A new investigation has been launched looking into what authorities knew about the abuse of young people at a County Durham detention centre.

Operation Deerness will be carried out by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman after they were commissioned to look into the decades-long abuse at Medomsley Detention Centre, near Consett, by the Secretary of State for Justice in October 2023.

A team has now been assembled by Ombudsman Adrian Usher to go back through all of the police reports, interviews and victim statements as well as talk to people who have never come forward before.

Announcing the inquiry today (Wednesday, February 28) senior investigator Richard Tucker explained that it is an independent probe into what the authorities knew at the time and why nothing was done to prevent the abuse. This includes police, probation, local authorites, health services, the prison service, faith groups and people who were informed of what was going on.

The investigators described how reading back through the accounts of victims and talking to some survivors had already led to "sleepless" nights. 

Mr Tucker, who was hired to lead Operation Deerness said: "As you get older you change, you become a father. As a 19 to 25 year old you think differently. 

"As you get older your perspective changes. It's the longevity of the abuse. It's affected their lives up to now.

"It's affected their life expectancy, life outcomes, opportunities, education and relationships.

"When you meet a man who is 60 and he says 'I haven't had a relationship, I haven't been able to hold down a job, I haven't got friends, I don't trust people', you can track it all the way back to this detention centre.

"It all stems from him stealing some sugar or a coat because he was cold. It's the disproportionality and the effect that it has had. 

"It hits particularly hard because I'm speaking to survivors the same age as me. There is that immediate contrast between their lives and mine. 

"I'm not being overdramatic. It is absolutely heartbreaking to hear their stories and read their stories. 

"All of us (investigators) have been touched on a very human level. I don't think it's saying too much to say sleep has been lost about what we have seen. 

"What happened to those men and in some cases children is some of the most appalling sexual and physical abuse I have ever come across and on a scale that I have never come across.

"They all say the same: 'We were not bad lads'.

"All of us expect people to be looked after, even if they were in a detention centre, and some of them didn't feel that they were listened to afterwards.

"It's important or us that they have a real voice in this inquiry."

The investigators hope to provide closure to victims and provide answers to questions that haven't been answered for decades.

The team hope that survivors and staff members who have not previously come forward might feel more able to now.

Mr Tucker added: "I have started to build my team and we are now looking to start working with more people that have been affected by and have knowledge of the abuse that took place.

"We are looking for the truth and it is our goal to fully understand what took place.

"My plea is for more people to come forward and share their experiences with us.

"We will not be reinvestigating the facts of the abuse, nor the individual incidents, but we want to give everyone the opportunity to speak to us, if they wish to, so we can give them the chance to be heard."

The investigation is expected to take at least 18 months.

Between them the team assembled have more than 100 years of investigative experience.

Mr Usher emphasised how the investigation will be independent of the government, the police, the court and the prison and probation service.

He added: "There are people who may have worked at Medomsley in educational help or prison officers who knew or strongly suspected that something was wrong and they have yet to share their story. It is never too late to tell that story.

"The survivors of Medomsley, many of them sentenced for petty offences, and given weeks of custodial sentences, have in fact served life sentences. The damage that was done to them and the wretched abuse at Medomsley has had life-changing effects for many many of those victims.

"I'm sure there are people who have not told their story who have wrestled with their conscience for years. It is never too late, now is the time."

Medomsley Detention Centre was a facility that held young men aged between 17-21 years old between 1960 and the late 1980s.

A number of former staff members at the centre, in Consett, have been jailed for their role in a brutal regime that inflicted pain and fear onto young inmates from the late 1960s up into the 1980s when it was closed down.

More than 2,000 victims and survivors came forward to talk to the police when the abuse at the detention centre came to light.

In 2019, five former prison officers – Christopher Onslow, John McGee, Alan Bramley, Kevin Blakeley and Brian Johnson Greenwell - were jailed for a total of more than 18 years for abusing former inmates at the detention centre following three separate crown court trials.

Ian Nicholson died before he could face a trial at Teesside Crown Court.

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Neville Husband, a disgraced Christian minister, was jailed for eight years in 2003 after being convicted of a series of sickening sex attacks on teenage boys.

The pervert tied up and blindfolded one of his young victims and took vile pornographic photographs of him after ordering him to get undressed.

The final prosecution finished at Teesside Crown Court where the jury found that Alexander Flavell had committed acts of misconduct in a public office and one charge of indecent assault.

The 89-year-old, who had been deemed unfit to stand trial, was cleared of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, buggery and indecent assault. They could not reach a verdict on one count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

If you have knowledge of the abuse that took place at Medomsley Detention Centre from 1961 and 1987, please contact ppomedomsleyinvestigation@ppo.gov.uk as we are asking those who feel comfortable to share their story to understand their experiences.