Alleged abuse victims 'failed' by Durham Police

A police chief has urged alleged abuse victims from a former approved school to contact him directly after some former pupils have claimed their complaints were being “swept under the carpet”.

Police were looking into complaints from three individuals over their treatment while pupils at Stanhope Castle school, in County Durham, between the late 1950s and early 1970s.

Following publicity surrounding the case, a number of other people came forward also alleging physical and sexual assaults.

Durham Police say no further action is to be taken in respect of those complaints, although one line of enquiry into a reported incident remains active.

But the angry former pupils say the true scale of the abuse is not being made known and claim police failed to properly investigate.

One former pupil, who was told his case has now been closed, said that he first went to Durham Police in 1999, only to be told years later his files had been lost.

He said 20 ex-pupils living in the region, who have formed a group, recently lodged complaints.

The 67-year-old, who lives in Middlesbrough and claims he was repeatedly raped while at Stanhope, said:

“People don’t realise what went on there. This has affected me all through my life. I named five people and have been told two are dead and there are three they can’t trace. They were four members of staff and one former pupil. This can’t be shut down as long as people are still alive and they haven’t been investigated. I want all this out in the open before I die.”

Another man said he attended Stanhope in the mid 1970s and described it as an “evil, brutal, horrible place”.

He claimed he was tortured, stripped naked and locked in a room without heating or light for up to four days at a time.

He said: “I am not satisfied with the recent investigation. Every time I report this, it is always swept under the carpet.”

Detective Superintendent Paul Goundry, head of Durham Police's safeguarding team, has taken the unusual step of asking anyone unhappy to get in touch with him, while acknowledging the challenging nature of investigating historic abuse from decades ago.

“As a force we are committed to fully investigate every report of historic sexual abuse, as is evident in the Medomsley inquiry [concerning the former detention centre near Consett], where we are working with more than 1,250 victims. We will also investigate reports of historic physical assaults, but there are clear thresholds that have to be met to be made before any charge can be made. The police in co-operation with the Crown Prosecution Service need to consider each allegation on an individual basis, including the opportunities to gather evidence for an offence that took place decades ago. I urge any victim of an assault who is unhappy with Durham Constabulary’s service regarding their investigation to email me directly via This will enable me to make a decision on the most appropriate course of action.”

– Det Supt Goundry, Durham Police

Stanhope Castle, a grade II listed castle which was built in the late 18th century, became the location for a Home Office approved school during the Second World War.

It was later taken over by Cleveland County Council’s social services department in the early 1970s and turned into a children’s home, but closed in 1981 after becoming under occupied.