Boss of children’s home claims 1995 sex abuse convictions were ‘miscarriage of justice’

PUBLISHED: 10:06 08 May 2019 | UPDATED: 10:06 08 May 2019

Joseph Douglas Hewitt in 1995. Photo: Archant Library

Joseph Douglas Hewitt in 1995. Photo: Archant Library

Archant Library

The head of a Norwich children’s home in the 1970s has insisted his 24 year old conviction for rape and indecent assault was a “miscarriage of justice”.

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

Joseph Douglas Hewitt was the officer in charge of the Woodlands Observation and Assessment Centre in the 1970s and 1980s.

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 of rape and indecent assault from five fresh victims, three boys and two girls, who were placed at the home between 1979 and 1983.

He was interviewed by police four times between 2013 and 2017 as new allegations were made.

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

King's Lynn Crown Court heard Hewitt had moved to Norwich from Somerset in March or April, 1974, and moved into a three bed flat at Woodlands with his wife at the time and two young children.

He told the court: "There was some physical contact [with the children] but because of my role that wasn't something I indulged in. I was an authority figure."

He said he could not remember most of the complainants, because around 800 youngsters had passed through Woodlands during his time there.

The court previously heard from five alleged victims. One described being kept on 'pyjama watch' to prevent them running away. Another said he would be stripped naked by Hewitt and put in the 'naughty room'.

"There was no policy regarding chastisement," Hewitt told police. "In terms of control youngsters would be told to behave. If they were harming themselves they would be restrained.

"If they were causing mayhem they may have to be moved to a staff area until they were calm again.

"The building just wasn't secure, youngsters could get in and out."

He said sexual abuse would be "totally unacceptable" and "would be discovered".

"It was a small community," he said. "It was a bit more intimate than it appeared.

"I refute and still continue to maintain my innocence.

"I made a presentation to the Home Affairs Select Committee into historical abuse and their concerns there have been miscarriages of justice.

"All of those were girls and there was national and lots of local publicity at the time.

"I have no idea where this is coming from. I do not know and do not understand why it is happening now.

"I would have expected this to be refuted by the staff. Speak to the staff who were around at the time.

When further allegations were put to him in 2017, Hewitt said: "It would be more than risky to do it. I have never had a relationship with a male at any stage in my life.

"I am baffled, totally baffled. I understand there is a lot in the current media about these sorts of things, but it just didn't happen."

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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