Sunday, September 02, 2007

Glasgow 'borstal' Larchgrove identified in latest child abuse scandal to hit Scotland.

Government and the legal system have certainly let the victims of alleged child abuse at the Larchgrove remand home.

Now its up to the Law to put things right, as much as it can ...

The Sunday Herald reports :

It was our duty to protect these children in remand homes. Instead they were sexually abused by staff for years’

By Neil Mackay

Former Glasgow ‘borstal’ at the centre of the latest child abuse scandal

ON THE eve of a watershed government report explaining why children in Scottish care homes from the 1950s until the 1990s were allowed to be sexually abused, the Sunday Herald has uncovered yet another disturbing scandal.

It centres on the sexual assault of children that lasted for decades in government-run Scottish remand homes and assessment centres - the country's equivalent of borstals. Although children were abused at a number of borstal-type institutions in Scotland, the worst site appears to be a former Glasgow borstal called Larchgrove.

The details are coming to light just as the Scottish Executive is preparing to publish the Historical Abuse Review, which is meant to draw a line under a series of shocking revelations about sex abuse in care homes run by independent organisations such as the Catholic Church and charities such as Quarriers.

Des - not his real name - was put in Larchgrove 27 years ago as a boy. He was detained for playing truant from school to avoid bullying.

"I was in there between 1978 and 1979," he told the Sunday Herald. "The sexual and physical abuse was terrible. This was perpetrated both by staff - although not all of them - and also by people who didn't work there.

"I complained at the time, ran away and was dragged back screaming. Nothing was ever done. I still wake up screaming, sweat running off me, because of the abuse I suffered."

Des said he ended up a heroin addict through using drugs to "block out all the pain and abuse I suffered there". He's now been clean for six years and is happily married. He was the first of many people spoken to by the Sunday Herald who confirmed the routine abuse of children at Larchgrove.

Reg McKay, a former director of social work who is now a best-selling crime writer, said he was aware of the abuse of children at Larchgrove from the very beginning of his career.

As a trainee social worker in the mid-1970s, McKay came face-to-face with boys who provided evidence of sexual abuse at the infamous borstal.

McKay was the social worker for three teenage boys who were locked up in Larchgrove. In 1976 they told him that they had witnessed other children suffering sexual abuse at the hands of both male and female staff. "These kids weren't bad boys," said McKay. "They were deeply disturbed - from dysfunctional homes. They had some very serious personal problems and were at risk of turning to offending or falling into drug misuse.'' One boy told McKay that the most dangerous time in Larchgrove was just after lights-out when the boys were put to bed. The boys were housed in small dorms holding six to eight beds. Staff would sometimes call boys from their beds. Often this was for valid reasons, such as administering medicine, but at other times it was simply to abuse them.

McKay says that on some occasions female staff took the children from their beds to be abused. The women provided the children with a false sense of security, ensuring that they didn't panic or scream on their way to be abused. The women were "either standing by or taking part" in acts of abuse, McKay added.

"I knew this was happening back then as I heard the allegations personally," said McKay. "The kids trusted me and had no reason to lie. When I reported the allegations to management I expected a full investigation to take place for the sake of the boys who were being abused.

"It was our duty to protect these kids and we clearly failed them. I went on to report what I was being told up the chain of command. I raised the allegations with senior members of social work staff. As far as I know there were at least three internal investigations, but nothing happened. There were no sackings, no charges - nothing.

"To be blunt, many of the homes where children were being kept in those days were worse than something out of Oliver Twist. I can even remember staff taking money from children. These were kids who had nothing in the first place."

McKay says that he recalls the same allegations resurfacing about Larchgrove in the 1980s. "Allegations of child sex abuse were being made against many similar institutions at the time. As far as I know, nothing was done about these claims either."

McKay says that some managers "hated" him for reporting allegations of abuse and demanding investigations. "Many social workers found themselves in the same position: raising concerns and allegations with management then having no power to ensure the right action was taken," he added. "It was bloody frustrating - especially when you or a colleague went back to the same institution a year or two later and heard similar allegations."

Later, as McKay's career as a social worker progressed, he led two investigations into allegations of sexual abuse at Kerelaw - another institution for detaining children who'd broken the law. Glasgow City Council also ran this facility for vulnerable children. Kerelaw closed last year amid allegations of abuse.

Glasgow City Council admitted that 40 of its employees had been alleged to have been involved in the sexual or physical abuse of children at the home. The council also said that some of those suspected of abusing children at Kerelaw were still working with children in care.

At the end of his investigations into abuse allegations at Kerelaw in the 1980s, McKay recommended that the claims be passed to the police immediately and that those accused of assaulting children be suspended with no pay. "Once again, nothing happened," he said. "And once again, I have no idea why."

Frank Doherty, founder of the Scottish organisation In Care Abuse Survivors (Incas), was sent to Larchgrove for 28 days in the late 1950s. He'd previously been in care in the notorious Smyllum orphanage in Lanarkshire where many children were abused. He used two words to sum up his memories of Larchgrove: "Getting battered."

Doherty was sent to Larchgrove for "petty criminality", he said. The physical abuse he suffered at Smyllum had left him a mental wreck so he was in no state to withstand the violence at Larchgrove. "Going into Larchgrove after being in Smyllum set me back years as I'd already been battered and tortured. Larchgrove was just another Smyllum. I saw regular physical violence in Larchgrove and I was often on the receiving end of it."

Tommy "TC" Campbell was another child inmate at Larchgrove. He knew boys who were abused and spoke of warders trying - but failing - to sexually abuse him. Campbell was wrongly jailed for life for the deaths of six members of one family in a firebug attack during Glasgow's infamous "ice cream wars". He was jailed in 1984 and his conviction was not quashed until 20 years later.

Campbell has always admitted that he was a tearaway as a teenager. He ended up in Larchgrove borstal in the mid-1960s aged 14 for truanting, trespassing and stealing eight pence. "Everything was brutal. The staff were just like screws," he said. "They thought nothing about giving you a wallop. There were also a few child molesters among them." It was common for boys who misbehaved to have their trousers pulled down before being beaten with a cane on their backsides.

Campbell says he knew of a number of boys who were sexually abused. He also named one warder who preyed on the weakest boys in the borstal. The warder would single out bed-wetters and other vulnerable children, believing they were less likely to inform or resist.

"They'd target the weak ones," he said. "They wouldn't go for the boys who were rebels or who were tougher lads as they wouldn't stand for it. They'd go for the ones with no mum and dad - the ones who were in there for care and protection. It was the worst place the state could have sent them.

"Everyone knew what was happening. You'd see boys being taking out of showers or their dorm and then the boys would tell you what happened to them. It was a terrifying place. You'd see boys in total terror - crying and withdrawn."

Campbell said that at the beginning of his time in Larchgrove there were attempts made to sexually abuse him. "Three different warders tried it with me," he said, "but they realised very rapidly that I was not one to try it with." Campbell later butted a warden for physically assaulting him.

"The whole place was mentally and psychologically oppressive. We were starving all the time - there were fights over a slice of bread." Campbell says that the children were even fed tins of pet food. "It was like Colditz. Boys were always plotting ways of escaping, although you'd be badly beaten for trying." Many boys were deliberately disruptive because they hoped they would be transferred to an adult jail and get away from the abuse at Larchgrove.

Tom Shaw, who is heading up the independent review of historic abuse for the Scottish government, said his report - due out shortly - investigated the flaws in the care system that allowed paedophiles to abuse children. He said that the revelations about Larchgrove underscored the need for the review. "It shows the point of our work," he said.

The review will highlight failures in the system which can be used by victims of abuse to sue the state for failing to protect them while young. However, no individual homes or perpetrators will be named in order not to prejudice future criminal trials.

Referring to the claims of abuse at Larchgrove, Shaw added: "What we don't know is how many more people may still want to come forward to tell their story."


blackhillbear said...

I was in Larchgrove, often, as a youth in the 60's. Many of my friends from the east end of Glasgow also spent time there.
It was not a borstal, it was a remand/detention centre.
It was not RC, it was non-denominational. (One Catholic author claims it was run by monks!!)
You slept in dormitories, not cells.
There were no female staff at the time I was there.
As for fighting over pieces of bread, the meals were great, breakfast, dinner, an evening meal and a late supper.
We never referred to the staff as "warders", they were more like teachers, and the head, Mr Murdoch, was referred to as the "Headmaster".
I experienced no abuse, nor saw it, nor heard of it while inside or outside the instituition, by staff, not even the use of the tawse which was legal then. On the contrary for most of us it was the first time we'd ever been treated with respect by figures in authority.
The only sexual activity I was ever aware of, was in Feb. 1965 when a boy on remand, an altar boy outside, was offering himself to others in his dormitory, it may have been for that behaviour he was there in the first place.
If this comes to court then the claimants can look to people like me, prepared to appear to clear people's names.

ally said...

i was in a home in newton stewart called monken hadley from 1976 till 1980 i was there for caer from my father who had beat me and my brother i was abused but he was put in prison but it was a terrible thing to have to go through when your 11 years old

Unknown said...

I was in Larchgrove assessment centre around 1976 and at that time there was female as well as male staff. If i remember rightly the centre was split into islands of scotland, arran, bute cant remember the other 2. The centre was comprised of dormatories. I can remember being taken from the dormitory at night by the night watchman for talking and forced to stand barefooted in the corridor for sometimes 2 hours.

Unknown said...

Well seeing this subject has been swept under the carpet and no one is interested in government.
Anyone can contact me at :

watson said...

i spent 6 months in the grove in '79, there were male and female members of staff at the time and the only abuse i can remember was having to listen to top of the pops every thursday.i was in bute house, then arran but never,thank god, manky jackson where all the bawbags went.i was studying for exams at the time in the education dept, the teacher was george smith who also used to do the bible study class.eventually they let me go back to school outside on a daily basis,before kicking me out all together when i was 16.there were vulnerable people in at the time but there were also quite a few sound guys who i dont believe for a minute would have stood having paedos in their midst, staff or otherwise.i actually have some happy memories of the place. watson

Unknown said...

I wonder if anyone can help me... my dad was in Larchgrove in the early 70's and I would just like to know what it was like there at that time. When I try to ask him about it he gets a little defensive but I'm really interested to know how he grew up...xx

Anonymous said...

Reading these accounts on borstals makes me wonder why the government authorities never checked on the goings on inside these juvenile dtention centres.
I believe that when there are no checks from outside there is nearly always abuse in these closed institutions. Shame on the governmrent authorities who did not make sure about the welfare and teatment of these juveniles.
It also makes me wonder about the accounts of those mentioned in the report who said that they were social workers and knowing about the abuses would only report these same abuses to the house management and leave it at that. Why didn't they report these abuses to the authorities in the first place, or make them public at the time? So I would give these so called social workers no points either. Shame.

Anonymous said...

I am Des, it actually is my real name.I was in Bute when the abuse occurred & all you nay sayers either never experienced it or are in denial.
I hope it is the latter because I have been in denial & it caused my life to go into a tail-spin resulting in my marriage breaking up.
I have now under gone 40 counselling sessions & only now this year 2011 can I safely say that I am healed.
I spent 30 yrs blaming myself for something that I had no part in.
I fought back & was beaten for it.
All I had left too me during that traumatic period of my life was the ability to show or express no emotion when these bastards abused, no raped,sodomised me 100s of times & the powers that be even though I told them didn't want to know or where to scared.
Will I name them now? no I am to scared , I don't want to have to go to court, go the the police but karma will find these bastards & they will be dealt with.
Just because it didn't happen to you does not mean that it did not happen to others.

Anonymous said...

I was in larch grove in the 70s,(anyone remember in the morning the words) akie bakie rise and shine hands off c..ks and on with the sock,s.and if your were.nt up and dressed you got it,i had many bump and lumps,i will say food was plenty and good,you were kept clean, i was in Bute,i was put in Arran for running away,because i was caught and brought back at 2am,i paid, The day staff made me scrub the toilets yes with a tooth brush and a kick to the head.for there that was me getting let off lightly.