Four Quizzed Over Medomsley Abuse

13 November 2014, 18:14 | Updated: 13 November 2014, 18:21

Police investigating historic sexual and physical abuse at a County Durham detention centre have interviewed four retired prison officers under caution, the force has said.

A total of 915 former inmates have come forward to report they were physically or sexually abused by staff at Medomsley Detention Centre.

The men detectives interviewed were ex-officers who worked there during the 1970s and 1980s.

They attended on a voluntary basis, were cautioned but not arrested, Durham Police said. More former prison officers were expected to be interviewed over the coming weeks.

Durham Police launched Operation Seabrook in August last year to investigate abuse at the borstal which closed in 1988. Detainees, often sent there for relatively minor offences, typically spent six to eight weeks at the Home Office-run centre 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.

Of the 915 men who have come forward to report abuse, around a third said either Husband or Johnson sexually abused them.

Detective Superintendent Paul Goundry, leading the inquiry, said:
``Our initial priority was to gain a full understanding of how Medomsley Detention Centre operated during that time.

``We also needed to make counselling and professional support available to anyone who needed help, and I am really pleased that almost 200 victims have taken up this offer.

``Many of those who have contacted us had never revealed to anyone else what had happened to them at Medomsley all those years ago.

``It has been a traumatic experience for some, and I appreciate their courage in coming forward and making that initial call.

``A principal aim was to identify a number of people we needed to speak to about the allegations that have been made.

``The actions we are now taking are crucial to that aspect of the operation, and there are a number of other former employees we will be making contact with over the next few weeks.

``We have been liaising with the Prison Officers Association over the last few months and anyone we interview is made aware of the legal support the POA can provide.

``There is still a huge amount of work which has to be done and we are in close contact with the Crown Prosecution Service, who ultimately will decide if there are grounds to charge individuals with criminal offences.''

Up to 70 detectives from the force's major crime team and safeguarding teams have been involved in Operation Seabrook.