The Government could be forced to pay out £12m compensation after a sexual abuse scandal was exposed at a North East detention centre, a solicitor for the victims said last night.
It comes as police are inundated with calls about Medomsley Detention Centre after a probe covering the late 1970s and early ’80s was reopened in the autumn.
It is thought hundreds of young boys - most of whom were behind bars for crimes that would today warrant a community penalty - were systematically targeted by sexual predators. Solicitor David Greenwood is representing 53 alleged victims, 40 more than before the probe was re-opened.
He estimates the Government will pay out millions in compensation, on top of costs for the police investigation and any independent inquiry.
He said: “In total the case is likely to cost the Government around £8m-12m if all those who have contacted the police so far go on to pursue compensation claims. This figure excludes the cost of the police inquiry and a public inquiry.”
Prison guard Neville Husband, a serial abuser of young boys, was convicted for sex attacks on nine youngsters in 2003. Before his prosecution and after 27 years’ working for the Prison Service he was a minister with the Brighton Road and Cromer Avenue URC churches in Gateshead.
He was jailed for 12 years and his accomplice Lesley Johnson, who was a store man at the centre, for six. Both men have since died.
The Ministry of Justice has so far refused to apologise for the scandal.
A spokesman said yesterday: “The outcome of the ongoing police investigation will be considered in due course; it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”
More than 60 people have contacted Durham police this week alone after the investigation was featured on the BBC’s Inside Out programme. It is unclear how many of these people are victims, witnesses or people with information which could assist the investigation.
Mr Greenwood, who is also dealing with alleged cases of abuse at other centre in the region, added: “There is clear evidence of prison officers turning a blind eye to serious and systematic abuse at Medomsley. Future generations need to understand how and why state officials colluded in this way and to learn how to prevent it in the future.”
Detective Superintendent Paul Goundry, who is leading the investigation, said: “We said from the outset this was going to be a long and complex investigation which we fully expect will last at least another 12 months. So far we have been contacted by more than 140 former inmates of Medomsley, who have reported they were victims of either sexual or physical abuse at the centre between the late 1960s and the mid-1980s.
“The accounts we have heard have been horrific and have shaken some very experienced detectives who are working on this. It is obviously distressing to hear from so many victims, but at the same time I am relieved they have shown the confidence in us to get in touch and allow us to help them.
“Our efforts are directed not just at establishing what happened in Medomsley over that period but ensuring the victims are left in a better place and get the support and advice they need.”