Medomsley Detention Centre – Update: Trials and Convictions

By Helen Hughes, Associate Solicitor, Child Abuse Claims

It has been almost a year since we last reported on the former members of staff at Medomsley Detention Centre, Durham, who were originally summonsed to court on 21 November 2017 for alleged abuse and misconduct against inmates at Medomsley. Reporting restrictions have been in place since that time because there have been three separate trials covering a total of seven officers. Those reporting restrictions were lifted on 12/03/19 at the conclusion of the third trial.

Medomsley Detention Centre

By way of background information, Medomsley Detention Centre was built in 1960 to hold young offenders who had been detained for relatively minor offences.  It was ran by the Home Office and could hold more than 130 inmates, but usually housed around 70 offenders mainly from the North of England.  It operated under the ‘short, sharp, shock’ regime, the aim of which was to deter young offenders from a life of crime and as a result most sentences were relatively short.  Medomsley closed in 1988.

Allegations and Investigations

The stories that emerged from Medomsley years later were ones of violence and physical and sexual abuse.  Durham Police have now dealt with allegations from over 1,600 men regarding their time in Medomsley, making Operation Seabrook one of the largest investigations of its type in the country.

As a result of the police investigations several former members of staff were charged. The Detention Centre officers were Kevin Blakeley (65), Alan Bramley (69), Brian Greenwell (70), David McClure (62), John McGee (73), Christopher Onslow (71) and Neil Sowerby (61).

All seven men faced allegations of misconduct in a public office. Some were also charged with sexual abuse and physical abuse offences.  Trials started in September 2018 at Teesside Crown Court. The first trial began in September 2018 and related to the charges against former Detention Centre officer Onslow. He has now been convicted of numerous offences including Misconduct in a Public Office, GBH, ABH and Wounding.

At the second trial former Detention Centre Officers McGee, Greenwell and Sowerby were tried together. McGee was found guilty of ABH and Misconduct in a Public Office. Greenwell was found guilty of Misconduct in a Public Office. Sowerby was found not guilty.

In the third trial, which concluded on 12/03/19, former Detention Centre Officers Kevin Blakeley, Alan Bramley and David McClure were tried together. Blakeley was found guilty on two counts of Misconduct in Public Office, Bramley was found guilty on one count of Misconduct in Public Office and McClure was found not guilty on all counts.

All the complainants who came forward to the police showed incredible bravery to ensure that the perpetrators of the crimes committed against them would be brought to justice.

All five of the convicted former officers will be sentenced together in due course.

This is extremely positive news for the survivors of abuse at Medomsley after a very long and complex investigation by Durham Police as part of Operation Seabrook.

There was an earlier police investigation in relation to abuse at Medomsley.  This investigation related to sexual abuse against two former members of staff: the chef Neville Husband and caretaker Leslie Johnson.  Both individuals were found guilty and received custodial sentences, however both have now died.

Despite the past and recent convictions, there are still questions to be asked concerning the manner in which the police have investigated complaints about Medomsley. In particular why it has taken from the 1970s and 1980s when complaints about abuse were first made until now to secure these convictions and why there have been relatively few criminal convictions. It is of significant concern that the police did not take appropriate action when the first complaints were made decades ago.

If you have been affected by abuse at Medomsley Detention Centre and wish to speak to a solicitor specialising in advice on abuse claims, call 0800 138 4700. Solicitors Rob Casey, Caroline Chandler and David Greenwood are assisting ex-inmates of Medomsley Detention Centre and have extensive experience of helping ex-inmates of detention centres and prisons.