POLICE have reopened a major investigation into allegations of child abuse dating back to the 1960s at a former Hampshire children’s home.
The probe will cover alleged attacks on boys, including beatings and rapes, over two decades at the former county-run Winton House. It was triggered by more victims coming forward after the Daily Echo revealed six months ago that 11 former pupils had launched abuse compensation claims against the county council. That number has now risen to 23.
The men are claiming in total about £1m, including solicitors’ fees. The claimants accuse some male staff at the house in Andover Road, Winchester, of physical and sexual abuse in the 1960s and 1970s. One of the former pupils involved said he welcomed the fresh police investigation: “I want him (his alleged abuser) to face justice. It was a nightmare at that school. “I had nowhere to turn to. Every time I ran away, they took me back. his has haunted me for years.”
Eight alleged victims have contacted the police. Because of the size of the inquiry, it is moving from Winchester to the force’s major investigation team. Winton House, now demolished, was a Home Office approved boarding school for boys aged 11 to 16. Former groundsman Michael Park was jailed for 12 months in 2004 for indecently assaulting three ex-pupils. The county council settled out of court with his victims. But it is feared there were many more abusers and victims. The new probe comes 12 years after a police investigation, codenamed Operation Grangewood, which resulted in the jailing of Park, the only member of staff to face prosecution. During this investigation 116 former pupils were interviewed. Police have confirmed this evidence will be reviewed as part of the new inquiry.
Charles Derham, of Hampshire-based Verisona Law, who is co-ordinating the compensation claims, said allegations had been made against members of staff. He said the county council is contesting the compensation claims on the grounds of lack of evidence and being out-of-time. Courts generally require cases to start within three years of an injury although judges have discretion to hear older cases. Claims include damage for actual assaults, for psychiatric problems later in life and loss of earnings.
Mr Derham said: “Some of my clients come from dysfunctional backgrounds and had run-ins with the law but in my eyes that does not question their credibility.
“They were vulnerable children placed in a school where they were meant to be looked after and some members of staff took advantage.”
Hampshire Constabulary spokesman said any alleged victim of abuse, regardless of their past, would receive the same quality of service. She said: “Every case has its challenges.
“In circumstances like these the challenges are greater for the alleged victims who are asked to recall horrific events from their past. This can take time and repetition in order to achieve the best evidence to bring to prosecution but our aim throughout is to bring victims of abuse the justice they deserve.”
Public awareness of historical abuse has been heightened by the exposure of paedophile TV star Jimmy Savile. New guidelines for police and prosecutors are being drawn up. county council spokesman said: “Each allegation is being thoroughly investigated and every claim is considered on its individual merits and against the evidence obtained, following due legal process.”
If you, or a loved one, have been affected by sexual abuse, please do not hesitate to contact our team of experienced lawyers who will be happy to speak to you about whether it may be possible to bring an abuse claim.
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