Sex abuse survivor welcomes council probe plans

Skegby Hall
Skegby Hall

An abuse survivor has welcomed a potentially new council team to look into historic sex crimes at children’s homes across the county.

Nottinghamshire County Council is proposing to form a new unit to deal with the growing number of former residents who have bravely stepped forward to talk about their horrific experiences in the hope of seeing the perpetrators brought to justice.

Two police operations - Daybreak and Xeres - are currently underway, but the council is looking to set up a Historical Child Abuse Unit, consisting of six full-time and three part-time staff.

The news has been welcomed by 62-year-old George Thornley, who said he went through rounds of systematic abuse at the hands of staff during his three-year stay at Skegby Hall - a home at the centre of the allegations.

Originally from the Humberside area, and now living in Australia, Mr Thornley said of the council’s plans: “It’s about time they did, I would love something to come out of this.

“The abuse happened to me about twice a fortnight, sometimes more.

“What happened with the others boys I don’t know - nobody talked about it, they were too scared to and they would have paid for it.”

Mr Thornley had been sent to the notoriously-strict Skegby Hall in 1962.

He was just nine years-old and says he was taken away from his home after taking the blame for his younger brother’s misdemeanours.

The married father-of-four says he was often forced to drop his trousers and be caned during his time there, which led to the abuse.

He says two members of staff were to blame, one of which he wrote to in the 1970s to ask why he abused him in a desperate bid to find some form of closure.

He never received a reply.

Mr Thornley says he has struggled to live a normal life, is unable to trust anyone and has undergone anger management therapy.

He added: “I still have nightmares even after 50 years, and I suffer with depression.

“It was not a walk in the park, they were very strict. The abuse made me feel dirty and not wanted.”

Operation Daybreak was launched by Nottinghamshire Police in 2010 following allegations of serious sex abuse to children living under council care dating back to the 1960s.

Due to the sheer number of victims coming forward, Operation Xeres was launched earlier this year to focus on council-run homes outside of the city, including Skegby Hall, Laybrook, Berry Hill Open Air School and The Ridge in Mansfield, and Cauldwell House in Southwell.

In a report to the children and young people’s committee, it states: “A number of civil claims for compensation have been made against the county council relating to historical abuse whilst the claimants were in the care of the council.

“The total number of allegations since Operations Daybreak and Xeres were established is unprecedented and requires a significant increase in capacity to ensure the council is providing adequate support.”

Nottinghamshire County Council will discuss the establishment of the unit this Tuesday, September 21.