On Monday, June 9th at Loxley House Station Street in Nottingham, there was a protest – Michael Summers wanted answers as to why child abuse was allowed to happen within Nottingham children’s homes, and why nothing was done to stop it or bring the offenders to justice
Michael Summers and approx 80 other victims were sexually, physically and emotionally abused at a number of children’s homes in the Nottingham area.
In August 2013, Mr Summers waived his legal right to anonymity as a an alleged victim of a sexual offence to tell his story
Mr Summers said: “The people of Nottingham need to know what went on and I want a full apology from both councils. I believe any public inquiry should be led by someone of at least Queen’s Counsel (QC) standing.”
Nottingham council later issued an apology to Michael after it emerged his care files had apparently been destroyed in the 1970s.
He had asked both Nottingham City Council and Notts County Council for the release of his files to help his case against his abusers
But the records, kept by the county council on behalf of the city, have not been found.
Under current regulations, records must be kept for 100 years but this was not the case when Michael Summers was in care.
Yesterday, city Councillors accepted full liability and accountability and promised their commitment to support and help michael and the other victims in their quest to piece together and bring charges against the offenders with help from IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Commission) and solicitors.
Beechwood Community House in Mapperley closed eight years ago and was run by both authorities because of a boundary change.
Beechwood Community House in Mapperley, Nottingham (pictured below)
Nottinghamshire Police said allegations relating to three other homes in the county were also being investigated, which has become know as operation Daybreak
Operation Daybreak, a large scale police investigation concerning a number of claims relating to incidents of abuse at homes in the Nottingham area has seen the number of victims reporting allegations increase.
In addition it is now being reported that an arrest has been made in connection with allegations that relate specifically to allegations concerning the Beechwood Community House.
The remit of the extensive investigation now covers allegations concerning six homers formerly run by the council. The homes in question have now closed but the investigation is taking account of allegations of both physical and sexual abuse. The allegations cover a period of time stretching from the late 1960s until 2000.
Operation Daybreak has been investigating alleged abuse by staff at Beechwood Community House, Mapperley, Bracken House, Bulwell, Ranskill Gardens, Bestwood, Wood Nook, Beechdale, and Risley Hall in Derbyshire. Although at the time of writing it had not been confirmed for legal reasons it is understood that a further home has been added to that list.
So far it has been revealed that the arrest made in connection with the Daybreak investigation was connected to an alleged historical serious sexual offence that occurred at Beechwood. The individual arrested was arrested and questioned before being released on bail pending further enquiries. Previously five other people were arrested and all were later released with no further action. Nonetheless there are now known to be over 60 alleged victims.
It has also been reported that a council apologised to one of the alleged victims after it transpired that their care files had apparently been destroyed during the 1970s. This is a stark reminder of one of the central difficulties faced by victims and has a considerable impact on the possibility of proper investigation. The loss of records is also relevant to the possibilities of making a civil claim for compensation. The rules relating to the retention of records have evolved over the years but this is only one part of the overall problem.
Further difficulties arise when it becomes clear that many of the records are held in original hard copy format and may never have been stored electronically. This creates difficulties in the process of searching for what may be very old records. In this instance the local council involved did manage to track down some information relating to the victim in other more general files. This does again show the fragmented nature of historical record keeping but also provides some insight into the level of enquiry that any local authority investigating these allegations may need to consider when information may well be spread across a wide range of information sources.
Nonetheless as the investigations under Operation Daybreak continue it is to be hoped that even after many years those responsible for abusing the children in their care may finally face justice.
‘I was raped within a week of arriving at kids’ home’
FORMER residents of a city children’s home have spoken of the alleged systematic abuse they suffered at the hands of staff.
Beechwood Community House is being investigated by police over claims that residents were physically and sexually abused between 1975 and 2000.
Two former residents of the home have told the Post of the alleged abuse, which they say has overshadowed their lives.
A woman who lived there as a teenager tells how she was raped during her first week at the home. And a male former resident says he was taken into a dark cellar by a member of staff, who put on a Freddie Kruger mask and beat him.
Police are investigating claims by six former residents but a local solicitor is preparing a compensation claim on behalf of 17 people.
‘I was raped within a week of arriving at kids’ home’
She was just 16 when she moved into Beechwood Community House in Mapperley.
Kate, not her real name, hoped her troubled life would be put back on track.
But the next 11 months shattered those hopes.
“I was raped in the first week I was there and physically assaulted by staff at different times,” says Kate, now in her 40s.
As she stands looking at The Lindens, one of two residential units within Beechwood’s grounds, Kate talks about the impact of her alleged ordeal.
“I worked as a prostitute and was a heroin addict for 15 years.
“We had our hearts and souls taken from us. At least 12 of the children I was there with have since overdosed or committed suicide.”
Kate says she has been clean of heroin for more than a year and is turning her life around.
“I’m doing voluntary work with charities. I feel I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ve brought my children up really well. I’ve met some caring people along the way.”
Despite getting her life back on track, Kate says she is determined to get justice for herself and all others alleged to have suffered during their time at Beechwood.
She is one of six people who have made allegations to Notts Police of systematic child abuse suffered at the home.
She added: “If anyone, whether it’s a former child who lived there or a member of staff, has information that can help with the police inquiry they should contact them immediately.”
Notts police have confirmed they are investigating allegations of systematic child abuse at Beechwood made by six individuals over the last four months.
They stressed that inquiries are at an early stage and no arrests have been made.
Seventeen ex-Beechwood children, including Kate, intend to pursue compensation actions against Notts County Council, the home’s owners in the 1980s and early 1990s before its transfer to Nottingham City Council in 1998, on conclusion of the police investigation.
John, not his real name, is another ex-Beechwood child who has made allegations to police and is intending to lodge a civil compensation claim against the county council.
He says he was regularly taken to a cellar and beaten by a member of staff while living at Beechwood.
“He used to take me down to the cellar, put on a Freddie Kruger mask and chase me around the cellar.
“I would run into posts and pillars because it was pitch black. When he caught me he would punch and kick me.
“He did it hundreds of times. Because I was a bit boyish I did not say anything to anybody.”
Beechwood was John’s first experience of a children’s home.
“I saw one lad tied by his ankles and hung upside down from a curtain pole. He was screaming. There was nothing I could do.
“I was on a minibus once. We were going swimming and someone shouted abuse at one staff member.
“He looked straight at me and then got up and stamped on me, on my chest. One member of staff had to pull him off.”
John said because of his timid nature and skinny frame, he would also get bullied a lot by other children in the home.
It led to him repeatedly running away, only to be brought back by the police.
“Staff would give us a smack to teach us not to run off. One member of staff used to shout ‘he’s back’ to the other boys in the home and then they would attack me. It made me more determined to keep running away.
“I went to another children’s home after about eight months. They cared for me. It was completely, utterly different. I was there six to eight months then it closed down and I was sent back to Beechwood.
“When they [social services] told me I had to go back I was crying my eyes out. I was begging social workers not to send me back. It all started again the second time I was there.
“I started sniffing glue just to block out everything. I just used to block the day out.”
After enduring a further year at Beechwood, John left and admits his life spiraled out of control.
“I got involved in car crime, breaking into shops and fighting.
“I went into young offenders institutions. I hated everybody, especially the authorities.
“I’ve spent around 20 years of my life in and out of jail.
“I went from smoking dope to taking amphetamines and then doing heroin.
“I’ve been clean of drugs for four years. I stopped because of what it was doing to my family.”
John said he has given a statement about his time at Beechwood to Notts Police.
He is among the 17 former Beechwood children who are set to make a civil compensation claim against Notts County Council at the end of the police investigation based on the alleged suffering they endured at the home.
“This is not about money. It’s about getting justice for those that suffered.
“Because of my history, I’ve always hated bullies and [certain Beechwood staff] have got away with this for so long.
“I still get upset talking about it now. I’d like to help others like me talk about what happened to them.
“This is not grassing. It’s telling what you’ve been through.”
The 17 ex-Beechwood children set to seek compensation for their alleged ordeals are being represented by Chris Ratcliffe, of Uppal Taylor Solicitors, in West Bridgford.
Mr Ratcliffe said: “This was not one rogue member of staff. It was systematic abuse.
“The claimants are making allegations of physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
“Had they received appropriate care in an appropriate environment, their lives could have been substantially different.”
Anyone with information that could help the police inquiry into alleged child abuse at Beechwood Community House is asked to contact Notts Police on 0300 300 99 99.