Over the years, again and again allegations of physical, emotional and sexual abuse have surfaced from individuals who have spent time in institutional care. This can include many forms of institution including but not restricted to; schools, care homes, hospitals, religious organisations and detention centres.
In 2017, an investigation was commenced into the allegations of beatings, mistreatment and sexual abuse, including rape suffered at the Hill End Hospital Adolescent Unit in St Albans between 1969 and 1995 by former staff members. Over 100 victims provided evidence to the investigation and over 70 members of staff were investigated.
Hill End was supposed to treat teenagers with psychiatric illnesses but became known as a “dumping ground” for children for whom the NHS and local authorities had run out of other ideas for.
Survivors told how they were sexually abused and filmed during strip searches, while children were also beaten. Survivors accounts disclosed being kept in police type cells and sedated for days at a time without reason or justification. As well as the sedation and physical abuse that accompanied it, survivors have reported being raped and sexually abused by hospital staff while being sedated or during strip searches under the pretence of checking for items they could harm themselves with.
Survivors said that few children had been diagnosed with mental health issues, and cast doubt on the effectiveness of treatment. Survivors found medication did not appear on any records given to their GPs and the hospital’s own documents were destroyed in an arson attack at an undisclosed off-site facility.
In November 2020 following a three year investigation known as Operation Meadow, Hertfordshire Constabulary confirmed there was “insufficient evidence to support any arrest or prosecution”. Hertfordshire Constabulary said its investigation established that sedation at Hill End “did not meet the standards of the day and medical records show that in some cases children were given adult doses and were repeatedly sedated”.
A statement added: “As well as the use of sedation, officers have also investigated allegations of sexual assault at Hill End. These have all been fully investigated; however, again there is insufficient evidence to support any arrest or prosecution”.
The report can be found here.
One survivor accused police of failing to follow up a report he attempted to make 12 years ago. Survivors have vowed however to continue their fight for justice and proceed with civil claims which have a lower burden of proof than a criminal trial.
The ongoing Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is continuing to take evidence on “the extent to which institutions have failed to protect children from sexual abuse” in councils, the police, armed forces, schools, hospitals, children’s homes, charities, religious groups and other public services.
The Truth Project offers victims and survivors of child sexual abuse the chance to share their experiences and be heard with respect. You can find information about this here.