Caister man tells jury ‘I have never assaulted a child in my care’

Robert Brown, of Eastern Avenue, Caister is on trial accused of sexually abusing five boys at a chil

Robert Brown, of Eastern Avenue, Caister is on trial accused of sexually abusing five boys at a childrens home where he worked in the 1970s. - Credit: Supplied

A former children's home boss from Caister has accused ex-residents and staff of lying about him allegedly 'pummelling' children with his fists as he meted out punishments.

Robert Brown, the former manager of the children's home in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, which has since closed, has denied sexually abusing or assaulting any child in his care.

Brown, 69, who lived at the Manor Court Road Children's Home in the 1970s, but now of Eastern Avenue, Caister, pleaded not guilty to 16 charges of indecent assault on five boys.

He has also denied six charges of cruelty towards three of those boys, two other boys and a girl, and abusing one boy at a hotel room in Great Yarmouth.

The trial at Warwick Crown Court is now in its third week.

Yesterday David Jackson, prosecuting, asked Brown whether he considered it appropriate to hit a child for soiling himself, and he said he did not.

Asked why he therefore smacked one boy for doing so, he said: 'Because it became a regular habit with him at lunchtimes. It was almost as though he did it deliberately. I'm sure he did.'

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Mr Jackson put to Brown: 'He plainly had a problem, but you saw fit to slap him and call him a dirty little boy.'

It was suggested he was bullying the boy, but Brown said: 'No, I wasn't bullying him at all. I didn't bully those children. That's not the way I ran Manor Court Road.'

One former member of staff referred to Brown 'pummelling' another boy with his fists, and asked whether she was therefore telling lies, Brown replied: 'I'm afraid she is.'

He denied he would regularly clip children around their ears and an allegation he also hit a young girl when she soiled herself.

Brown previously denied letting himself into a bathroom or 'creeping around at night'.

Brown's barrister Dominic Lewis pointed out on Friday that in a series of police interviews Brown had denied all allegations against him. Asked whether that was still his case, Brown said it was.

He said he denied any allegations of sexual abuse or cruelty, he said: 'I have never assaulted a child in my care.'

Brown said he had grown up in Great Yarmouth with eight sisters and two brothers and became involved in social work when he was about 21, around the time he met his wife Marie, from whom he separated while they were both working at Manor Court Road.

He said he and Marie both got jobs at a children's home in Norwich before moving to similar posts at Myton Park Assessment Centre in Warwick and then to Manor Court Road where he had been asked to 'sort it out' because of problems at the home.

'When I first moved in, the children ruled,' he said. 'They were doing as and what they pleased, which was not the policy of Social Services at the time. We had to set up regimes and routines.'

He said it was very institutionalised, so he 'tried to create a family atmosphere' and began taking groups of children out to help them integrate socially with people outside the home.

It was alleged that when he went to another home to see a boy who was being moved to Manor Court Road, Brown had smashed the door after the boy, upset about the move, had locked himself in the bathroom.

Brown said: 'I had no alternative because the member of staff on duty was concerned. She told me he was a self-harmer.'

But he denied smashing the door to pieces, and said he had put his foot against it and pushed, breaking the doorframe rather than the door itself.

It was alleged at Manor Court Road, Brown had sexually abused two boys in the bathroom, each time after letting himself in while they were having baths.

Brown said: 'It didn't happen. The doors had push bolts on the inside which I believe were secure. I never accessed them.'

Two former residents told the jury that Brown had gone into their rooms at night and assaulted them.

Brown said this didn't happen and there was no possibility of anyone being able to creep around at night because of the noise of the floorboards and doors.

Brown said trips away from the home would be organised, often to the Yarmouth area where they would stay in caravans, with the children in two caravans and the adults in a third.

But he denied he would ever shower or get changed with the boys during such trips.

He added after leaving the children's home, he later moved back to Norfolk in around 1989 and became involved with the Caister lifeboat training youngsters up to eventually become crewmen.

The trial continues.

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