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Abuse claims at former Winton House approved school
Hampshire County Council is facing sex abuse compensation claims from former pupils at a boys’ home, it has emerged.
Some 11 men have launched legal action claiming they were raped and beaten as boarders at county-run Winton House, an approved school for boys in Winchester The men accuse some of the male staff and older pupils of sexual and physical abuse in the 1960s and 1970s.
Eight years ago an ex-gardener, Michael Park, was jailed for 12 months after being found guilty of indecently assaulting three boys at the former home off Andover Road.
The jailing of Park followed an investigation by Hampshire Police, codenamed Operation Grangewood, in 2001 and 2002.
Now further allegations have come to light against eight other members of staff.
The county council has told the men’s solicitor there is insufficient evidence to support their claims.
One of the men claiming damages, a former choirboy at the school, said: “I had terrible experiences there. It has literally ruined my life. They had a duty to care for me but they didn’t do it.
“The council should have the guts to accept it happened and come to a settlement instead of dragging it out. It will be cheaper for everyone if it doesn’t go to court.”
The claimants – aged between 11 and 16 when the alleged abuse happened – are claiming in total about £500,000, including solicitors’ fees.
Claims include damage for actual assaults, for psychiatric injuries later in life and loss of earnings.
Charles Derham, of Hampshire-based Verisona solicitors, is co-ordinating the men’s claims.
He said: “The 11 men who have come forward are the tip of the ice-berg.
There are probably an awful lot who have decided not to make contact or have blocked out what happened to them or even ended their lives, which is not uncommon.”
Mr Derham said the men’s lives had been blighted by the sexual and physical abuse they suffered. Two are behind bars while others had found it difficult to keep jobs, drifted into crime, suffered relationship problems and confusion about their sexuality.
He said: “Winton House was an approved school for boys. It means they had had troubled lives but they had been assessed as needing specialist care. They were sent to the school for a multitude of reasons, including suffering abuse at home, only to suffer further abuse.
“Some find it difficult to talk about it while others are more open. Some of their families don’t even know they are pursuing a claim or about their past.”
Mr Derham said the county council was contesting the historic sex abuse claims on the grounds of lack of evidence and being out-of-time. Courts generally require cases to start within three years of an injury although judges have discretion to hear older cases.
Mr Derham is due to make an application to Winchester County Court for the police to disclose paperwork from Operation Grangewood when they interviewed 116 former pupils.
He said this will help to identify other alleged abusers at the home.
Winton House is believed to have been used as a training facility for the council after the boys’ home closed.
Part of the site has been sold-off and redeveloped for new homes.
Hampshire County Council was asked to comment for itself and former members of staff but failed to respond.