April 2022

Children’s home sex offender to be sentenced today

Joseph Marshall, who was found guilty of sexually assaulting boys at a Knottfield children’s home during the 1970s and 80s, will be sentenced at 10am today.

Marshall, aged 85, denied nine counts of abuse against three boys at the home on Woodbourne Road between 1974 and 1982, where he was a senior staff member.

In December he was found guilty on five of those charges, in a unanimous Jury decision.

The charges included those of indecent assault, gross indecency and buggery.

The court heard that the offences took place behind locked doors, in baths or in Mr Marshall’s office where they were ostensibly called in to be reprimanded by him.

In 1992 Marshall was found guilty of 13 offences of indecent assault committed at Knottfield, for which he served a three-year custodial sentence.

Vulnerable children who suffered “horrific” abuse at a former children’s home on the Isle of Man were “failed” by the authorities, a report has found.

“Physical, emotional and sexual abuse” continued at Knottfield home for decades, the Social Affairs Policy Review Committee’s (SAPRC) report said.

Chief Constable Gary Roberts publicly apologised on behalf of the force.

The committee “welcomed” the apology and suggested other public office holders should consider following suit.

They “need to consider whether they should make similar public statements,” the report noted, “as does Tynwald itself”.

A police spokesman said an 82-year-old man will appear in court, on a date to be set, in relation to several indecency offences which are alleged to have been committed at the former children’s home in Douglas during the 1970s and 1980s.

The SAPRC report centred on two 10-year periods between 1961-71 and 1973-83 when Knottfield – which closed in 1983 – was run by two separate couples.

During the first, 275 children were placed under the care of Mr and Mrs Hamilton.

Some living there “remember a regime characterised by relentless physical brutality and emotional humiliation,” the report found, noting that the authors “believe them”.

After an 18-month period in which another couple ran the home, it was taken over in 1973 by Joseph Marshall and his wife.

About 400 children were placed under their care. Residents recalled a regime of “horrific physical, emotional and sexual abuse”. The authors wrote: “We believe them.”

It said abuse was perpetrated by some employees of the home, by other children living there, by other adults known to the children, and by adult strangers both on and off the island.

One man said he was sexually abused by a stranger when on holiday in Kent, and at Warwick Castle by players of a foreign football team.

They are said to have performed sex acts on him and forced him to reciprocate. Others had similar recollections.

The Committee was formed in July 2017 and spoke with 14 people (nine men and five women) who had been in Knottfield as children.

The children and the staff “felt there was no-one to whom they could report the abuse which was going on”.

In its wide-ranging report, which made 10 recommendations, the SAPRC also found:

  • Inadequate support for abuse survivors traumatised as a result of reliving their experiences in police interviews

  • Key records of inspection visits to the home “appear to have vanished”

  • There was a need for Tynwald to consider appointing a UK-style Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses

  • Compensation arrangement for abuse victims should be reviewed

  • All public bodies should review Safeguarding procedures

The authors also warned that “despite improvements made since 1983, it remains possible that a child in the Isle of Man could [still] suffer such emotional, physical or sexual abuse or neglect while in care”.