Surrey Police have revealed a huge criminal investigation is ongoing into alleged abuse, spanning over three decades, at a former Woking children’s home.
A police investigation into the former Kinton Approved School in Mayford, which later became known as The Oaks Centre, has so far led to 17 arrests or interviews under caution as Surrey Police look into allegations of historical abuse.
Sadly, news of this matter did not come as a surprise to me, as our specialist abuse team at Hudgell Solicitors have been contacted by former residents as this police investigation has grown over recent weeks and months.
They have told us they were subjected to physical, mental and sexual abuse and turned to us knowing we have supported many other victims of historic abuse.
The abuse at this home, which was run by Surrey County Council, is alleged to have taken place between the early 1970s and early 2000s.
Surrey Police say officers have spoken to more than 200 people and pursued more than 1,500 lines of inquiry during the ongoing investigation, and that multiple victims have been identified.
Police believe there will be more victims still to come forward
Allegations of abuse happening at this home have previously been made, and in 2006, former care worker Keith Hammerton, then 69, was sentenced to five years in prison.
He was convicted of 10 counts of indecent assault and gross indecency against children during his time there in the 1970s, as during his trial, the court heard how he would invite as many as three boys at a time to his room to perform sex acts on him in return for beer.
Three counts of indecent assault, one of perverting the course of justice and another of buggery were also left on his file.
Having carried out 17 arrests or interviews under caution as part of this latest investigation, Surrey Police now say they believe there are a number of others who may have committed criminal offences at the home.
And as always in such cases, it is supporting those who have been victims of abuse in being able to speak about what happened which is key. There are many reasons why people feel unable to speak about being victims of abuse when young, and a dedicated support network is required to help those who do come forward.
Speaking out can be hugely difficult for victims of historic abuse
The force says it is working with Surrey County Council to try and identify victims where they do not yet have their full identity, so that they can meet with them.
And given our work and experience at Hudgell Solicitors in supporting people who have been victims of abuse when young children, we know many find situations like this a hugely difficult experience.
Despite most wanting to bring offenders to justice, many feel unable to even confide in those closest to them about what happened.
Surrey Police has quite rightly said that it is ‘committed to ensuring the full scale of criminality at the children’s homes is uncovered and where criminal offences have been committed those responsible are brought to justice.’
For that to happen, people need to feel there is a solid network of support, and most importantly that they will be listened to and not dismissed. Given the scale of police investigation, that is certainly the case with regards to this former home now.
Having been aware of the ongoing investigation, I have seen this matter spoken about online on forums in recent months.
Former residents began to speak to one another as this police investigation progressed, and there have been comments along the lines of ‘finally being believed’.
It is clear that people are now listening, and support is being provided.
For those who don’t feel able to call the police, alternative services including the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, Victim Support, the NSPCC, Crimestoppers or the Rape and Sexual Abuse Counselling Service are options.
Those who do feel confident and happy calling police direct have been advised to call 101 and ask to be referred to the Complex Abuse Unit.
Hopefully the scale of this investigation, and the commitment being shown by Surrey Police, will help more people feel able to come forward, leading to anyone who committed abuse against children being brought to justice.