September 2023

Former prison officer jailed for abuse of children

A prison guard convicted of “evil” physical abuse against boys in a juvenile detention centre has been jailed for three-and-a-half years.

Patrick Devaney, 81, subjected inmates to vicious beatings at Eastwood Park, near Bristol, between 1970 and 1983.

He was convicted of misconduct in a public office in February after a trial at Bristol Crown Court where 22 former detainees gave evidence.

Many of his victims were in court to see him sentenced.

Devaney’s sentencing hearing was delayed due to his poor health. He will serve half of his sentence in custody and half subject to licence with conditions.

He will serve his jail time in a Northern Irish prison, as he now lives in County Down.

Delivering the sentence, Judge Edward Burgess KC said: “You were a cruel man, who took sadistic pleasure from routinely abusing the boys for who you were responsible.

“All your victims have been severely adversely affected by your behaviours and each bears the emotional scars of what you did, some more obviously and keenly than others.”

He went on to say that the number of victims would extend beyond the large number in court.

He told the victims he was grateful to them for their victim impact statements which he described as “intensely personal, upsetting, in some respects, chilling, and in every respect, moving”.

Speaking directly to Devaney, the judge added: “It is quite clear to me – seeing you in court – that you still do not believe you did anything wrong.”

Devaney was acquitted of a further charge of indecent assault against an inmate and the jury failed to reach a verdict on two other counts of the same offence.

The Crown Prosecution Service decided not to pursue a retrial on the remaining charges.

During the trial, victims spoke of Devaney giving out regular vicious beatings with a cricket bat, a length of rubber hose he called “Mabel”, or a metal ruler.

At the time of the offences, government had a “short, sharp shock” policy for punishing young offenders, which involved a harsh “military-style” regime.

But the jury were told Devaney’s offences went far beyond what was “appropriate or acceptable”.

Devaney was particularly brutal in the gym at Eastwood Park, near the village of Falfield, and would slap and punch boys who could not beat their own times at circuit training.

The boys were frequently beaten around the face and ears and made to exercise so hard that they would pass out or vomit.

One victim described Devaney as an “absolute monster, a psychopath, a thug who assaulted people on a daily basis, numerous times a day”.

Another said Eastwood Park was a “place where people were not treated like human beings. Everyone remembers Mr Devaney because he was the worst of the worst”.

In total, 17 witness impact statements were read in court – three by the victims themselves, the others by the prosecuting barrister.

Many told of the lasting impact of the violence and brutality they experienced at Devaney’s hands.

Some addressed him directly.

Anthony Corria told him: “I’m glad you’ve been convicted. I’ve prayed for this day and I’m glad justice is being served.

“Time is a healer, but it can’t erase none of our memories.”

The three victims who read their statements in court were applauded by around 20 victims and their supporters, who attended court to see their abuser sentenced.