Blyth Valley MP urges child abuse victims to come forward

Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell wants victims of child abuse to come forward after a constituent claims he experienced abuse in a children's home

Figures show that the number of children at risk of neglect or abuse has risen dramatically
Figures show that the number of children at risk of neglect or abuse has risen dramatically

Victims of historical abuse in North East children’s homes have been urged to come forward by an MP.

Ronnie Campbell, MP for Blyth Valley, highlighted the case of his constituent Terry Priestner, in parliament.

Mr Priestner alleges he was abused physically and sexually in a series of care homes in Northumberland in the 1970s.

But Mr Priestner has been unable to convince police to investigate - and wants other victims to join him in demanding an inquiry, the MP said.

Mr Campbell said authorities had been quick to act over claims of abuse by celebrities such as Jimmy Saville, but had not shown the same urgency when it came to his constituent.

He said he had no way of knowing if Mr Priestner’s allegations were true. But he said that Operation Rose, an inquiry into child abuse in the North East which was widely criticised for ruining the lives of innocent carers, teachers and social workers, may have missed genuine case.

Operation Rose was conducted by Northumbria Police after a woman in her 20s disclosed she and a friend had been abused as children in care.

Officers wrote to 1,800 former residents and homes in Northumberland, Newcastle, North Tyneside, Gateshead, South Tyneside and Sunderland all came under investigation. The three-year inquiry led to six convictions, with the final case in 2002.

Emily Barber Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell
Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell
 

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Campbell told ministers that Mr Priestner had been repeatedly told abuse was “just what happened in the 1970s”.

The MP said: “Terry Priestner wants publicity, he want publicity because he had other inmates with him in the homes who were abused in the homes as well... he doesn’t know where they are and he wants them to come forward.

“He says these abusers, the Jimmy Savile’s and the rest of those celebrities, they aren’t getting away with it and neither are these people who were working for the council social services. They should not get away with it.”

But responding to the debate, children and families minister Edward Timpson said Mr Priestner’s case had been looked at by police and no way to proceed had been found. He added Mr Priestner could contact the Independent Police Complaints Commission if he felt this decision was wrong.

Northumbria Police’s Chief Constable Jo Farrell said: “In November 2012 Northumbria Police was contacted by a man reporting sexual abuse and other offences.

“The man had previously spoken to police as part of Operation Rose. The most serious of the sexual abuse allegations made by the man were investigated during Operation Rose and his case was reviewed again by specialist child abuse investigators in 2012.

“It has been concluded that there was no evidence upon which new charges could be brought.

“We take all allegations of child sexual abuse - current or historic - very seriously and have specially trained officers able to deal with sensitive issues in confidence. We would urge anyone who wishes to report child sexual abuse, no matter how long ago it may have taken place, to contact Northumbria Police and all reports will be investigated sensitively.”

Durham Police earlier this year re-opened an inquiry into allegations of abuse at Medomsley juvenile detention in County Durham. Church Minister Neville Husband and store man Leslie Johnson were jailed in 2003 and 2005 respectively for abuse, and more than 80 people have since contacted police.

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