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In 2013, Durham Police initiated a large scale investigation of historic physical and sexual abuse of boys who were being confined at Medomsley detention centre, Consett in the 1970’s and 80’s.

The detention centre was built in 1960 and it was only operational for 28 years, closing in 1988. The boys were detained here for six to eight weeks, aged between 17 and 21 years old, for having committed relatively minor offences.

The aim of these detention centres was to keep younger prisoners away from those with a large criminal history; the older criminals were believed to hold more influence for these younger males to make a life of crime. The centres delivered a “short, sharp, shock” with a demanding “background of discipline and control… to develop personal relationships with the young men so they will be able to achieve a balance in their lives.”

The prosecutor James Hill QC said that there was an “atmosphere of fear and violence throughout the institution”.

Following numerous trials that have come from the investigation, named Operation Seabrook, five former prison officers were convicted on the 12th March 2019.

Teesside Crown Court has now lifted the reporting restriction on these trials and allowed for the men guilty of these offences to be published. They are:

  • Christopher Onslow, 72, convicted of inflicting grievous bodily harm, wounding and misconduct in public office. Acquitted of indecent assault.
  • John McGee, 74, convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and misconduct in public office. Acquitted of sexual assault.
  • Brian Johnson Greenwell, 71, convicted of misconduct in public office. Acquitted of sexual assault and physical assault.
  • Kevin Blakely, 67, convicted of two counts of misconduct in public office. Acquitted of two counts of wounding and two of assault.
  • Alan Bramley, 70, convicted of misconduct in public office. Acquitted of wounding and two counts of assault.

During this large scale operation, there were reported to have been 70 detectives working on the case at any one time and in total 1,676 men disclosed being abused whilst at the detention centre. The police identified 32 suspects, but all of them have not faced charges due to insufficient evidence.

Neville Husband the chef at Medomsley and Leslie Johnson, caretaker, were imprisoned for sexually abusing detainees; both have since died.

The Detective Chief Superintendent, Adrian Green, from Durham Police gave his statement on the effects that these victims have endured following their abuse at the hands of these perpetrators:

“All of them have caused significant suffering and all of them have caused life-long impact on those individuals, and devastated their quality of life and their ability to cope going forward.”

Heather Wilkinson from the Crown prosecution Service describes that what these men did to the detainees and victims of these heinous crimes was a “brutal regime”.

The date for sentencing the convicted men above is still to be confirmed.

The team here at Ramsdens continue to support survivors of Medomsley Detention Centre, if this or any other establishment has affected you or a loved one please contact our Ramsdens Abuse team on 0113 887 1834 for a confidential discussion. Alternatively, you can text LAW to 67777 or make an enquiry using the enquiry form and we will be in touch when it is convenient for you.