Devon

Abuse survivors blocked from school records for 100 years

school Image copyright Unknown
Image caption Boys were sent to Forde Park School by the courts and social services until it closed in 1985

Survivors of abuse at a former approved school have demanded to know why records are missing from its archives or have been marked as secret.

Victims of violence and sex attacks at Forde Park School, Newton Abbot, Devon say the lack of access is obstructing their campaign for justice.

They are querying why information is being kept secret for up to 100 years.

It comes as claims have resurfaced about paedophiles at the school and dubious medical treatment of pupils.

Eight men were convicted of crimes at the school committed in the 1960s and 1970s, after a major police inquiry was launched by Devon and Cornwall Police in 1999.

Members of a survivors' group have also found documents at the Devon Heritage Centre, Exeter are restricted or missing, said the Local Democracy Reporting Service .

South West Heritage Trust said an individual can request access to their own records through a subject access request, in the case of county council owned records.

It said it followed guidance from the National Archives for third party access to documents, which withholds records that contain personal information on living people which may cause distress or harm.

Image copyright Devon Heritage Centtr
Image caption One note attached to a document held at the National Archives said it included "sensitive" information which "would distress or endanger an individual" and another listing said medical documents had been lost while on loan to a government department.

A spokesman for the survivors' group said: "They have got something in those files that they don't want us, or anybody else, to find."

"We can only think that these restrictions have been put on for so long because they don't even want our children investigating what happened to us."

One survivor said he was regularly picked up from the school in an expensive car with a staff member and taken to the woods where he was sexually assaulted by several different men.

He said he was regularly drugged and given electric shock therapy while at the school.

Image copyright Ed Oldfield
Image caption Paul Sinclair, 57, Newton Abbot said he has never been given an explanation for a scar on the left side of his head after an operation in Exeter to fix a broken cheek bone aged 14

The approved school was run by the Home Office before it was taken over by Devon County Council in 1973, when it became a community home for education.

Former pupils have given evidence about the aftermath of their cases to the Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse.

The hearings were told survivors felt let down and abandoned by the civil legal system which handled compensation claims at the time.

It also heard investigations at Forde Park by the Home Office and police in 1958 and again by police in 1976 resulted in no action.

The inquiry is expected to issue its report on its investigation into accountability and reparations in the summer.

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