After 40 years, school abuse survivors say it’s time for apology
Survivors of a regime of violence and sexual abuse at Forde Park School are asking Devon County Council to finally say sorry after 40 years.
The issue came up at the start of a public hearing held by the National Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse.
The solicitor representing victims at the investigation in London highlighted the lack of apology from the county council, which settled compensation claims without admitting liability.
David Enright has written to the council leader inviting representatives to meet the victims and accept responsibility for the abuse they suffered, offer a personal apology and provide counselling and support.
The approved school at Newton Abbot was run by the Home Office, then became a community home when it was taken over by Devon County Council in 1973. It closed in 1985. After a major police investigation more than a decade later, several staff at the school were convicted of assaults and sex offences against boys, who were sent there from the age of 10 by the courts and social services.
What happened to the former pupils is being used as a case study in an investigation by the inquiry into the experiences of victims in the aftermath of child abuse cases.
Mr Enright, who is representing 27 victims who were at Forde Park in the 1970s, told the hearing the total time they spent in the “child prison” was “30 years of state-approved lashings, 30 years of being battered, punched, kicked, humiliated and demeaned by staff ”. It was also 30 years of appalling child sexual abuse, denial of education and forced labour.
He added in his opening statement at the start of public hearings on Monday: “It has been 40 years since most of my clients were there. Not a day has gone by when the effects have not been felt, and felt deeply. Collectively, that represents 520 years of anger, hurt and loss: over half a millennia of injustice.”
Mr Enright said the Home Office and Devon & Cornwall Police carried out a large-scale investigation into child abuse at Forde Park School in 1958, so the authorities were aware of the violence and the risk of sex abuse.
He said Devon County Council must have known, or suspected, Forde Park was a “dangerous place” for children. “Why was nothing done?” he asked.
He said when civil claims were made after the allegations emerged, it appeared the county council did not independently investigate the cases
Local Democracy Reporter ‘Not a day has gone by when the effects have not been felt’
David Enright, solicitor for 27 victims