by: Eric Allison | Comment is free
published: 16 April 2012
As prisons correspondent for the Guardian, I have covered many stories that have angered me. It could hardly be otherwise, writing as I am about a penal system that fails so spectacularly in so many areas. But I have never been more enraged than in researching and co-writing a piece about sexual abuse in prisons.
The story was about perhaps the most prolific sex offender this country has ever seen. Neville Husband was a prison officer who, in 1969, was moved from Portland borstal, Dorset, to the Medomsley detention centre, county Durham, where he ran the kitchen for 15 years.
It is likely that, on every working day of that period, he sexually abused young detainees in his charge. Those were young, vulnerable boys, many of them from the care system, too terrified to complain.
My anger is not directed at Husband, who was sentenced to 10 years in jail for his crimes, and is now dead. It is instead aimed at the system and those in it who, at all levels, protected him and betrayed his victims. They are fellow officers who, at Husband’s trial, testified they knew “something was going on”.
“Husband used to keep one boy behind in the kitchen at night,” said one, “we always felt sorry for that boy.” Felt sorry? Then why didn’t you do something about it and put an end to Husband’s reign of terror, an end to the misery his victims suffered?