After 40 years, school abuse sur­vivors say it’s time for apol­ogy

Western Morning News - - Westcountry Business - BY ED OLDFIELD

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

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