home Office in the last two years - just over half (£32.7m) of the amounts requested by forces were awarded.

 Source

Monday, 12 September 2016

Departing judge says child abuse inquiry has ‘inherent problem’

12.09.16
 
 
The inquiry into historic allegations of child sexual abuse suffers from an “inherent problem” because its scope is too large, its former chair has said. 
 
Justice Lowell Goddard, who resigned in August, submitted a memo to the Home Affairs Select Committee setting out what she saw as the problems with the inquiry.

“It is clear there is an inherent problem in the sheer scale and size of the inquiry (which its budget does not match) and therefore in its manageability,” she said.

“Its boundless compass, including as it does, every state and non-state institution, as well as relevant institutional contexts, coupled with the absence of any built-in time parameters, does not fit comfortably or practically within the single inquiry model in which it currently resides. Nor is delivery on the limitless extent of all of the aspirations in its terms of reference possible in any cohesive or comprehensive manner.”

Justice Goddard said her departure should be an opportunity for a review of the inquiry. She added that after the inquiry was reconstituted under her leadership, it “proved in operational terms not to be a new inquiry with a completely fresh start, but rather a continuation and expansion of the previously existing inquiry in terms of its administration and management”.

The former chair said she was not consulted in the recruitment of additional staff for the new inquiry and some of the staff were unsuitable because they had no previous experience of running an inquiry of this kind. She also said that the inquiry’s public communications strategy needs to be “radically strengthened” in the future.

The inquiry suffered a further blow after victims’ groups threatened to boycott it. Raymond Stevenson, of the Shirley Oaks’ Survivors Association, said there was no guarantee that the inquiry’s investigation into the treatment of children in care in Lambeth was “truly independent” because the Home Office were heavily involved in both this inquiry and previous investigations.

John McCabe, a spokesperson for victims of alleged abuse at Medomsley detention centre, said he was urging victims and their lawyers to boycott the inquiry because it was not taking evidence from victims who were abused over the age of 18.

Source

Bar on evidence of Medomsley inmates is a slap in the face for victims of abuse


Lowell Goddard, who resigned as head of the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse in August, suggested that it should be remodelled to focus it ‘more towards current events and thus focusing major attention on the present and future protection of children’. Photograph: Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images

Almost three years ago I was asked by Durham constabulary to advise on detention centre regimes as background to an investigation of allegations of abuse at HM detention centre Medomsley. Its work was later taken over by the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse. Now we learn (Victims threatening boycott of child abuse inquiry, 9 September) that the inquiry’s terms of reference preclude them from hearing evidence from those who were 18 or over at the time, though it will consider behaviour commencing before the age of 18.

Until 1970 the age of majority in the UK was set at 21. Medomsley was classified as a senior detention centre and thus held those between the ages of 17 and 21, all of them children as the law then stood. Medomsley opened in 1961, so the inquiry’s terms of reference will preclude about nine years’ worth of serious allegations, except for those made by a few former trainees at the very lowest end of the age scale.

Almost three years ago I was asked by Durham constabulary to advise on detention centre regimes as background to an investigation of allegations of abuse at HM detention centre Medomsley. Its work was later taken over by the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse. Now we learn (Victims threatening boycott of child abuse inquiry, 9 September) that the inquiry’s terms of reference preclude them from hearing evidence from those who were 18 or over at the time, though it will consider behaviour commencing before the age of 18.

Until 1970 the age of majority in the UK was set at 21. Medomsley was classified as a senior detention centre and thus held those between the ages of 17 and 21, all of them children as the law then stood. Medomsley opened in 1961, so the inquiry’s terms of reference will preclude about nine years’ worth of serious allegations, except for those made by a few former trainees at the very lowest end of the age scale.


A Durham team was sensitively handling very many serious allegations and had worked hard to gain the confidence of former trainees. Now, three years on, the latter are to be given a metaphorical slap in the face. The inquiry’s terms of reference should be amended so as to avoid inflicting another form of abuse upon those traumatised individuals who seemingly misplaced their trust in the system by coming forward in the first place. 
Peter Quinn
 (Former prison governor)
Helperby, North Yorkshire

Lowell Goddard makes a plea for the independent inquiry into sex abuse to focus on the future protection of children vulnerable to abuse, while Eric Allison and Simon Hattenstone argue passionately for those previously abused while in the care of the state to be heard. While it may be that such unchecked, terrible abuse in a state institution is a thing of the past, the attitude to the “bad” boys and girls in our custodial institutions has changed little over the years.

Where was the public outrage following the Panorama programme earlier this year about the treatment of children in a secure training centre? And why, despite a change in management and reassurances from government, did the recent inspection report on the same centre still express grave concerns? Children in custody, whatever crime they have committed, are in the care of the state, and the state has a duty to treat them with respect; it is only a small step from lack of care and respect to actual abuse. The lack of concern for and interest in these children may create a climate where such abuse is not only a thing of history.
Pam Hibbert
Llangammarch Wells, Powys

Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

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Thursday, 8 September 2016

All the sex abuse victims must be heard

The historic abuse inquiry won’t listen to those who suffered if they were over 18 at the time. But they were vulnerable, traumatised, and their lives ruined

 Lowell Goddard, who resigned last month as chair of the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse. Photograph: Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images 

Even the fiercest critic of Dame Lowell Goddard must admit she’s got a point. Earlier this week, Goddard revealed why she resigned last month as chair of the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse. She sent a 10-page critique of the setup of the inquiry to the home affairs select committee, saying it was too big, took in too many institutions (church, councils, schools, Westminster, Medomsley detention centre – to name but a few of its 13 strands), was too complex, went back too far (60 years), would take too long (possibly 10 years), and was underfunded.

Many commentators have been too busy sniping at the New Zealand judge’s annual financial package of £500,000, her apparent failure to grasp key legal issues, the amount of time she has spent overseas in the past year, and the lack of progress, to acknowledge the one crucial fact: Goddard is right.

It was to widespread approval that Theresa May, then home secretary, announced the launch of the public inquiry in 2014. But what a mess it has been. Its remit was to investigate whether public bodies and other non-state institutions have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse in England and Wales. In other words, pretty much all child sex abuse that has or might have occurred over the past 60 years. It was a remit so broad as to make success impossible.

In her memo this week Goddard wrote: “I have recommended in my report to the home secretary that my departure provides a timely opportunity to undertake a complete review of the inquiry in its present form, with a view to remodelling it and recalibrating its emphasis more towards current events and thus focusing major attention on the present and future protection of children.”

This might well be the most sensible option. But it is crucial that historic institutional abuse should not be ignored. As May herself said only three months ago: “Perpetrators must never be allowed to think that their horrific acts will go overlooked or go unpunished ... Victims and survivors … deserve to be heard now, just as they should have been years ago, and they deserve justice, just as they did then.”

Nowhere are the failings of the inquiry, or the need to provide justice for victims, more apparent than in the case of Medomsley, home to some of the most horrific sex abuse this country has witnessed, in a 15-year period from the 1960s to the 1980s – when youngsters were sent to this detention centre in Consett, County Durham, for committing minor offences.

Throughout, the prison officer Neville Husband, who ran the kitchens, preyed on the children in his care. In 2003 Husband was convicted of abusing five young inmates, after pleading not guilty. Two years later Husband’s colleague, Leslie Johnson, a storeman at the Home Office-run centre, was jailed for similar offences. They have both since died.

The story of Medomsley was barely reported when the men were convicted. This was a time when Britain didn’t have much sympathy for bad lads who deserved whatever short sharp shocks were in store for them. Soon after a Guardian investigation in 2012, Durham police launched an investigation, Operation Seabrook. By last month it had heard from more than 1,350 inmates who say they were sexually and/or physically abused at the centre. The investigation has identified 31 surviving suspects, and sent files to the Crown Prosecution Service.

The stories we heard were unimaginable. Kevin Young told us he was taken out of the centre, a rope was put round his neck till he passed out and he was then raped by three or four men in Husband’s house. When he was released from Medomsley just before his 18th birthday, he went straight to Consett police station and said that he had been raped again and again. He was told that by making such a claim he could find himself locked up again. He has been suicidal, and has never managed to live in peace.

When victims like him heard about the police investigation they felt hopeful. But when details of the inquiry emerged that hope faded. Most of the men who were abused are now in their 50s and 60s. They have suffered long enough, and most do not have the mental reserves to wait a decade for the outcome of a public inquiry. More importantly, the alleged rapists are now old men. The longer an inquiry takes, the more chance they will have of evading justice. The very scale of the inquiry could let them off the hook.

While victims are hoping that the Crown Prosecution Service will charge some of the alleged perpetrators, the likelihood is that few will ultimately face a criminal prosecution. (The CPS only charges people when it believes it has a 50% or greater chance of success.) The reality is that for most victims the chance to be heard would come at the inquiry rather than in a criminal court. No wonder they were dismayed when they learned it could take a decade to reach its conclusion.

Even more perverse, though, is that they’ve learned the inquiry will hear evidence only from victims who were under the age of 18. It is believed that 80% of the 1,350 people who have claimed they were abused were 18 or over at the time, meaning at most 20% would be able to give evidence to the inquiry. And yet the age of homosexual consent (not that there was any issue of consent) for males was 21 at the time they were abused. Indeed, they had been sent to Medomsley rather than prison because they were young and needed protection. For their sins, they were raped by officers of the state while “innocent” members of staff simply looked away. At Husband’s trial, one officer said: “Husband used to keep one boy behind in the kitchen at night. We always felt sorry for that boy.” None were charged with failing in their duty of care.

Many of the victims only spent a few months in Medomsley. Yet it ruined their lives. Now they want the chance to describe what happened, and how there was a culture among staff of turning a blind eye.

John McCabe says that he was raped repeatedly in his six months at Medomsley – by Husband and by other men who have never been prosecuted. But he will not get his chance to tell his story to the inquiry because he was 18 at the time. That is why he and other Medomsley victims have told their lawyers they will boycott the inquiry.

In Goddard’s memo this week, she said she hoped her resignation would provide the opportunity to reassess the remit of the public inquiry. McCabe is one of many former Medomsley inmates who want to see the detention centre separated and given a public inquiry of its own. “I cannot stand by and see victims, who were detained by the state and abused by the state at Medomsley, stand before an inquiry that is not fit for purpose,” he says. As far as McCabe is concerned, only once they have all had the opportunity to have their say can they start to repair themselves.

Source

 

Hundreds of alleged abuse victims threaten to boycott Jay inquiry


Former inmates at Medomsley detention centre in Consett, County Durham, where abuser Neville Husband preyed on children and young adults over a 15-year period from the late 1960s onwards,
have written to their lawyers stating that they want to withdraw from the inquiry after learning that it will not hear evidence from people who were aged 18 or over at the time they were abused.

The inquiry has been beset by problems. This week Dame Lowell Goddard, the third chair to resign, sent a 10-page critique of its setup to the home affairs select committee, calling for a complete review and remodelling to focus it “more towards current events and thus focusing major attention on the present and future protection of children”. She said the scope of the inquiry, including every state and non-state institution, meant that “the terms of reference in their totality cannot be met”.

On Wednesday the inquiry was further undermined when another group of victims, Shirley Oaks Survivors Association, threatened to pull out after suggesting that the independence of the inquiry had been undermined by the fact that the new chair, Prof Alexis Jay, had spent 30 years working in social services.

Shirley Oaks was a children’s home run by Lambeth social services in south London where hundreds of children were allegedly abused in the 1970s and 1980s. Now the Medomsley group, who make up the biggest single strand of the inquiry, are demanding a separate public inquiry, and say the truth will only come out if all victims are heard.

Husband, who ran the kitchens at Medomsley, was convicted in 2003 of sexually abusing five young inmates in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. He was jailed for 10 years and died in 2010.

Following a Guardian investigation into Medomsley in 2012, many more of Husband’s victims came forward, and in 2013 Durham police launched Operation Seabrook, a “criminal investigation into allegations of sexual and physical abuse perpetrated by staff against detainees at Medomsley”.

It is the biggest investigation the force has undertaken, with more than 1,350 former Medomsley detainees who claim they were abused having being interviewed.

In May, Durham police announced that “all of the surviving main suspects, 31 in total, had been identified, interviewed and prosecution files submitted for advice.” Charges are likely to be brought in the near future.

John McCabe, a spokesman for hundreds of the alleged Medomsley victims, said 80% of those interviewed by Durham police were aged 18 or over at the time they claim they were abused. In July he received a letter from the inquiry team stating that it would not be taking evidence from such victims as they “were not seen as children”.

McCabe said the Medomsley victims could not be divided, and he has written to the 26 lawyers who represent the victims asking them to boycott the inquiry if it will not hear from the over-18 group. He pointed out that at the time he says he was abused at the centre, in 1983 when he was 18, the age of consent for gay men was 21.

“We were sexually abused under the age of consent, so how can they say they cannot take evidence from more than 1000 young people who were abused while in the care of the state?” he said. McCabe said he wished the inquiry well but “in its present format it is not fit for purpose and we are urging Medomsley victims to boycott it”.

David Greenwood, of Switalskis Solicitors, who represents 300 former Medomsley inmates, said he was supportive of the child abuse inquiry but would argue that all Medomsley victims should be heard.

“These young people were imprisoned by the state and were completely powerless at the time they were abused,” he said. “My clients are currently asking for a boycott. However, I will argue that the inquiry should take evidence from all Medomsley victims irrespective of their age at the time of their abuse. If the inquiry rejects my argument, my advice to my clients may change.”

A spokesperson for the abuse inquiry said: “The inquiry is bound by its terms of reference, which are set by the Home Office. Under its terms of reference, a child means anyone under the age of 18.

However, the panel will consider abuse of individuals over the age of 18, if that abuse started when the individual was a minor.”

The Home Office has not responded to the Guardian’s request for a comment.

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