Peter Smith was sexually abused and beaten every day for six years but has been denied compensation because of an unspent conviction
Image: Richard Rayner)
A pensioner who was sexually abused and beaten every day for six years as a boy has been denied compensation due to a conviction later in life.
Peter Smith, 68, endured unimaginable horrors but an unspent conviction due to a four-year jail term is stopping a payout.
He is one of 383 abuse victims in the past three years denied compensation under the taxpayer-funded Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme because of unspent later convictions.
Peter, who has waived his right to anonymity, said: “It’s like being punished twice. I’ve already served time in prison for the things I did. I’m still suffering now. We’re not talking about megabucks – it’s recognition that what we went through was wrong.
“It needs to change. You can’t penalize people for something that happened when they were a child.” He was just nine when he was sent to Stanhope Castle in Bishop Auckland, Co Durham.
The site was an approved school – a residential institution for young offenders or out-of-control kids. Peter, whose brother was also beaten there, described it as “a horrendous place” where pupils regularly suffered brutal punishment.
He recalled standing in its courtyard for an hour with a bar of soap between his teeth as “froth poured down my face and my lips swelled.” He said he was beaten by teachers and at night older boys would pull him from his bed and force him to carry out sex acts.
The trauma Peter, of Newton Aycliffe, suffered meant he struggled to cope when he left the school at 15. He said going to Stanhope had labeled him for life, saying: “Me and my brother were no angels but we didn’t deserve that .”
Stanhope was a Home Office-run approved school for 105 boys until 1973, when it became a council-controlled community home. It closed in 1981. In 2013, Durham police set up Operation Midday and 28 victims have come forward. There were 59 offenses recorded, of which 31 were sexual, and investigations continue. One of Peter’s peers at Stanhope has been awarded £22,000.
Peter left school unable to read and write. His life from him went “down the drain” and he became involved in crime, getting sent to young offender institutions three times.
He said: “I had no clue about the outside world, they just let me go. I was lost. They gave me some money to get on the bus to where I lived. There was no social care, aftercare, anything like that. You were just let out.”
Peter said cops looked for him because he was from a notorious family. In 1978, he was caught near the scene of a robbery after a “foolish mistake” and jailed for four years.
But he said: “That’s the best thing that could’ve happened to me. It gave me time to look and reflect, and analyze what my prospects were.”
After his release, Peter got his O-levels, A-levels and a degree in sociology at the Open University, married and had two children. He now lives in the North East with his new fiancée.
Angela Cairns, chief exec of Unlock, a charity helping ex-offenders, said: “Many survivors of childhood sexual abuse are unable to obtain justice until adulthood, by which time the impact of their experiences will have been with them for decades.
“This makes it doubly offensive and wrong survivors of childhood sexual abuse are denied compensation they need because of the stigma a criminal record brings.
“An unspent conviction doesn’t make you less of a victim, or mean you need less support dealing with your trauma.”
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said the compensation scheme paid over £153million in a year to victims and families impacted by violent crime, adding: “Unspent convictions can lead to compensation payments being reduced or withheld to reflect the harm offenders have caused to society.”