By Kris Jepson
Former inmates of Medomsley Detention Centre for boys who were physically abused by former prison officers have told ITV News Tyne Tees that they have "a lot of satisfaction" after three of the convicted officers were jailed for a total of 14 years and one month.
More than 1,800 witnesses were interviewed as part of Durham Police's largest investigation ever, Operation Seabrook, which focused on alleged abuse at the detention centre near Consett, County Durham, between the 1960s and 80s.
Christopher Onslow, 73, was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in prison, whilst John McGee, 75, was handed a two year, 10 month sentence and Kevin Blakely, 67, received two years, nine months.
Judge Howard Crowson said their behaviour breached the public's trust.
He then praised the victims' bravery and the police for taking on the massive case, decades after the violent officers would have thought they had got away with their abuse.
For many years trainees from Medomlsey Detention Centre shared a common sense of grievance. Many had experienced brutality and violence at the hands of prison officers, but nobody wanted to hear about it. Those who had the courage to complain when they were released were either ignored or warned that to pursue the complaint would risk a return to Medomsley - nobody wanted to risk that. >
Durham Police told ITV News 89 new alleged victims had come forward since the men were convicted in March and that they were awaiting charging advice from the CPS over allegations connected to six other former officers.
The officer in charge of Operation Seabrook said the police welcomed the sentences, following what he described as a "challenging" investigation:
These men, who are all former prison officers, abused their position to cause immeasurable suffering and lifelong damage to their victims. We hope that their convictions and the sentences passed today provides victims and survivors of abuse at Medomsley with some comfort and a feeling that justice has been served.
During his trial, Christopher Onslow was found guilty of five counts of physical abuse and two counts of misconduct in a public office.
The jury heard how he hit one inmate around the head with muddy football boots, which left the teenager scarred; how he threw rocks at another detainee who was stuck on a cargo net, causing him to fall and crush three vertebrae, and how he also broke one inmate's ankle by slamming a medicine ball down onto it.
Former inmate David Brown, 56, from Newcastle, told ITV News he was happy the law had finally caught up with his abusers.
He said "They just thought they could do what they wanted to do to you. They thought they were above the law. They thought they could do what they wanted to do to you and they did, basically, because you had no control. You were just young, whereas now, it’ll be a different story."
Tony Skillen, 58, from Cockermouth, Cumbria, remembers one incident when Onslow attacked him in the gym, leading to him being injured.
For what they put me through personally and what I seen them doing to other boys, gives me a load of satisfaction to see them getting jailed. Especially Onslow. He fractured my skull. He damaged my ribs. I couldn’t tell you how many times he beat me when I was in there, but if he wasn’t beating me, I was watching him beating other people, so eight and a half years is good.
John McGee was jailed following his conviction for misconduct in a public office and assault.
Standing more than 6ft tall, the jury heard how he punched a new, 5ft inmate in the face, who then soiled himself in fear, and McGee forced him to bunny-hop down a corridor to clean himself up.
Kevin Blakely was convicted after a trial of two counts of misconduct in a public office.
The jury was told the 'misconduct in a public office' offences were cumulative, based on a number of alleged violent incidents adding up to misconduct.
One of his victims was Barry Segar, 57, from Newcastle. He told ITV News in March how the abuse he suffered at Medomsley never goes away.
It’s something I’ve got to live with for the rest of my life now… I still have nightmares, traumas and everything through this and this is what I’ve got to live with everyday, frightened to go out the house, frightened of going places because I keep getting flashbacks. I go to hell. I just, my body shakes.