AN MP is seeking a parliamentary inquiry into historic abuse at youth detention centres – and has urged politicians to take care with the language they use.
Speaking to Northern Echo about a large-scale police investigation into the former Medomsley Detention Centre in her constituency, North West Durham Labour MP Pat Glass said a call by politicians for young offenders to be given a “short, sharp shock” had created a culture in which abuse could flourish.
More than 400 confirmed victims have now contacted Durham Constabulary alleging sexual and physical abuse at the Home Office-run centre, near Consett, between the late 1960s and early 1980s.
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Prison officer Neville Husband was jailed in 2003 for systematically raping youngsters. His friend Leslie Johnson, a storeman at Medomsley, was jailed for similar offences. They have both since died.
Mrs Glass said: “There have been couple of investigations and people have been found guilty, but those inquiries were very limited.
“What we now know from people coming forward is that there was a systematic reign of terror at Medomsley that has damaged lives – it was not just a clip around the lug.
“If you were unlucky enough to go anywhere near the kitchens (run by Husband) then it was even worse.”
She added: “I have approached the chairman of the Home Affairs select committee Keith Vaz and have asked if the committee would consider looking at the whole issue of historic abuse in places like Medomsley.
“This cannot have been happening in isolation at Medomsley. I am concerned about the culture that existed around all of this.”
Mrs Glass stressed the ongoing police inquiry remained the priority. She said: “Any public scrutiny, whether it be by a parliamentary sub-committee or a public investigation, that should be for later.”
Meanwhile, Mrs Glass said politicians “ought to be careful about the language they use”.
She said: “When you start using language like short, sharp shock - it created a culture.
“Anyone looking at that kind of language could not be in any doubt about what the politicians were saying.
“It creates a culture in which a group of people is seen as less than the rest. When that happens things start to go wrong.
“I draw the analogy with the kind of language that is being used today around things like welfare and people in receipt of benefits.
“We almost are creating a situation where groups of people are seen as less than the general population and we know from history that is dangerous.
“Politicians will (often) come out and say we have to learn lessons from this, yet the people who never learn lessons are the politicians.”