Personal Injury Solicitors at Tilly Bailey & Irvine continue to support victims of Medomsley Detention Centre abuse, and an agreement for a new compensation scheme will only help the process…

Medomsley Detention Centre was a prison for young male offenders near Consett in Durham, from 1961 until the late 1980s. The aim of the centre was to provide a ‘short, sharp, shock’ treatment to young offenders aged between 17-21 years and was primarily designed to prevent them from being sent to a mainstream prison.

Allegations began to surface from former inmates who were subjected to sexual, physical and mental abuse from prisons officers whilst they were detained in Medomsley. Tilly, Bailey & Irvine have been pursuing claims for former inmates since 2013 when Durham Police launched an investigation into the abuse named ‘Operation Seabrook’.

TBI Solicitors has settled numerous cases for former inmates who were subjected to sexual abuse, but have continued to push to make progress for those subjected to physical abuse.

The Medomsley Steering Group, who represent over 1000 Claimants, have finally agreed a settlement scheme after many months of discussions with the Ministry of Justice (MOJ). The scheme will provide compensation to former inmates who were subjected to physical abuse whilst detained in Medomsley Detention Centre.

What does the scheme offer?

The scheme provides for a tariff of compensation dependent on the length of the period of detention. There is also a provision in the scheme to compensate for a lasting physical and/or psychological injury, providing this can be supported by medical evidence.

To be eligible for the scheme you must fulfil the following criteria;

  • You must have suffered physical abuse committed by a member of staff who was employed at Medomsley Detention Centre during the period you were detained and who has received a criminal conviction in respect of such offences.
  • You must have independent evidence of your period of detention.

What about physical injuries?

Under the scheme, physical abuse is defined as ‘the direct application of unlawful force’, therefore those former inmates that were ordered by Officers to run the perimeter fence or being made to perform bunny hops will be excluded from the scheme.

The scheme will fall into three categories:

  • Category 1 – You were detained at Medomsley for three months or less and will receive a payment of compensation in the sum of £1750.00;
  • Category 2 – You were detained at Medomsley for more than three months and will receive a payment of compensation in the sum of £2500.00;
  • Category 3 – The Claimant has provided medical evidence to show that they sustained a lasting physical or psychological injury as a direct result of their treatment at Medomsley will receive a payment of compensation between £3000.00 and £5000.00.

For an injury to be accepted as a ‘lasting injury’ the injury must have persisted for a significant period of time beyond the period of detention and includes injuries such as, fractures, dislocations, scarring, depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is necessary to have medical evidence to support the physical injury or psychiatric injury which has been suffered.

The length of the detention will take into account multiple periods of detention and will be based on the total length of sentence that a person served.

Compensation agreements

The awards of compensation have been agreed to reflect not only the assaults that a person suffered but also witnessing and living within the brutal regime at Medomsley. An award scheme based on length of detention was considered to be the fairest way to administer the scheme. The length of the periods of detention reflect the average sentences that people received.

The awards have been agreed at the above levels to reflect the risks of not being able to pursue a civil claim. Generally, cases involving historical physical abuse have poor prospects of success due to the issue of limitation. There are strict time limits that apply to all civil claims. A claim for personal injury must be brought to the Court within three years of the date of the incident giving rise to the claim. In cases where the incident happened to a child, the three-year period runs from the date of the Claimant’s 18th birthday.

The limitation period has already expired in all these cases. Courts do have a discretion to set aside the limitation rule and allow a claim to be presented out of time in limited circumstances.

Courts tend to view physical abuse as less stigmatising than sexual abuse. It is much more difficult to persuade a court to extend the period for this reason. Generally, physical abuse is not considered to carry with it the same sense of shame or embarrassment. There is a very clear risk that if the cases went to court, they would fail on this point.

The scheme ensures that an eligible person will receive an award of compensation. Unfortunately, this scheme will not be available for every person who suffered physical abuse at Medomsley.

Discussions are continuing with the Group Litigation Department as to how they intend to deal with claims where detainees suffered physical abuse by members of staff who have not been convicted or who are deceased.

Who has been convicted so far?

To date, five members of staff have received a criminal conviction.

Christopher Onslow – ‘Machine / Mean Machine’
John McGee – ‘Big John / Pigeon Man’
Brian Greenwell – ‘Puppet’
Kevin Blakely – ‘Broken Nose’
Alan Bramley – ‘Bong Eye’

There is also another criminal trial, which will be heard in November 2020, involving two former Officers, Ian Nicholson and Alexander Flavell.

If you have been affected by abuse at Medomsley Detention Centre and wish to speak to a personal injury solicitor, please contact Tilly Bailey & Irvine Solicitor Nathalie Clayton who will be able to support your case.