'Sadistic' former Co. Down prison officer guilty of abusing children at juvenile detention centre

'Sadistic' former Co. Down prison officer guilty of abusing children at juvenile detention centre

A FORMER prison officer from Co. Down who was found guilty of physically abusing boys at a juvenile detention centre has been branded 'sadistic' by some of his victims.

At Bristol Crown Court last week, Patrick Devaney, 81, was found guilty of misconduct in a public office in relation to his time working at Eastwood Park in South Gloucestershire, England between 1970 and 1983.

The court heard that Devaney encouraged detainees to fight each other, forced them to perform extreme exercise and used racist language to the boys in his care.

The children, aged from 14 to 17, would be beaten if they failed to follow his instructions.

Following the verdict, Avon and Somerset Police said Devaney subjected the young detainees to a 'litany of cruel and violent acts'.

"Patrick Devaney exploited his position to physically assault those who he was meant to keep safe," said Detective Inspector Alan Smith.

Repeatedly punched

In total, 22 former detainees gave evidence of the abuse they suffered at the hands of Devaney, who was based in the detention centre's gym.

During the four-week trial, the jury were told boys were repeatedly punched and often forced to perform extreme exercise before being punished when they gave way to exhaustion.

Fighting between detainees was encouraged and during one gym activity, Devaney would set groups up against each other — pitting older boys against younger ones.

If he felt the boys had not exerted themselves enough or if they hadn't followed his instructions, which at times were to assault other boys, he would beat them.

Devaney would also conduct fingernail and hand inspections and if he found nails that were dirty or bitten, he would strike the boy's hands.

He would also use racist language towards some detainees.

'Enjoyed inflicting pain'

"He worked for the prison service at a time when there was a government policy of giving young offenders a 'short, sharp shock' by way of punishment," said DI Smith.

"The force he used, however, went way beyond what was appropriate and acceptable, with many of his victims describing him as sadistic and someone who enjoyed inflicting pain on them.

"He admitted to giving the boys a clip around the ears and raps on the knuckles but vehemently denied abusing them in the way he did."

'Significant trauma'

DI Smith added: "Every one of his victims has been affected by his actions with some suffering significant trauma, which they have lived with for more than 50 years.

"I'd like to praise the courage they have all shown in reporting what happened to them and giving testimony in front of him at court.

"I hope this outcome gives other victims of abuse the confidence to come forward.

"Even if offences have been committed years ago, we can and will investigate them thoroughly."

Devaney is due to be sentenced on April 14.