Children at school for young offenders given drugs in Home Office experimental trial

Richmond Hill is now converted into flats.

Children at a school for young offenders were given drugs in an experimental trial approved by Home Office doctors in the 1960s, it has been reported.

National Archive files show that disruptive boys at Richmond Hill ApprovedSchool in North Yorkshire were given the anticonvulsant drug Beclamide for six months to see if it would control their behaviour.

Richmond Hill, which closed 40 years ago, cared for boys who'd been sent there from Juvenile Court. It's understood that neither the boys nor their parents were asked for consent.

Archives

The archives reveal that in the late 1960s there were plans to use its most disruptive teenage boys in top secret research to test if an approved anti convulsant sedative drug would improve their behaviour.

It includes a letter from the home office confirming that that the government had no objections to the 6 month trial. The school closed in the 70's and converted into houses.

Ex-Teacher

A teacher who was here in the 60's is horrified after learning about the tests. Bob Hammel didn't want to appear on camera but gave us a statement:

What really did shock me more than anything was the fact that parental consent was not sought and was not thought to be necessary, that was in my opinion unacceptable behaviour."

Bob Hammel

Mr Hammel went on to tell ITV Tyne Tees that had he and his fellow teachers at the time known what was going on here, then they'd have certainly tried to stop it and if they unable to do that, then they'd have blown the whistle.

It's understood that the trial went ahead but no outcomes were recorded.

Legal consequences

Alan Collins is a solicitor specialising in child abuse claims. He says the children given drugs could have been victims of assault.

My understanding is that he boys concerned, or failing that their parents or guardians, should have been asked. Now if it's correct that they were experimented on without their consent, they may well have been the victims of assault. Whether or not that question can actually be answered after all these years is going to be depend very much on what records survive."

Alan Collins

The Home Office wouldn't comment, saying it's unnecessary because the case is so historic.