A MAN has denied attempting to ask a third party to seek to silence a witness in a trial over alleged sexual and physical abuse of inmates by staff at a former youth detention centre.

John Patrick McGee is accused of doing an act with a tendency or intended to pervert the course of justice.

He is said to have sent an email to another man in which he asked him to speak to a named witness, “thereby suggesting” that witness withdraw his evidence at a then forthcoming trial.

The alleged email is said to have been sent by the defendant on January 4, this year, ahead of a trial in which the witness was due to give evidence later that month.

Appearing at a plea hearing at Durham Crown Court, Mr McGee denied the charge.

Shaun Dodds, prosecuting, told the court it related to one of three trials at Teesside Crown Court arising from the lengthy Operation Seabrook Durham Police investigation into alleged physical and sexual abuse of teenage inmates by former prison officers at Medomsley Detention Centre, near Consett, in the 1970s and 80s.

Five defendants were subsequently convicted and jailed, but are understood to be seeking to lodge appeals.

Robin Patton, for the defendant, said he was, “just sounding off” and he did not know many details about the trial, adding: “There was no reason for him to intervene.”

The case was adjourned for a trial of up to three days, but suitable time could not be found in the court list until early next year.

Judge Jonathan Carroll agreed to adjourn for more than six months and extended bail on the 50-year-old defendant, of Cricket Terrace, Burnopfield, to attend trial starting on February 25.