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2 February 2017, 10:09 | Updated: 2 February 2017, 10:18
Detectives investigating allegations of historic sexual and physical abuse at a County Durham young offenders institution have identified 32 suspects
In August 2013 Durham Constabulary announced it was opening a new investigation – ‘Operation Seabrook’ - into allegations from ex-inmates of Medomsley Detention Centre, near Consett.
It has become the largest investigation of its kind in the country - even bigger than Operation Yewtree.
The ex-detainees were all in their ‘teens when they were sent to Medomsley at various dates from the 1960’s to when the centre closed in 1988, for what were often relatively minor offences.
They typically spent six to eight weeks at the Home Office-run facility before being released.
Previous police investigations in 2003 and 2005 led to the conviction and jailing of Neville Husband and Leslie Johnson, former members of staff at the centre who have since died.
Since August 2013, a total of 1,396 men have contacted the Operation Seabrook team to report they were victims of either sexual or physical assaults. Of the sexual reports, approximately two-thirds have said they were sexually assaulted by either Husband or Johnson.
In November 2014 police began the process of interviewing ex- members of staff who worked at Medomsley during the 1960’s and though to the 1980’s.
While several have died in the intervening years, 32 suspects have been identified. All have now been spoken to, the majority as voluntary attenders at local police stations.
The officer leading Operation Seabrook, Temporary Detective Superintendent Steve Chapman, said the investigation remains focused around its original objectives.
“We now have a significant understanding of how Medomsley Detention Centre operated during that time and we have ensured victims have been fully updated on the investigation so far. Counselling and professional support has also been available to anyone who needed help, and I am really pleased that so many people have taken us up on this offer.
“While 32 advice files have now been submitted to the CPS, the investigation team constantly reviews all new material which enters the incident room, and this number may increase. We hope to have specific charging decisions sometime in the summer.
“I am really pleased with the progress of this investigation so far and the dedication of both the investigators and the Crown Prosecution Service in working together to ensure all available evidence is considered in the lead up to decisions being made.”
Counselling and support for victims of Medomsley remains available via the local Sexual Assault Referral Centre, known as The Meadows – 0191 301 8554.