Riverside Children’s Home, Rocester, Uttoxeter, Staffs
MUM-OF-THREE Samantha Stone saw and experienced shocking acts of violence as a teenager detained at scandal-hit Riverside Children’s Home.
She spent 18 months at the home in Rocester during two spells in the mid-1980s.
It was closed by Staffordshire County Council in 1989 and a number of former workers were later convicted of offences including rape and indecent assault.
Sam, of Bentilee, who first went into care aged 10, was one of numerous children abused during her stay at Riverside.
She eventually received £10,000 in compensation from the county council, as hundreds of former residents sued.
The 40-year-old has now come forward in order to speak to film-makers putting together a documentary about the home.
She said: “The first time I went, I was just a naughty child, nothing crazy, just bunking off school and things like that.
“The second time was for criminal damage due to a fire. I was actually looking at five years in prison.
“It was partially a joke and partly trying to prove a point.
“I was living in a care home and the curtains should have been flameproof.
“It was a bit of a mad night, there was a group of about 15 of us and I set fire to the curtains. I didn’t expect them to go up so fast. They sent me straight back to Riverside.”
Sam said she would see people “getting battered all the time”, but never thought anything of it.
“It was the norm for me,” she added. “You would get beaten for the slightest thing and if you ran away you would get beaten worse. It was a vicious circle.
“Riverside was split into two floors, upstairs and downstairs.
“Both were like borstal and were very regimental but the upstairs, where I happened to be, was nowhere near as bad as the downstairs, where the worst things happened. I was one of the luckier ones.”
Sam said not all of the staff were involved in the violence and abuse – but a great number were.
“There was one bloke who was massive and he just loved to batter the lads,” she said. “It was horrific some days.
“This place was supposed to be caring for us, but I would never allow my kids to go anywhere near a care home after my experiences.”
Sam was interviewed by police in 1999, when a huge investigation was launched into the staff at Riverside.
She said: “My life turned upside down when the detectives came knocking and I had to relive my childhood.
“It was a terrible place and we received no education while we were in there.
“In hindsight I should have taken the matter to court, but it was such a traumatic experience I just wanted it over and done with.”
Sam was released from care aged 18 and settled into ‘normal’ life, raising a family with her husband Malcolm.
She is now studying for a degree in Crime, Deviance and Society at Staffordshire University.
And she has now relived her experiences to the BBC.
“I hope the documentary highlights the terrible conditions we were forced to live in,” she added.
The documentary is still in production.
Sex attacker’s jail term reduced
Written byAIMEE PARKER
A FORMER social worker jailed for sex attacks on teenagers at an East Staffordshire children’s home has failed in a bid to have his convictions overturned – but has had his jail term cut by two years.Joseph Hopkins, was jailed for 12 years in November, 2001, after he was found guilty at a trial of one rape, nine indecent assaults and two counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
The offences were all committed against children who were in care at the Riverside Children’s Home in Rocester between 1981 and 1985.
The jury cleared the 61-year-old of one charge of rape, one of indecency with a child and three further indecent assaults.
Hopkins, of Ash Grove, Lichfield, denied all the charges made against him during a two week trial at Worcester Crown Court.
After a two-hour hearing at London’s Appeal Court on Friday, Lord Justice Pill dismissed his conviction appeal – but went on to reduce his 12-year term to 10 years.
Judge Pill, sitting with Mr Justice Aikens and Mr Justice Gray, said the court would give reasons for both rulings at a later date.
Attacking the convictions as ‘unsafe’, Hopkins’ solicitor, Ray Wigglesworth, said that one of the alleged victims had ‘lied in her evidence’ by claiming that she had not made a claim for compensation over her ordeal and “never intended to do so.” She later admitted starting a damages claim after she was confronted with a letter from her own solicitor to this effect, said the barrister.
Mr Wigglesworth claimed there had been a “massive trawling exercise” before the trial, in which the police placed newspaper advertisements “asking for former residents to come forward for interview.”
Officers were instructed to begin interviewing residents who came forward with “neutral” questions, but to ask direct questions “if nothing was forthcoming,” he claimed.
Mr Wigglesworth said there was evidence which “suggested collusion,” with the possibility that some “complainants” may have spent time together and compared notes between leaving Riverside and the start of Hopkins’ trial.
He also criticised the trial judge’s summing-up on the possibility of collusion.
The judges did not indicate when they would give their reasons for dismissing Hopkins’ conviction appeal and allowing his appeal against sentence.
Hopkins was caught after an investigation by Staffordshire Police into allegations of abuse at the Riverside Home during the 1980s.
Operation Thor was launched in 1999 and has since resulted in seven convictions.
The Riverside Home closed in 1989.
Burton Mail 26/01/04
FOUR YEARS FOR PERVERT
Written by JOHN ROBERTS
A PERVERT who sexually abused young boys at a children’s home near Burton and went on the run to avoid jail has been caged for four years.
Timothy O’ Farrell, 35, was sent to prison at Stafford Crown Court yesterday for a violent string of sexual attacks against fellow residents at a home two decades ago.
The 35-year-old, of Beaconsfield Road, Burton, was found guilty by a jury earlier this year but fled before being sentenced.
Pc Mick Hickebottom of Burton Police said: “It was after an appeal in the Mail that we had a series of calls which led to his arrest.”
O’Farrell was today beginning a four-year-jail sentence for three offences of serious sexual assault and five counts of indecent assault.
All the attacks took place at the Riverside children’s home in Rocester between 1982 and 1984 while O’ Farrell was a resident there.
A jury was told in January the defendant was the “king of the hill” at the home and used violence to enforce sex acts on younger boys.
Four of his victims, who are now all adults, gave evidence on the abuse they suffered at the hands of the pervert while he was 15 and 16.
The court heard each of the four boys were subjected to a series of sexual attacks by O’Farrell in the dormitory during the night.
Prosecutor Julie Mascur said the defendant carried out enforced oral sex and subjected fellow residents to bullying and abuse.
The defendant denied nine charges against the four boys but was convicted by the jury on eight counts.
O’ Farrell had claimed he never saw any bullying or sexual abuse at the home.
He was arrested after police launched a major probe into allegations of sexual abuse at children’s homes throughout Staffordshire.
Detective Chief Inspector Andy Dunning said: “Staffordshire Police is committed to investigating historic allegations of abuse occuring within Staffordshire. This conviction serves to reinforce that commitment and a determination to bring perpatrators to justice.
“I am particularly pleased for the victims who have borne the scars of these traumatic events for some considerable time.”
Burton Mail 07/06/03
Deputy head found guilty of illegal caning
Written by PETER RICHARDS
A FORMER deputy head of an East Staffordshire children’s home has been given a nine-month suspended prison sentence after being convicted of illegally caning and ill-treating a boy in his care.Thomas Watson (pictured), who worked at the Riverside home in Rocester, near Uttoxeter, during the 1980s, was found guilty by a jury at Stafford Crown Court of caning a boy who was wearing only a pair of shorts and deliberately pushing a table into the boy’s stomach.
Sentencing him to nine months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, Judge John Shand decribed Watson’s behaviour as “an abuse of disciplinary procedure” and “a disgraceful lack of control”.
Judge Shand said: “You had no reason to act as you did – you were in breach of your trust.”
The offences were committed during Watson’s time as deputy head of the Riverside children’s home nearly 20 years ago, when the boy was under 16.
The jury, however, cleared Watson of allegations made by eight other boys that he breached the regulations for corporal punishment which were in force at the time.
Watson, 57, of Meadow View, Burntwood, near Cannock, had denied a total of 13 charges – eight of child cruelty and five of assault causing actual bodily harm – involving nine boys altogether.
He was acquitted on 11 charges but convicted of two offences of child cruelty involving one boy.
Christopher Millington QC, defending, said: “He is not here to be sentenced as a man who ran a cruel and violent regime. He fell down badly in respect of one of the many thousands of youngsters he handled.”
He said even the victim had described Watson as “a nice guy”, though if he was wound up he could “go off like a bull in a china shop.”
Mr Millington said: “If he operated on a short fuse, it was under severe provocation.”
The court heard that Watson, a father of five, was a former factory manager before turning to child care work. He became housemaster at Riverside in 1977 and, after a short spell at the Chadswell home in Lichfield, returned to Riverside, where he was in charge of the observation unit then becoming deputy head.
The alleged offences dated back to the early 1980s, when corporal punishment was legal in children’s homes, provided it complied with strict regulations then in force.
The regulations permitted caning to be administered to boys only, applied over normal clothing and up to a maximum of six strokes. It was forbidden to cane children aged over 16.
The prosecution had alleged Watson had breached the regulations by forcing boys to remove their clothing or wear silk shorts and in some instances, by using a plimsoll which he nicknamed “Percy” to administer the punishment.
Watson had refuted the allegations, describing them as “rubbish”.
Burton Mail 20/03/02