Former Medomsley prison officer guilty of indecent assault and misconduct in public office

09/09/21 - Medomsley - ITV Archive
Medomsley Dentention Centre, near Consett, was a centre for male offenders aged 16 to 21. It was open during the 60s and 70s, and was designed to give inmates a short sharp shock. Credit: ITV Archive

A former prison officer has been found guilty of indecent assault of a young inmate, and misconduct in a public office, at the former Medomsley Detention Centre in County Durham.

Alexander Flavell, 89, was ruled unfit to stand trial at Teesside Crown Court as he has dementia, but a jury was asked to consider whether Flavell had committed the acts he was accused of.

Medomsley Dentention Centre, near Consett, was a centre for male offenders aged 16 to 21. It was open during the 60s and 70s, and was designed to give inmates a "short sharp shock".

The court heard how Medomsley was operated in a way that it became almost "an abusers' charter for staff who were so inclined"

Flavell worked at the facility in the 1970s. He was accused of six offences which prosecutors say exploited his position of authority, subjecting the young inmates in his care to abuse. They are charges he always denied.

On Tuesday 28 February, in his absence, the jury found Flavell guilty of two the six offences. These were misconduct in a public office, and one charge indecent assault,

The jury however found him not guilty of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, rape and indecent assault. They could not reach a verdict on one count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

The trial of Flavell marks the end of Durham Constabulary's long-running Operation Seabrook, an investigation into the allegations of abuse at the former detention centre.

The centre, which closed in 1988, has been the centre of one of the largest investigations of its kind in the UK. Operation Seabrook began in August 2013, and has seen more than 2,000 victims and survivors report allegations of abuse while at the centre to the police.

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

Detective Chief Superintendent Dave Ashton, from Durham Constabulary, said: “The investigation into the abuse which occurred inside Medomsley Detention Centre in the 1960s, 70s and 80s highlights shocking and cruel treatment which many young people suffered whilst being detained there. 

“This has been an incredibly long and complex investigation, spanning almost ten years with a number of investigations which took place prior to that, resulting in the conviction of Neville Husband."

He added: “These investigations have been important in reflecting not only the scale of abuse that occurred at Medomsley Detention Centre but also the courage which the victims of abuse have shown in coming forward.

“In listening to survivors, it has been clear that as young people, they suffered some horrendous forms of abuse, committed by people around them who were in positions of authority and this never should have happened.

“A team of committed and dedicated investigators have worked hard to investigate all reported incidents of abuse and gather evidence to present in court during four separate crown court trials."