Hundreds of boys could have been spared if police had acted, says former inmate of Medomsley detention centre in DurhamKevin Young, who was abused while a teenager at Medomsley. Photograph: Gary Calton
At least 14 former inmates of a detention centre who reported sexual or physical abuse by prison staff soon after being released were ignored by police when they complained.
The men who have made the complaints are among 1,396 former inmates, aged between 17 and 21 when they were detained, who have come forward to allege they were sexually and/or physically abused at Medomsley detention centre in Durham.
An investigation into Medomsley, being carried out by Durham police and known as Operation Seabrook, is the largest single abuse inquiry in the UK.
Operation Seabrook was launched after the Guardian reported in 2012 that the sexual abuse carried out by former prison officer Neville Husband was more extensive than previously thought. In March 2014, Durham police announced it was investigating a paedophile ring operating around Medomsley.
Thirty-two files on surviving suspects have subsequently been submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service and charges are expected to be brought later this year.
McCabe, 52, was in Medomsley in 1983, and says Husband repeatedly took him out of the centre to be raped by another man. “What eats away at me is the knowledge that victims complained to the police as far back as 1977,” he said.
“If the police had acted on those complaints, as they were duty-bound to do, myself and hundreds of other boys would have been spared the abuse we suffered at the hands of Husband and others in the perverted circle he belonged to.”
Husband, by then a church minister, was jailed for eight years in 2003 for committing sex attacks on five young male Medomsley 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.
Husband had been in sole charge of the kitchens at Medomsley. The 2012 Guardian investigation 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. Both are now dead. Medomsley was closed in 1988.
In the Guardian’s original investigation, Kevin Young, who was detained at the age of 17 and whose evidence helped convict Husband, said he had been taken to Husband’s house in 1977, ligatured and blindfolded and raped by three men. On the day of his release from Medomsley, Young went to Consett police station and reported Husband’s abuse. He said he showed a police officer the ligature marks on his neck, but was told it was a criminal offence to make such allegations against a prison officer. Durham police later confirmed that Young’s complaint had not been acted on.
One of the boys was accompanied by his parents when he reported the abuse to the police.
In the same email to McCabe, Goundry stressed that the abuse was not confined to the detention centre and that there could be a Masonic link to the paedophile ring.
“Husband took numerous inmates off site to be abused by others,” he wrote. “I believe this was a paedophile ring and that those involved could have come from a number of associations that Husband had eg his church activity; his drama group, his homosexual connections, his Medomsley work colleagues, his Masonic colleagues, potentially a mix of above.”
McCabe, who helps run the support group for victims of Medomsley, expressed concern about the length of time it was taking for the CPS in bringing prosecutions relating to Medomsley. He said victims were told almost two years ago that potential suspects had been identified and names sent to the CPS.
“We know that Husband and another convicted Medomsley abuser are dead and no doubt many of the victims have passed away. It seems sometimes as if the powers that be are waiting for these suspects to die before they face charges.”
David Greenwood, of Switalskis solicitors, which acts for some of the alleged victims, said: “It is unforgivable to make the victims (and indeed the accused) wait for so long before a CPS charging decision is made. This type of delay only fuels suspicions that powerful institutions like the police and prison service can use the system to their members’ advantage”.
Durham constabulary has confirmed the number of detainees who went to the police soon after release alleging they had been abused at Medomsley.
“Some reported these concerns at stations within County Durham, others went to their local police station which would have been in other force areas,” said Supt Steve Chapman, Operation Seabrook’s senior investigating officer “This remains an open line of inquiry and actions are in hand to establish whether there is a realistic possibility of any individuals who remain alive being identified.
“We have said from the outset this would be a long and complex investigation, and we understand the frustration many victims may feel, as well as the potential suspects and key witnesses. All victims are kept regularly updated and we are working closely with the CPS on a number of key areas, with a view to charging decisions being reached later this year,” said Supt Chapman.
A spokesman for the CPS North-East said: “The inquiry into alleged historic sexual and physical abuses at Medomsley detention centre is almost unprecedented in its scale. During the police investigation, approximately 1,350 former inmates reported that they had been subject to abuse while at Medomsley, with 32 suspects initially identified.
“For each file passed to the CPS there is a significant amount of evidence to scrutinise before a prosecution decision can be made, in line with the code for crown prosecutors. Before any such charging decision can be announced publicly, our first duty is to inform all of the victims in this case, which will require a significant amount of work in conjunction with our police partners.”