Update: John Duncan has died in jail

April 2014

Social workers jailed for sexually abusing vulnerable boys at residential homes in Shotley Bridge and Newcastle


TWO former social workers who subjected vulnerable young boys to a campaign of sexual abuse have both been given lengthy jail sentences.

John Leslie Duncan (pictured above) and Kevin Brown (pictured below) were entrusted with the care of children with learning difficulties at two North-East residential schools when they carried out the attacks, Newcastle Crown Court was told.


The charges relate to a series of attacks spanning three decades at Shotley Park Children’s Home in Shotley Bridge, near Consett, County Durham, and at Feversham School, in Walbottle, Newcastle.

Duncan, 61, of Hyde Park Street, Gateshead, was found guilty after a trial of ten counts of indecent assault on a male, three counts of indecency with a child, one count of buggery and one count of attempted buggery in relation to seven different victims.

The charges against Duncan all relate to offences carried out while he was working at the Dr Barnado’s-run home in Shotley Bridge and later at Feversham. Both have since closed.

The court was told that in 2001 Duncan had admitted the sexual abuse of two young boys, one at Shotley Park and the other at Feversham and had long-since served a term in jail for those atttacks.

Today he was locked up for 15 years.

Duncan started work at Shotley Park as a social worker in 1977, aged 23, and remained there until late 1984. He later worked at Feversham and left the school in 1995 after being promoted to its deputy head of care.

Brown, 58, who was already serving a prison sentence, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to five counts of indecent assault against five separate victims.

He was subsequently found guilty of a further count of indecent assault and one count of indecency with a child – against two further victims. He was today sentenced to six years on top of his current eight-year sentence.

The charges against Brown all related to offences at Feversham.

Both men were placed on the Sex Offenders Register for life and made subject to a lifelong Sexual Offences Prevention Order.

Lynsey Colling, acting head of the Crown Court Unit for CPS North East, said: “At the time of these offences, the victims were all vulnerable young children, each of whom Duncan and Brown had a professional obligation to protect.

“Instead, they abused the trust placed in them to exploit those children for their own sexual gratification.

“Despite the impact that those events had on each their victims, they have shown significant courage in assisting this prosecution.”

Detective Superintendent Steve Wade, of Northubria Police, said: “These man preyed on vulnerable young boys, abusing their positions as people in authority and trust and I’m pleased they will now spend a considerable amount of time behind bars.”

December 2011

Special school ignored plea over paedophiles

CRIES for help were ignored allowing sexual predators to prey on the needy at a Tyneside special school

Kevin Brown (pic above) used his position as a senior member of staff to carry out the horrifying attacks on the young boys he was supposed to be caring for at the residential school.

But when one of his victims managed to find the courage to reveal his torment, the subsequent investigation saw the matter “brushed aside”.

Brown then went on to steal the childhoods of another three lads at the charity Mind’s Feversham School in Walbottle, Newcastle, during the 1980s.

Today, nearly 30 years later, Brown’s shameful past caught up with him and the-55-year-old, of Inchberry Close, Benwell, Newcastle, was jailed for eight years at Newcastle Crown Court.

Jane Waugh, prosecuting, said: “Feversham School was a residential school for emotionally and behaviorally disturbed children. It was owned by Mind and catered for children aged between six and 19. The regime at Feversham failed to protect the children who lived there.”

The court was told how Brown was suspended after the first allegation was made against him but allowed to return to work and abuse more boys.

“The victim told his parents during his next home visit what had happened,” said Ms Waugh.

“His mother told him she believed him. She took that up with the school. It appears that what happened was it was reported to the school at a time when the head was out of the country and deputy David Allnutt was in charge.

“He took that complaint seriously. He said the victim was an honest child and believed his allegation.

“He took the step to suspend the defendant. However, what happened was the investigation was taken out of his hands by the board of governors. One is left to wonder what happened during the governors’ investigation.

“The victim was moved away from the school and the defendant was reinstated. And so it was the defendant was allowed to remain at that school and abuse pupils for a number of years. It appears the word of the defendant was taken over the child.”

Mr Allnutt later resigned over the regime at the school, run by Roger Stansfield, now believed to be living abroad, and who the court heard had a “chronic drink problem”.

The court heard how Brown, who worked at the school for 19 years, carried out the attacks by luring students to his on-site flat and offering to let them walk his dogs.

He also targeted the youngsters in their sleeping quarters and on school trips.

Brown, who went by the name of Ken, even enlisted the school bully to beat his victims into keeping quiet.

But police were able to piece together a dossier of evidence in a four-year investigation launched after victims, backed by former senior residential social worker Ian Merry, blew the whistle.

Mr Merry had also played a role in a 2001 case that saw another predatory paedophile a the school, care worker John Duncan, (pic below) jailed for similar abuse at the same time.

And a third staff member being investigated for alleged sexual abuse committed suicide by jumping off a bridge.

Brown pleaded guilty during the second day of his trial to four counts of indecency with a child and seven of indecent assault.

Julie Clemenson, defending, said he had shown “unusual frankness” and admitted abusing further victims in an interview.

She said: “He is a sorry, sorry man who has an insight into what he is and what he has done.”

Det Con Ian Moore, said: “I’d like to say a tremendous amount of credit should go to the victims who have displayed an incredible amount of courage.”

The school later closed and Paul Farmer, Mind chief executive, said: “We are deeply shocked and saddened by the abuse that took place at Feversham School and offer our sincere apologies and sympathy to those affected by these terrible events.

“Mind was the custodian trustee of the property from which the school was run and was not involved with the day-to-day running of the school. Mind is no longer involved with any residential educational establishments.

“Mind has provided all the assistance it could in connection with the police investigation that commenced in 2008.”

Judge John Evans told Brown: “During your years of service at the school, you betrayed the trust that was placed in you by the children and their families, exploiting their vulnerability for your own sexual gratification.

“It is clear that you’ve created a trail of devastation in the lives of those young people and that devastation continues to affect them.”

Brown was jailed for eight years, made the subject of a lifelong sexual offences prevention order and banned from working with children.

IAN Merry has carried the secret horrors of Feversham for almost 30 years.

As a senior residential social worker at the school between 1983 and 1987, he tried to raise the alarm about the evil inflicted on the children but his complaints were always ignored.

But now, after watching Brown jailed, Mr Merry, said: “Shortly after taking up my post, I quickly became concerned and then alarmed by practices within the school. I became concerned about the motives of three male care workers at the school who seemed to have great licence to take children individually out of school for extended periods and for what seemed to me to be no good reason.

“This was then backed up by things individual children told me about the conduct of these three men and actual examples of criminal behaviour. I attempted to blow the whistle on these events in 1987 but all my attempts came to nothing. I named these three men at the time and after a perfunctory inquiry of my concerns, was told that my allegations of suspected sexual abuse were without foundation.

“I carried around this burden for many years. Other members of staff had tried to question the management of the school but they were treated with hostility by the principal and forced to leave Feversham under a cloud, professionally.”

December 2001


A DISGRACED children’s home worker who groomed young boys in his care before subjecting them to repeated abuse has been jailed for nine years.

John Duncan, 58, showered his victims with gifts and even took one on a trip to Africa so he could carry out his sickening sex acts.

Duncan, known as Les, carried out his campaign while he worked with vulnerable children for more than 25 years at homes in Northumberland and Durham, as well as spending time working at the Children’s Society in South Shields.

He was jailed by a judge at Newcastle Crown Court yesterday after pleading guilty to two counts of indecent assault and one of serious sexual assault relating to two young boys.

Duncan was arrested after one of his victims, who was preyed on at Barnardo’s children’s home in Shotley Bridge, County Durham, broke his silence and sent a letter to police.

The victim, who cannot be named, said: “I sent a bullet point letter of things that had happened and sent a fax to the social services director, which started the ball rolling.

“It was just a question of seeing stuff on TV and the fact that abuse is now less of a taboo. I was sexually abused and I thought that if I can do anything to stop it happening to someone else, so be it.”

The 30-year-old, who is now living in London, added: “If he (Duncan) was on a sleep-in duty, you knew what was going to happen. If there was a different member of staff on, I knew I would be safe. But there was always somewhere he could get you, he was the deputy, the supervisor.

“He got me a single bedroom, which was a special privilege, and it was opposite the staff bedroom. There was an empty room on either side. You can imagine what happened when he was on duty.”

“I was fairly good at school but when this started my grades went down. You just can’t focus, you can’t concentrate.”

The civil servant also told of the effects Duncan’s attacks had on his relationships as he got older.

He said: “I find it very difficult to form relationships, I just can’t trust people. Sexual relationships are extremely difficult, I am very suspicious of people.

“I keep thinking are they just after something or do they actually want to be my friend , you just can’t explain the effect, you just can’t.”

Another former resident of Barnardo’s said he had approached social services 18 years ago to lodge a complaint about Duncan but was ignored.

Duncan pleaded not guilty to a charge of indecent assault in relation to him and the charge was left on file.

Duncan, of Guernsey Road, Grindon, Sunderland, was jailed for nine years and after his release will be placed under a supervision order for a further three years.