Ben Hoare Bell solicitors represent over 300 former inmates of Medomsley Detention Centre. Following the recent conviction of five former employees of the detention centre in relation to physical abuse, a public inquiry is the only means by which our clients and substantially more than 1300 other inmates and the community can be reassured that these events are fully investigated and that they can never be repeated. While recognising that five former employees have been convicted, our clients’ evidence amounts to a far more serious indication of abuse at the prison than these convictions alone and that there were systematic failures to respond to such abuse. Our clients have told us that:
- Throughout the whole period that Medomsley was open there were widespread instances of physical and sexual abuse, substantial numbers for every 5 year period from the prison opening to its closure
- Assaults on inmates were so common that practically all, or most, prison staff must have been aware of it
- Our clients identify a large number of prison staff responsible for abuse that goes well beyond those convicted in court
- Those in authority (inside and outside the prison) failed to investigate or prevent the abuse and while, understandably, only a small number of our clients reported the abuse to probation officers, the police or other authorities, those reports did not lead to steps to stop the abuse
- Our clients’ accounts suggest that at least 89 of them were subjected to such physical violence and/or sexual abuse that it is highly likely that there was a breach of their human rights because they were subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment or torture. A further 91 were subjected to physical violence that may have amounted to a breach of their human rights. The remainder were victims of physical violence or as witnesses to abuse.
While we welcome the conviction of five employees, the truth is that Medomsley was an institution in which physical and sexual abuse were commonplace. Those convicted are the tip of an iceberg of others who took part, turned a blind eye or failed to investigate. This constitutes a shocking failure of our prison system. Currently the Home Secretary has refused calls for a full public inquiry. The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse will eventually conduct an inquiry into those sexually abused who were under the age of 18. Such an inquiry will not get to the bottom of the failure of the prison system at Medomsley to protect all young offenders (all of whom were young men to whom the state owed a duty of care) from vile physical and sexual abuse. Ben Hoare Bell will be writing on behalf of our clients and all survivors to the Home Secretary for a full public inquiry capable of investigating the scale of abuse, those directly and indirectly responsible, holding them to account and discovering how such blatant abuse could continue for so long unchecked.
Blog by Andrew Freckleton, Solicitor