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Former prison officer guilty of abusing child detainees

The scales of justice and the words

A former prison officer who subjected detainees of a former juvenile detention centre to a “litany of cruel and violent acts” has been found guilty of misconduct in a public office.

Patrick Devaney, 81, of County Down in Northern Ireland, repeatedly assaulted boys aged between 14 to 17-years-old in his care at Eastwood Park in South Gloucestershire, where he worked from 1970 until 1983.

He was released on court bail following the verdict at Bristol Crown Court last week ahead of a sentencing hearing on 14 April.

In total, 22 former detainees gave evidence of the abuse they suffered at the hands of Devaney, who was based in the detention centre’s gym.

During the four-week trial, the jury were told boys were repeatedly punched and often forced to perform extreme exercise before being punished when they gave way to exhaustion.

Fighting between detainees was encouraged and during one gym activity, Devaney would set groups up against each other – pitting older boys against younger ones.

If he felt the boys had not exerted themselves enough or if they hadn’t followed his instructions, which at times were to assault other boys, he would beat them.

He would also conduct fingernail and hand inspections and if he found nails that were dirty or bitten, he would strike the boy’s hands.

He would also use racist language towards some detainees.

Detective Inspector Alan Smith, the senior investigating officer, said: “Patrick Devaney exploited his position to physically assault those who he was meant to keep safe.

“He worked for the prison service at a time when there was a government policy of giving young offenders a ‘short, sharp shock’ by way of punishment.

“The force he used however went way beyond what was appropriate and acceptable, with many of his victims describing him as sadistic and someone who enjoyed inflicting pain on them.

“He admitted to giving the boys a clip around the ears and raps on the knuckles but vehemently denied abusing them in the way he did.”

He added: “Every one of his victims has been affected by his actions with some suffering significant trauma which they have lived with for more than 50 years.

“I’d like to praise the courage they have all shown in reporting what happened to them and giving testimony in front of him at court.

“I hope this outcome gives other victims of abuse the confidence to come forward. Even if offences have been committed years ago, we can and will investigate them thoroughly.”