Ty Mawr Residential School, Gilwern, nr Abergavenny
Gwent’s Operation Flight started in January 1998 following the referral of some cases from South Wales’s Operation Goldfinch. The complainants had been in Ty Mawr, a large former approved school situated in a manor house in Gilwern, five miles from Abergavenny. At first, only a limited investigation was carried outbut the police quickly realised, after much talking to some victims, that the problem of abuse was much more extensive and therefore merited a much wider enquiry. Gwent Police, therefore, decided to contact all 7,000 former residents of Ty Mawr, which was open between 1949 and 1993.
At first, it was an approved school, but the police have been surprised at how many children who stayed there in its early years were taken for social reasons, such as the death of a parent or their separation, and had not been offenders. As one of the investigating officers put it: ‘The system failed those children. It turned them into criminals’. By November 1999, the inquiry team – consisting of both existing and former officers – had identified 2,000 residents, talked to 1,500 and had received 150 allegations of sexual or physical abuse against 73 suspected perpetrators.
The police claim they were acting in concert and knew what each other were doing. There is a concentration of complaints relating to the late sixties and seventies, though the earliest relates to 1962. Nearly all of these concern Ty Mawr, but the investigation spread to 15 other homes in Gwent, some of which have already been the subject of allegations. Offences range from minor physical assaults to buggery.
The team is made up of 31 officers and is expected to take several years to complete its investigation. The first defendant to come to trial was acquitted in November 1999 but, at the time of writing, there had been two successful convictions at a joint trail which ended in February 2000: Barry Alden received 15 years for a series of offences including buggery and Robert Wright eight years for offences including attempted buggery. Several other cases were pending.
Forgotten Children, Christian Wolmar, 2000, pp.34-35
Approved school teachers jailed for abuse
The Ty Mawr Approved School in MonmouthshireTwo men who abused young boys when they worked in an approved school in Monmouthshire have been jailed for a total of 23 years.
A judge at Newport Crown Court jailed 66-year-old Barrie Alden, the former deputy principal at the Ty Mawr School near Abergavenny for 15 years after being convicted of 10 offences against young boys.Ex-housemaster John Wright, 56, from Talgarth in Powys was sentenced to eight years after being found guilty of six counts.
These defendants took it upon themselves to satisfy their sexual desires on them, and made a bad situation considerably worse. Roger Thomas QCBoth men were cleared of a number of other charges.The court heard the attacks took place between 1966 to 1983 and the complainants were vulnerable figures, many from broken homes or single-parent families.Prosecuting, Roger Thomas QC told the jury that their victims were timid boys who were frightened and bullied while at the school.Morally and socially corrupted
He said: “Some boys as young as eight were sent to the local authority school after ending up in court for trivial offences.
“Once there, they were subjected to indecent assaults and serious sexual assaults by Wright and Alden.
“At a time when they needed discipline, moral support and guidance, the exact opposite happened.
“They were abused, morally and socially corrupted.
“These defendants took it upon themselves to satisfy their sexual desires on them, and made a bad situation considerably worse.”Alden and Wright were arrested as a result of a Gwent Police inquiry into alleged abuse at children’s homes codenamed Operation Flight.
Both denied all the allegations, claiming the complainants were lying or attempting to gain compensation.
But they were found guilty by a jury of six men and six women who were praised for their “great commitment” in hearing harrowing evidence.
Judge Thomas Crowther QC told the pair: “You abused boys in their early to middle teens who were less equipped than the rest of the population to know how to resist and complain.
“It is regrettably a common feature sometimes described as grooming.
“You used your position and power to discourage these boys from reporting you by threats and punishment.”
The pair were ordered to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives.
Det Chief Inspector Terry Hapgood, senior investigating officer in Operation Flight set up to probe the abuse, said afterwards: “It was a multi-agency investigation with police working closely with social services to bring about the results we have today.
“We welcome the decision of the court.
“It has been long and intricate task to bring these people to justice but it underlines the determination of the team.”
He said it was first trial in Operation Flight which is continuing and is expected to result in more charges.
Ty Mawr report fails to satisfy home’s critics
Tuesday 04 August 1992
CHILDREN’S rights campaigners were last night disappointed by the findings of the Ty Mawr inquiry report into abuse at the home, in spite of its recommendation that it should be closed. They said the report was ‘uninformative’ and had failed to uncover the truth of life in the home.
The inquiry was announced in May last year after an investigation by the Independent revealed emotional and physical abuse at the children’s home near Abergavenny, Gwent, and that Phillip Knight, a boy of 15 who killed himself in Swansea prison, had attempted suicide at the home. According to his social workers, his suicide attempt was not taken seriously by staff at the home, who sought to punish him for it.
The investigation revealed that 17-year-old Leslie Clements, who also committed suicide last year, made five attempts on his life before he was moved to a psychiatric unit where he could be treated. Leslie told the Independent that he was woken each morning by a member of staff who told him: ‘You’re going to fail.’
Alex Saddington, of the National Associaton of Young People in Care, said that while the report singled out the former director of social services, Roger Perkins, for ‘autocratic, verging on dictatorial’ management style, the report failed to focus on the abuse of children and young people by members of staff.
‘Lord Williams, the inquiry chairman, spoke of ‘low level violence’ and said young people accepted punishments such as being ‘knuckled’ on the head, but I don’t believe they did accept it. The language of the report seems to qualify the violence,’ he said.
‘Slaps and knuckles were part of it, but there was much more. There was punching and there was emotional and psychological cruelty. It misses what Leslie Clements talked about. Staff telling him he was ‘shit’ and that he would never do anything with his life. The report does not address this and does not particularly say anything. It is nowhere near as informative as the Staffordshire pin- down inquiry.’
The inquiry report found that ‘neither Ty Mawr nor its staff could be fairly blamed’ for the death of Leslie Clements and that while the home was an ‘inappropriate placement for him’, staff treated him with ‘affection’.
There was also disappointment in Dyfed with the report’s finding that Ty Mawr staff could not be criticised for their handling of a suicide attempt by Phillip Knight in June 1990. The report says: ‘There is no fair basis upon which staff at Ty Mawr or employed by Gwent County Council could reasonably be criticised in respect of Phillip’s treatment at Ty Mawr.’
Dewi Evans, Dyfed’s director of social services, said he stood by his social workers’ reports that staff at the home had called police instead of an ambulance when they discovered the damage Phillip had caused to his room. A Dyfed social worker said: ‘Staff were more interested in damage to property than to life and limb.’
Mr Saddington said he was surprised that the inquiry report had rejected criticism levelled at the home’s use of secure unit cells by the Social Services Inspectorate. Its report published in June last year criticised the home for locking up children for ‘prolonged and persistent’ periods in 1989.
The report also stated that while the secure unit was intended to protect children from harming themselves, young people at the home believed it was being used as a punishment.
The report criticised staff for poor record-keeping, which made it difficult for inspectors to check how long children were being kept in solitary confinement. But the inquiry report found there was ‘no abuse of secure accommodation’ at Ty Mawr.
‘We are pleased that Ty Mawr is to close and that the management has been heavily criticised, but I’m disappointed. I don’t think Leslie Clements would have been happy with it,’ Mr Saddington said.
He also claimed members of the inquiry had refused to disclose how many young people had given evidence and how many were allowed legal representation. He said this information would highlight the scope of the inquiry.
The great irony was for all the Government’s guidelines on ‘listening to children’, the two most important witnesses, Leslie Clements and Phillip Knight, were not heard. They were dead before the inquiry began its work.