Convicted rapist tells court he is ‘uncomfortable’ with male contact in fresh allegations trial

Joseph Douglas Hewitt in 1995. Photo: Archant Library

Joseph Douglas Hewitt in 1995. Photo: Archant Library

Archant Library

A former Norwich care home boss accused of rape and sexual assault of children under his care has told a jury he is “uncomfortable” with contact with other men.

Woodlands Observation and Assessment Centre in March 1974. Picture: Archant archives.Woodlands Observation and Assessment Centre in March 1974. Picture: Archant archives.

Joseph Douglas Hewitt was officer in charge of the Woodlands Observation and Assessment Centre, off Dereham Road, between 1974 and 1983.

Up to 25 children at a time, aged between eight and 16, would be sent there for assessment before being fostered or moved to another children's home.

In 1995 Hewitt was convicted of six counts of rape and sexual assault involving five girls at the home, committed in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The 79-year-old is now standing trial at King's Lynn Crown Court having denied allegations from five fresh alleged victims - three men and two women - who had been children at the home between 1978 and 1983.

Hewitt began his evidence this morning, and told the jury "I still proclaim my innocence" over the 1995 conviction.

He said "corporal punishment was not part of the ethos" at the home, but "was legal" at the time.

In response to allegations of putting children on 'pyjama watch', he admitted one boy at Woodlands had his clothes taken away after regularly absconding.

"I noted a report from my deputy when with one particular young man went to bed they would remove his normal clothes and take them away and return them in the morning," he said.

"That was a way of deterring his absconding behaviour."

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He said children "could not be locked in rooms" in Woodlands as it was not certified as secure accommodation.

"It would be a criminal offence," he told the jury. "It would be unlawful imprisonment or kidnap."

Hewitt said one girl had been put in a staff bedsit while she had been self harming, but denied the existence of a 'naughty room' where children would be put in isolation.

Tania Griffiths, defending Hewitt, asked him: "Have you ever had sexual contact with a male of any age?"

"I have brothers and we have never hugged," he replied. "The only man I have ever hugged as an adult is my son and my grandson. It is not something I am comfortable with. That is the way I was brought up. I only ever shook hands with my father.

"That is the way I have always been with male adults - or young people."

Hewitt, of Snelsmoor Lane, Chellaston, Derby, has denied two counts of rape, three of a serious sexual offence, two of indecent assault and two of gross indecency.

The trial, expected to last five weeks, continues. The jury were told of the previous convictions.

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