Tyne & Wear

Medomsley detention centre saw hundreds sexually abused

Neville Husband Image copyright PA
Image caption Neville Husband, who died in 2010, was in charge of the kitchen at Medomsley

An officer at a former youth detention centre sexually assaulted hundreds of inmates, it has emerged.

Neville Husband was jailed in 2003 for abusing five teenagers at the unit in Medomsley, County Durham.

Other victims then came forward, and in 2005 Husband admitted four more attacks. He died in 2010.

But the BBC's Inside Out programme has found the Ministry of Justice has spent £3.6m settling 237 compensation claims for sexual abuse committed by him.

Medomsley, which closed in 1988, held offenders aged between 17 and 21 who had committed relatively minor crimes.

But the regime - the "short, sharp, shock" designed to steer them away from a life of crime - was described as brutal, with one former inmate likening it to a "concentration camp, run on violence".

Five other former officers have now been convicted in connection with the physical abuse.

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Media captionRay Poar, who was 17 at the time, said the abuse had left him feeling ashamed all his life

However, for some victims the abuse was sexual. Husband was in charge of the kitchen and raped and abused young men on an "almost daily basis" over a period of years, police said, while other officers allegedly turned a blind eye.

One of his victims - who has waived his right to anonymity - was Ray Poar, sent to Medomsley at the age of 17 for stealing biscuits.

He said: "He shoved me against the wall and he had his hand around my throat, squeezing and squeezing tighter and tighter, and all the time telling me that I was going to do what he wanted.

"I just let him do it. I didn't want to go through that again, I didn't want to die.

"It was the same every time from then on. It became part of the day.

"I'm ashamed of myself... it's ruined my life, it's completely ruined it."

'Felt so disgusted'

Another victim, Dave Stoker, who has since died, was also aged 17 when sent to Medomsley for minor theft.

He told the BBC in 2015: "[Husband] told me if it got out he would make my life hell. I was frightened to tell anyone.

"I was so disgusted. I felt dirty and ashamed of myself. It's turned me to drink."

Mr Stoker developed cirrhosis of the liver and died in 2017.

Husband was jailed for eight years in 2003, and his sentence increased by a further two in 2005 after more victims came forward.

In the same year a storeman at the centre, Leslie Johnson, who has also since died, was sentenced to six years in jail for sexual offences.

Image caption Operation Seabrook has become one of the largest investigations of its kind in the UK

However, many more men came forward alleging sexual or physical abuse by a number of former officers and in 2013 Durham Police reopened its enquiries.

This became one of the largest investigations of its kind in the UK and the force said the current number of potential victims was "1,668 and rising".

The force said in a statement: "It is not possible to say how many men were sexually assaulted by Husband [as] victims may have named a male called "Neville", "The Chef" or "Husband", however in the absence of a formal ID Procedure (due to the fact the suspect deceased) we cannot categorically state that the male known personally to these victims is Husband.

"At this stage of the investigation we have in excess of 300 allegations linked to him, however, once the investigation is concluded it is highly likely that these numbers will be considerably higher."

'Brutal regime'

Det Supt Paul Goundry, who initially led the investigation, said: "They were sent there for riding in a stolen car, pinching a pedal cycle, minor shoplifting - you'd never dream of that nowadays.

"When they got there they were faced with what is effectively a brutal regime, and if you ended up in the kitchen you would almost certainly be raped or sexually abused."

A Freedom of Information request submitted by the BBC to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) revealed the MoJ has spent "£3.6m on damages settling 237 private law claims for compensation relating to sexual abuse committed by Neville Husband."

The MoJ said in a statement: "It is right that those responsible for such appalling behaviour are finally being brought to justice and we hope never to see abuse on this scale ever again.

"The culture of care and the safeguards in custody have improved hugely since Medomsley closed, but we are not complacent.

"We will continue to improve safeguards and track down any kind of abuse, and will continue working with police to bring to justice those who committed abuse in the past."

You can see more on this story on BBC Inside Out in the North East and Cumbria at 23:45 GMT on Wednesday 13 March 2019 and afterwards on the iPlayer.

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