Jury continuing deliberations on rape and sex abuse allegations against former children’s home boss

PUBLISHED: 13:12 23 May 2019 | UPDATED: 08:25 24 May 2019

Joseph Douglas Hewitt in 1995. Photo: Archant Library

Joseph Douglas Hewitt in 1995. Photo: Archant Library

Archant Library

Jurors will today continue deliberations on eight charges of rape and sexual assault against a former Norwich care home boss.

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 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 has been 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.

After five weeks of evidence the jury has now retired to consider its verdicts.

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They were deliberating during Thursday afternoon and were sent home for the night and will resume their discussions on Friday morniing,

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.

Judge Andrew Shaw, summing up, told the jury: "The defence invites you to step back and say the only relevance of the 1995 convictions is that they give a platform from which false allegations are now being launched.

"They say there has almost certainly been collusion although there is no evidence of that. They say these are financially driven false complaints.

"The prosecution case is what are the chances of 10 unrelated people making similar false allegations against Mr Hewitt?

"They say the only conclusion is obvious - that these offences are all true."

He told the jury he would only accept unanimous verdicts.

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