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Friday, 03 February 2017

Police identify 32 suspects at young offenders' centre abuse scandal

Written by Tom Wilkinson

Detectives investigating hundreds of allegations of sexual and physical abuse at a young offenders' centre have identified 32 suspects who may be charged.

Since August 2013, Durham Police have run Operation Seabrook into claims from 1,396 ex-inmates of Medomsley Detention Centre, near Consett.

The force has put forward cases to the Crown Prosecution Service which will offer charging advice in the coming months.

The inmates were in their teens when they were sent to the centre for what were often minor offences which typically now would be dealt with in the community.

The alleged offences date from the 1960s to when Medomsley closed in 1988.

Inmates 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 (pictured) and Leslie Johnson, former members of staff who have since died.

Operation Seabrook has looked at more allegations involving these two and other members of staff.

Durham Police said of the men claiming sexual abuse, approximately two thirds said they were assaulted by either Husband or Johnson.

Detectives identified other staff they wanted to speak to and while some had died, they managed to interview others.

The force has now identified 32 suspects.

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: "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."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Durham Police.