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Update: Operation Meadow

20 Oct 2020
  • The investigation into allegations of abuse at Hill End Adolescent Unit has concluded

  • Officers spoke to more than 100 adults who spent time as children at the unit in St Albans

  • It has been established that the use of sedation on children did not meet the standards of the day

  • Allegations of sexual assault have also been fully investigated

After a complex and thorough investigation, Hertfordshire Constabulary has come to the end of its inquiry into allegations involving the excessive use of sedation at Hill End Hospital Adolescent Unit in St Albans. 

The investigation, which was led by the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit and has spanned three years, examined the standard of treatment and the use of sedation on children – including whether sedation was used outside of normal therapeutic treatment.

The inquiry team spoke to more than one hundred adults who spent time as children at the unit between 1969 and 1995. While no arrests were made, a total of 70 former staff members were traced and witness statements obtained. Where available, medical records were recovered and examined, but the passage of time meant many records were no longer available. 

A team of specialist officers were involved in the investigation and several expert witnesses from the professions of child nursing, pharmacology, social work, psychiatry and psychology were consulted.  

Officers established that the use of sedation at the Unit did not meet the standards of the day and medical records show that in some cases children were given adult doses and were repeatedly sedated. However, there is insufficient evidence to support any arrest or prosecution.

As well as the use of sedation, officers have also investigated allegations of sexual assault at Hill End. These have all been fully investigated however, again there is insufficient evidence to support any arrest or prosecution.

Hertfordshire Constabulary takes all reports of sexual and physical abuse seriously regardless of how long ago the offence may have occurred and we have specialist officers who are trained in supporting victims through the investigation process.

Detective Superintendent Jerome Kent said: “We know that this has been a long process but we had a fundamental responsibility to all those involved to fully investigate the allegations in relation to Hill End Hospital Adolescent Unit. Non-recent cases are always challenging and those who stayed at the unit have been incredibly courageous in speaking to officers about their experiences.

“Myself and the investigation team would like to thank them for speaking out and we understand that doing so will have brought back many distressing feelings and that this process will have caused many to re-live the trauma of their time at Hill End.

“While the investigation is unable to progress further for the reasons outlined, we hope that those who came forward to share their accounts with us will find some closure in the knowledge that they have been listened to, taken seriously, and a full and proper investigation has taken place.”

Those who feel they need further support may wish to contact one of the following organisations:

  • If you are not already receiving support from mental health services then please contact your GP, or contact the Samaritans at www.samaritans.org or call 116 123.
  • If you are a current mental health service user then please contact your local services. In Hertfordshire this will be Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust. Further information can be found at www.hpft.nhs.uk
  • The National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC) offers support to those who have suffered abuse or neglect as children. Visit their website at https://napac.org.uk or call their support line on 0808 801 0331.

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