Accusations of rape and sexual assault against former care home boss were conspiracy, court hears

PUBLISHED: 14:27 22 May 2019 | UPDATED: 14:28 22 May 2019

Joseph Douglas Hewitt in 1995. Photo: Archant Library

Joseph Douglas Hewitt in 1995. Photo: Archant Library

Archant Library

Three ‘career criminals’ conspired in prison to accuse a former care home manager of rape and sexual assault in order to get compensation, a court has heard.

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 18, 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.

Tania Griffiths, defending Hewitt, said the three men had "colluded" together in prison between 2005 and 2013 after seeing adverts for compensation for sexual abuse in the Inside Times.

Each have significant criminal records, the court heard.

Ms Griffiths said of one of the men: "The only way he knows how to make money is to keep committing crime. He has got a bit long in the tooth now, and the rewards here are far greater.

"Mr Hewitt is just cannon fodder to him. He is an easy target."

It it is now 45 years since Woodlands opened, and Ms Griffiths said records that are missing from the time make it difficult to prove Hewitt's guilt.

"I am asking for perfection but you do that when you are defending someone charged with the most serious crimes and you want justice to be done," she said.

"The records we do have support what Mr Hewitt is telling you."

She said the prosecution were attempting to convict Hewitt on "trial by numbers", with 10 people having made allegations against him.

"Why is the question never asked, do we have some liars, chancers and fantasists here?" she said.

"What happened to the basic principle we are all entitled to that a man is innocent until proven guilty?

"It is an occupational hazard when dealing with children and vulnerable adults. Anybody can be subject to a false claim many years later.

"The truth is they need the money and he is a soft target.

"It is just greed, pure and simple. You can't possibly believe any of these complainants.

"Three men met in prison. You see letters from solicitors saying you could do with a bit more support here.

"[One complainant] comes along and she is just greedy. She is desperate for money. The women came in, probably encouraged by police."

"If you find there is collusion between any of these witnesses their evidence should be completely rejected.

"We say there are three people colluding in this case - the three men."

She admitted it was a "very slow run up to the wicket" since the first allegations were made in 2005.

"One or other of them was almost continually in prison and they couldn't get their heads together," she added.

Ms Griffiths asked how reliable each complainant was.

For one she said he once "thought fruit was talking to him", and another had "electrodes in the brain" during ECT therapy.

Another she said has "extensive drug use", and another had been "spreading rumours about the teachers" at her school.

"If without the records the prosecution can't prove their case, that is what you have to decide," Ms Griffiths told the jury.

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

He has also maintained his innocence over the 1995 convictions.

The trial continues.

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