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Law students fight for human rights of abuse victims

29th April 2019

Northumbria law students have been praised for their legal skills behind a campaign calling for a public inquiry into abuse of young inmates at the Medomsley Detention Centre in County Durham.

Launched by The Chronicle Newspaper in Newcastle, the campaign is calling for a full and open public inquiry into the treatment of young boys and men at Medomsley in the 1970's and 80's. The move follows allegations of abuse made by hundreds of former inmates, leading to a high-profile and ongoing police investigation. Five former employees at the detention centre have already been convicted of misconduct in a public office, while others have been convicted in the past of serious sexual abuse of inmates.

Solicitors from Ben Hoare Bell LLP, who represent more than 400 former inmates, believe the severity of the abuse in many cases breached Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights and that the authorities failed to protect the inmates. Final year students from Northumbria's pioneering Student Law Office have now been brought in by Ben Hoare Bell to carry out additional interviews and research into the allegations. Evidence gathered by the students will form part of the legal case being developed by Ben Hoare Bell calling on Home Secretary Sajid Javid to grant a public inquiry - and their professionalism has not gone unnoticed.

Praising their contribution Helen Dalby, Senior Editor for The Chronicle, said: "It is impressive to see students from one of our city universities working with a local law firm on such an important project, and we will back them all the way."

Her views were echoed by Jonny Hall, Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor for Learning and Teaching for the Business and Law Faculty and Executive Lead for the Student Law Office. He said: "I am extremely proud of the professionalism and legal knowledge demonstrated by our students. This is clearly a sensitive and often difficult case, but it is also an extremely valuable real-world learning experience for their future legal careers. We would say there’s definite breaches of Article 3. Inmates were in the care of the state and we need to look closely at how and why this happened while in that care. These breaches of the absolute and fundamental Article 3 right not to be subject to torture, inhuman and degrading treatment need to be investigated. “

If a public inquiry is granted by the Government, campaigners would expect a full investigation of all the physical and sexual abuse allegations at Medomsley between 1961 and 1988 to understand the scale and severity of what occurred at the detention centre. 

The Student Law Office at Northumbria Law School provides final year students with the opportunity to work on live legal cases. Operating in supervised teams they offer free services to the public and have represented more than 3,000 clients since 2005.

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