Friday, 12 September 2008

SUNDERLAND man who has fought a tireless campaign to expose alleged abuse in Sunderland children's homes has won £25,000 in compensation, it was revealed today.And Brian Clare, 33, of Grindon, has vowed to continue his 18-year battle to secure "justice" for youngsters who claim they were physically and sexually abused at the city's now-demolished Witherwack House and other care homes.A 60-strong group of former children in care of Sunderland City Council in 1960s, 70s, and 80s launched civil damages claims for the physical, sexual and emotional abuse they say ruined their lives.Fifteen lead cases were due to be heard at Newcastle County Court this week, but, as the Echo exclusively revealed, the city council agreed to out-of-court settlements.The biggest pay-out to an individual abuse victim was £50,000 and the total paid to all 15 is around £200,000. The council has not admitted any liability.Another 45 cases are still waiting in the wings, but leading law firm, Stewarts, who specialise in personal injury law, now hope an across the board settlement will be reached.Mr Clare, one of the 15 victims who settled their cases, today vowed to carry on fighting for abused children across the country.Mr Clare said he was subjected to a catalogue of abuse in Witherwack House from 1979 to 1984 and added the settlement had left him disappointed that the full truth was not allowed to come out in a full trial.He said the cash meant "nothing" to him , and vowed to continue his battle for justice by helping others who have been abused to bring their cases to court .He said: "There is no such thing as justice for childrenwho have been abused but I feel I have to carry on fighting for what I believe in."Mr Clare, who suffers from epilepsy and is unable to work, said: "All the money I have received is going to be spent on counselling for me after what I witnessed while I was in care of Sunderland City Council ."I still suffer from nightmares - this case became my whole life and it still is. I never had a life as a normal child, and it's difficult for me to have a life as an adult ."I would have liked to have had my day in court, but I have to acknowledge the debt I owe my family for giving me the strength to come this far."Other cases being dealt with by Stewarts concern a total of 23 care homes across the North East.Solicitor, Paul Middleton-Roy, said that, until the settlement, the city council had disputed all the claims - despite a damning NSPCC report into the events at Witherwack House.Last Updated:
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The bodies of at least seven children may be buried at a former care home in what police fear is one of the worst instances of child abuse in Britain.
The remains of a skeleton were discovered on Saturday under the concrete floor of Haut de la Garenne in Jersey.

Specialist teams using sniffer dogs and radar equipment flown in from the mainland have identified at least six other locations at the site where bodies are suspected to have been concealed.Murder detectives now believe they have uncovered the first physical evidence of a child abuse scandal that could rank among the worst ever at a British institution.
Last night there were claims that decades of abuse at the children's home had been covered up for many years by Jersey officials. Police fear the abuse - sexual, physical and psychological - could date back as far as the 1940s and '50s. They are now scouring records of missing children.
When the inquiry was made public last November, more than 140 people came forward to tell of their harrowing experiences.
Victims claimed they had been savagely beaten, indecently assaulted and raped by staff. There were accounts of children being punched in the head, flogged with canes and kept in solitary confinement.
The NSPCC received four times more calls over this inquiry than any other previous appeal.
Three former residents told police that children they knew at Haut de la Garenne had disappeared.
As a result, police teams began searching the large brick building - now a youth hostel - last Tuesday.
The investigation was prompted by police officers who realised that several former employees at the home were being investigated over alleged child abuse.
Deputy Chief Officer Lenny Harper, who is leading the investigation, said the testimonies of former residents could not be ignored.
Mr Harper said a dog specialising in tracing human remains picked up a scent in a corridor on the ground floor.
When officers dug up the concrete, they found the partial remains, believed to be a skull, fragments of fabric, a button and what they thought could be a hair clasp.
Scientists will take several days to identify the gender and DNA evidence may be too decomposed. However, the body is thought to be of a child, aged 11 to 15, dating from the 1980s.
Mr Harper said the dog had identified another six areas where bodies could have been buried at the property.
The findings seemed to be corroborated by the radar equipment. Searches are expected to last another two weeks.
"There are six other areas, half inside and half outside," he said. "Some of the areas may be linked."
When asked about the number of bodies he expected to find, he said: "There could be six or more, but it could be higher than that, depending on what happens over the next few days.
"The radar has tended to show that where the dog has picked up the scent of something, there appears to be some sort of disturbance under the ground, either holes or gaps - disturbed earth."
Police also want to re-examine bones found on the property five years ago which, when discovered, were assumed to be from an animal.
However, they cannot currently be traced, he said.
The latest finding follows a series of scandals during the 1990s.
An inquiry was held in 1990 into abuse at children's care homes in Staffordshire, dubbed the Pin Down scandal after the rooms the youngsters were locked in for weeks.
In 1996, an inquiry looked into allegations of hundreds of cases of abuse in care homes in Clwyd and Gwynedd, Wales, between 1974 and 1990.
In 1997, the NSPCC completed an inquiry into a council home in Sunderland called Witherwack House.
The inquiry named 23 men and women who had physically and sexually assaulted children during the 1970s and 1980s
However, the Jersey case involves allegations of abuse of a horrifying new level. The former children's home was founded in 1850 as a Victorian establishment for boys.
Towards the end of the 20th century, it catered for 60 children at a time and girls were introduced.
Haut de la Garenne closed in 1986 and lay empty for almost two decades.
During this time, the property was used as the police station for the television detective series Bergerac.
In 2004, it was turned into a 100-bed youth hostel.
Several local inhabitants recalled that the children mainly stayed inside Haut de la Garenne.
A farmer, who did not want to be named, said: "People have been surprised. We didn't think that was going on here."
Jersey's Chief Minister, Senator Frank Walker, said he was determined that "whoever committed this outrage should be swiftly found and brought to justice".


Submitted by Chris Machell, Detective Chief Superintendent, Northumbria Police (CA 188)
Operation Rose, an enquiry conducted by Northumbria Police into allegations of Historic Sexual and Physical Child Abuse within care homes throughout the North East of England, began in 1997.
The investigation commenced after a woman in her twenties disclosed to a Social Worker, that she and a friend had both been subjected to Sexual and Physical abuse whilst they were residents in a Newcastle upon Tyne care home.
After a multi-agency meeting between Police, Newcastle Social Services and the NSPCC, officers set out to fully investigate the claims. Initial enquiries revealed that six victims were alleging abuse by eight suspects who had been employed in a total of seven Care Homes within four Local Authority areas. Some of these allegations dated back to the 1960s. The investigation rapidly expanded to 10 victims and 20 Children's Homes.
Following best practice established in other areas, Northumbria Police established that the only manageable way of developing the enquiry would be to seek information from a fixed proportion of residents in each of the Care Homes.
Without revealing the nature of their investigations, the enquiry team wrote to 10 per cent of former residents, informing them that an enquiry had commenced into a Home at which they were once resident, and asking them if they had any information which might help. One third of the recipients replied either saying they had information or stating that they did not wish the police to contact them.
The courts subsequently upheld the process, accepting that the letter simply sought information and did not make suggestions to the recipients. No complaints of malpractice were received and no allegations of collusion between victims has been upheld.
In 1998, the enquiry was broadened to include renewed allegations concerning Carers working at Witherwack House, Sunderland, which had been subject to an earlier investigation in 1992.
Six people were found guilty of a variety of charges and sentenced to a total of 20 years imprisonment, including one 12 month sentence suspended for two years. Three suspected died prior to trial. A number of cases were halted because the judiciary deemed that the length of time taken for the cases to reach court breached Article 6 of the Human Rights Act, which requires a hearing within a reasonable time.
Many delays, however, occurred because of adjournments made at the request of defence lawyers and the courts themselves. One "fast track" case—which should have been heard in 96 days took 33 months to come to court, despite all necessary Police work being completed within the required deadlines. The final trial arising out of the Operation Rose investigation concluded in April 2002.
All the agencies involved in the enquiry, including the Crown Prosecution Service and the counselling services provided for victims, have since reviewed the processes involved in the investigation. Some of the "Good Practice Pointers" have been summarised as requested and are attached to this letter.
My views in relation to four of the five specific questions contained in the committee's press notice accord with those expressed by Mr Grange on behalf of ACPO. Question two is a matter for the CPS I believe.
May 2002

Good Practice Recommendations Generated from Operation Rose
De-brief Meetings
1. *Early consultation, via the National Crime Faculty, with officers who have investigated similar allegations elsewhere.
2. *Involvement of Crown Prosecution Service from the outset
3. *Consider tape recording all victims interviews, not just children.
4. *Appointment of a team of prosecution barristers to handle all cases.
5. *Judicial processes to focus on speedy resolution of cases.
6. *Development of a national protocol for the recording of unused material.
7. *Social Services departments to consider retention of staff discipline records.
8. *Co-ordinated support for victims before, during and after enquiries.
9. *The "Abuse of Process" point inextricably linked to unused material. There must be greater awareness within all agencies of this issue and a review of their record keeping policies.
10. *Protocols similar to those with Social Services should be put in place with Health Professionals and counselling services for easier access to records.

police stand by investigation

Police stand by five-year'trawl' for child abuse
By Martin Wainwright
Police leading a huge but largely abortive child abuse inquiry denied yesterday they had encouraged false allegations and wrecked the lives of innocent teachers and care workers by "trawling" for evidence in children's homes.
Dozens of professionals in the north-east, backed by MPs, have lodged complaints about the blunderbuss effect of the five-year Operation Rose that saw more than 200 people investigated but in the end only six convicted.
The £5m inquiry led to 558 claims of assault, rape and other sexual abuse from 277 residents or former residents of 61 care homes.
The methods used by Northumbria police have been referred to the Commons home affairs committee, which is studying the handling of hundreds of similar child abuse allegations in care homes.
The scale of the north-east inquiry has emerged with the lifting of a legal gag. The two years of reporting restrictions on the trials of 32 north-east care workers and teachers linked to 142 allegations of child abuse, ended on Tuesday with the collapse of the final case in Newcastle crown court.
The legal move has cleared the way for the complaints of care workers and teachers either acquitted by juries or told by police that they would not face trial.
Ray Johnson, co-chairman of the north-east branch of Falsely Accused Carers and Teachers, said that the clumsy snail's pace investigation had destroyed his life and career as it had scores of others.
He has lodged papers with the police complaints authority claiming malicious prosecution and victimisation after a judge threw out charges against him because a three-and-a-half-year delay had flouted his human rights. "My life has been utterly destroyed for the past five years for no reason whatsoever," he said. "People who abuse children physically or sexually should be punished, but the methods of the Northumbria police have brought the downfall of innocent people whose only crime was to look after disaffected children in homes."
John Scott, assistant chief constable of Northumbria police, defended the idea of the "trawling" system yesterday but acknowledged that it could trap the innocent. He said: "We would conduct the inquiry in the same way, were we to do it again. However, recommendations have been made to establish best practice."
The police have now drawn up recommendations for child abuse inquiries involving care homes, which include "fast track" legal preparation to get cases quickly to court, and a national protocol to record unused material.
There are about 85 cases pending nationally and the Commons committee is studying a further 100 convictions of care workers and teachers dating back 30 years.
The committee chair, Chris Mullin, Labour MP for Sunderland, said in January as the inquiry was set up: "It's been suggested that a new genre of miscarriage of justice has arisen from the over-enthusiastic pursuit of allegations of abuse of children in institutions. The decision to conduct this inquiry was taken in response to a large number of well argued representations."
Typical among the cases of Operation Rose was that of a Esme Allenby, 54, a care worker whose life was said to be ruined by nine allegations of indecent assault. Though the police never took the claims to trial, she was devastated by the public pursuit of the claims.
4 April 2002
Police under attack for£5m sex abuse inquiry
By Paul Stokes
A three-year police investigation into sexual and physical abuse at 61 children's homes has been criticised after resulting in only six convictions despite 530 allegations against around 200 care workers.
Operation Rose was conducted by Northumbria Police, at a cost of £5 million, after a woman in her twenties disclosed to a social worker that she and a friend had been abused as children in care.
Initial inquiries identified six victims who alleged abuse, dating from the Sixties, by eight suspects at seven homes in four local authority areas.
Police embarked on a process of "trawling" for information by writing to 1,800 former residents explaining that they were looking into homes where they had once lived.
As a consequence homes runs by two voluntary agencies and all six local authorities in the force area - Northumberland, Newcastle upon Tyne, North Tyneside, Gateshead, South Tyneside and Sunderland - came under investigation.
A total of 277 residents and former residents made allegations against 223 care workers for alleged offences including rape, buggery, indecent assault and physical assault.
Of 32 people who were charged with a total of 142 offences, five were found guilty, one pleaded guilty, 12 were found not guilty, nine had cases withdrawn, four died before their cases were heard and one remained on file.
Court reporting restrictions, which previously prevented publicity of the Operation Rose trials, were lifted at the conclusion of the final case this week.
Esme Allenby, 54, of Cramlington, Northumberland, was told she would not face trial for nine counts of indecent assault, dating back 27 years, which she denied.
The prosecution at Newcastle Crown Court told Judge Maurice Carr that it was in the public interest that the trial did not proceed because vital documents were missing.
The North-East branch of Falsely Accused Carers and Teachers, an organisation set up after instances of unproved allegations elsewhere in the country, attacked the police approach to gathering complaints.
Ray Johnston, the co-chairman of Fact (North East), said: "Scores of carers and teachers have had their lives ruined and the lives of their families destroyed by these actions."
Mr Johnston was suspended from his post as a senior teacher at Netherton Park in Northumberland in August 1997. He said: "I was just fully aware I hadn't done anything to justify being suspended at all and thought it was thoroughly wrong."
Mr Johnston learnt from colleagues that a girl had accused him of physical assault and eight months after his suspension he was arrested and later charged with five counts of child cruelty and two of physical assaults.
After years of court adjournments Mr Johnston's case was dismissed after a judge ruled that the three and a half-year delay in the case had breached his human rights. He has now submitted a complaint to the Police Complaints Authority citing victimisation and malicious prosecution.
A former teacher, Derek Gordon, from Chester-le-Street, Co Durham, said Operation Rose had left him "marked for life" even though he was acquitted of child abuse charges.
Northumbria Police defended Operation Rose. The assistant chief constable John Scott, said: "It was a thorough and professional investigation. Six people involved in child abuse have been put behind bars as a result of our investigations."