‘Everyone knew what was happening’ - Alleged victim speaks of Norfolk children’s home abuse

Douglas Hewitt in 1995. Photo: Archant Library

Douglas Hewitt in 1995. Photo: Archant Library

Archant Library

A man who has accused a former children’s home manager of sexual abuse said his time at a Norwich care home in the late 1970s was “hell”.

Now 52, he said he “learned sex” while at Woodlands care home, and that he was physically and sexually abused “frequently”.

“Looking back at my age that is the last place you would want a child to go,” he said.

Joseph Douglas Hewitt was the officer in charge of the assessment centre off Dereham Road in the 1970s and 1980s, where children would be placed in preparation for foster care.

He was convicted in October 1995 of sexual assault and rape involving six children who had been placed at the home.

Hewitt, 79, has now denied allegations from five fresh victims, three boys and two girls, who were placed at the home between 1979 and 1983.

Giving evidence, one of the alleged victims told police he arrived at Woodlands when he was 12, and he was the “youngest one there”.

He said the older girls used to come into his room and cuddle him because it was his first time away from home.

“I had never been away from my parents,” he said. “I used to suck my thumb and everything.”

“My first sexual encounter was [at Woodlands],” he said. “Hewitt was the main one.”

He said it happened “at least once a week”.

“That is where I learned sex, and I have been sexually active since being in the children's home,” he said. “I just took it that that was how it was.

“I did not tell my parents. What went on just went on. Everyone was doing it – it just seemed like a normal thing. It didn't feel like I was being abused.

“Everyone knew what was happening. I thought that's just what children's homes were.”

He said one girl used to wake up with a staff member in her bed, and one boy tried to escape by jumping out of the window with pillows tied to his feet.

The alleged victim said he had spoken to another former Woodlands resident about his time at the home before contacting police to make the allegations.

Tania Griffiths, defending Hewitt, has said he “strongly suspects [the alleged victims] are dishonest people jumping on the bandwagon seeking compensation for things they know have never happened”.

In cross-examination, she highlighted the alleged victim's criminal record and a draft claim for compensation he has submitted.

“I know I have been in a lot of trouble,” he replied. “I am what I am.

“I am not doing this for the money – I am doing this for my life.”

In police interview in 2013, and later in 2015, Hewitt said he “could not recall ever staying overnight with a child” because he had other duties at the home.

He said he could not recall any of his accusers except one, and denied any allegations of sexual abuse.

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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