When a short sharp shock policy turns into mass sexual and physical abuse

While attention has been focused on a Westminster paedophile ring an extraordinary police investigation into a now closed young offenders institution in Durham is revealing the mass abuse of inmates.

No fewer than nearly 900 people  have come forward alleging physical and sexual abuse  at Medomsley young offenders institution in Durham  dating back to 1970s and 1980s  a decade or so after a trial did convict two people of abuse.in 2003.

The investigation was triggered after former prison officer Neville Husband was jailed for eight years for abusing five youths.Others coming forward and he was subsequently jailed for a further two years for other attacks.He died in 2010, after being released from prison.

His former colleague Leslie Johnson, who was jailed for six years in 2005 for sexual offences, has also since died.

But now I gather Durham Police  have traced 24 other people involved in the abuse – six of them have also since died – but  up to 18 people could well be charged – if the Crown Prosecution Service agrees they should face justice.

The abuse not only took place inside the closed institution but I gather inmates were taken off the premises across Durham to be physically and sexually abused.

If the case goes ahead it will be the largest number of people ever abused in one institution. There is also an interesting cross reference to Neville Husband’s previous job at Portland prison in Dorset..It is worth reading a blog by Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform here linking issues at the two penal institutions.

Before  reporting restrictions severely limit what can be said – one common factor is emerging – many of the people who were abused at a time when the Thatcher government was enthusiastically pursuing under William Whitelaw the ” short sharp shock ” policy – a tough regime for petty offenders aimed at making them go straight.

I am sure Willie Whitelaw and Margaret Thatcher did not intend to promote sexual and physical abuse of young offenders – but what does appear to have happened is that the policy in this one institution became a licence for this  type of abuse.

In some sense the historic disclosures resonate with today’s government’s punitive views -pursued particularly by Chris Grayling, the current justice secretary- whether it is banning access to books for prisoners or the record suicides among young people in prisons.

If people are treated like dirt by politicians and are seen by society to be worthless – then those in charge of them might well be tempted to abuse them because it doesn’t matter what happens to them. Given Chris Grayling unlike Theresa May, the home secretary,is on record to a member of the public that he thinks having an inquiry into sexual abuse is  “a waste of money” one wonders whether there are current Medomsley’s in the present system.

6 thoughts on “When a short sharp shock policy turns into mass sexual and physical abuse

  1. The short sharp shock police was not original . Corporal punishment was reintroduced after it had been banned from Approved schools and approved schools under the leadership of Barbara Kahan and her husband Vladamir. While the couple rejected the concept that some children were born depraved they acted that some children had developed into psychopathic adoelscants but the approach was to pevent progression into youbng offenders students. They were not opposed to locking adolescents in secured accommodation for a a female adolescent who had been depraved by men locked up for three years prevented at least one if not more births they were ill equipped to bring up, at least that was the theory of the fundamental Freudians who ruled children social work professional training at that time.

    It was one thing as Barbara did to persuade her Council magistrates and probation to place children in care rather than approved schools as she did after successfully getting the preventive measures of the Children and Young persons Act 1963 but it was a significant error of judgment to press for the 1969 abolition of the The Approved School with the amalgamation of the Approved into the new Community Homes system (Education on premises) and children regional planning system coinciding with the creation of Social Services Department, the flawed concept of generic social work, and the reorganisations of Local Government and the National health was an even greater disaster with horrific consequences.
    What had happened that far from changing the Pindown approach of the Approved schools the staff transferred and gaining entry into the specialist establishments created by some social services department infected other staff. Throw into mix Militant tendency trade unionism and Freemasonry Protectionism and the cocktail of physical and sexual violence became common place, remaining hidden in many situations to placing social workers visiting day time, to chief officers and other senior staff including some homes managers. However managers who visits early morning, evenings weekends as those of us in some Children’s departments and former children inspectorate and some social services inspectorates.

    It should evident that many people, including some Councillors, Chief and senior officers. inspectors, probation and police were fully aware of what was going n and “approved” just as those beating starving and misusing children in Victoria era workhouses. the position reported in the Curtis Report, children evacuated or sent to the colonies,, the concept of enforced adoption cannot be said to be new

    What has to be grasped that the treatment at Medomsley was not just known to authorities but approved and Medomsley was not an exception but the rule. The Link between Medomsley- Witherwack Sunderland and Islington homes and elsewhere is that children and adolescents was not just raped and beaten but they were uses to rape and beat other children, just as prisoners are used in prison.

    The other significance is also to look beyond “gay” and “paedophiles” with genetic imperatives and predictions who deliberately entered schools, scout troops, residential care homes, or were marooned inside religious bodies etc to the general political and social attitude towards children as remains the situation towards women although the position in relation is changing but not quickly enough to achieve the tipping points. Teresa May is leading a charge within the Tory Party I am not clear who is in Labour UK although the SNP is Scotland., Plaid in Wales and out single Green at Westminster. The abolition of the House of Lords and most of the men in it from holding public office would be a good start


  2. What do you know about Greville Janner? Police raided his office and home in December 2013. Then it seems they put it all on the back burner until May 2014. By which time Lord Janner produced 2 doctors’ certificates saying he couldn’t be questioned due to galloping Alzheimers. Now tell me they’re not intent on continuing a cover up in Leicestershire.

    Do you think Lord Janner will, like Ernest Saunders, be the second case of a man who recovers from an unrecoverable disease? Where are the former news of the world photographers and their very long lenses?


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