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Reformatory CP - March 2002
Evening Sentinel, Stoke-on-Trent, 6 March 2002
Jury told of beatings at children's homeBy Sentinel Reporter
A 33-year-old labourer from Stoke-on-Trent told a jury how he was beaten and humiliated by a deputy head officer at a county children's home.
Darren Underhill was aged 15 when he claims he was subjected to a series of assaults by Thomas Watson at Riverside Community Home School in Rocester.
He told the jury at Stafford Crown Court one of the beatings took place after he ran away from the social services home.
Mr Underhill said: "He said 'you are going to have it when you get back'. I was thrown in a cell and there were four members of staff there. I got hit first and went down.
"I curled up in a ball and the next thing I knew I was kicked and punched. It might have lasted for a minute or two. I was screaming."
He said he was taken to a medical room and received four stitches to a shin wound.
Stafford Crown Court heard Watson, aged 57, assaulted Mr Underhill after he refused to eat.
"I was sitting at a table and I had the food in front of me but I did not want to eat it," Mr Underhill said.
"He pushed the table against me and smashed the plate over my head. I could not breathe. When he let the table go he hit me. I got slaps and punches."
Mr Underhill also described Watson jumping off a table to cane him with extra force and being given a pair of silky shorts to wear.
"You took off your trousers and pants and put the shorts on to be caned," he said.
Mr Underhill described Watson as a Jekyll and Hyde character.
"Sometimes you got a beating and sometimes you could have a fag off him," he said.
Unemployed fairground worker, John Henry Bentley, aged 31, from Stafford was sent to the Riverside home, which is now closed, after playing truant.
He described how he had to count out the number of strokes he received from the cane.
"I had to touch my toes with my underpants on. You had to count them out and if you missed them you would get hit again," he said.
He added: "Slaps and punches were a part of every day life there."
Designated members of staff were allowed to give corporal punishment to children at homes in the 1980s but it had to be within strict guidelines. Caning was to be limited to six strokes.
Watson, of Meadow View, Burntwood, denies eight counts of causing cruelty to a child and five counts of causing actual bodily harm to boys in his care between 1979 and 1985.
The trial continues.
Evening Sentinel, Stoke-on-Trent, 6 March 2002
Children 'beaten with plimsoll'
The former deputy head officer at a care home used a black pump - which he called Boris - to beat children on their bare backsides, a court heard.
Jason Walters, aged 30, of Stoke-on-Trent, said he was hit with the plimsoll at Riverside Community Home School, Rocester, by Thomas Watson.
Mr Walters described how he had been taken into care, aged 10, and had spent around 12 months in the observation and assessment unit which was run by Watson.
He said: "I came into contact with Mr Watson every time I ran off.
"I ran off because I did not want to be there because I was getting assaulted. Mr Watson was slippering me.
"Mr Watson said 'I'll stop you from running off, you can meet Boris'."
Mr Walters added: "I said 'who is Boris?' and he got a black plimsoll out. He asked me to bend over."
He told Stafford Crown Court he received six of the best from Watson.
"The plimsoll was to the bare bottom. As it was happening he said 'are you going to run off again?'. I was screaming," said Mr Walters.
Riverside was a Staffordshire County Council run home which housed children taken into the care of social services.
Designated members of staff were allowed to give corporal punishment to children at homes in the 1980's but it had to be within strict guidelines. Caning was to be limited to six strokes.
Watson, of Meadow View, Burntwood, denies eight counts of causing cruelty to a child and five counts of causing actual bodily harm to boys in his care between 1979 and 1985. The trial continues.
Birmingham Post, 12 March 2002
Care worker denies crueltyBy Staff Reporter
A care worker accused of cruelty when he caned boys at Staffordshire children's homes yesterday denied that he also used plimsolls with pet names of Boris and Percy to punish them.
Thomas Watson, (57), worked at Chadswell home, Lichfield, and Riverside home, Rocester near Uttoxeter, between January 1979 and January 1985.
Julia Macur QC, prosecuting, said Watson was the 'designated care worker' for the purpose of administering corporal punishment at the two Staffordshire County Council homes and was allowed to beat boys with a cane.
Watson, of Meadow View, Burntwood, Staffordshire, denies eight charges of child cruelty and five of assault on nine complainants.
He told Stafford Crown Court that when he caned the youngsters "I was not very keen on the idea. It was undignified."
He said he inspected boys' buttocks "to see that it had not caused damage. If they were hit too hard it could draw blood but I never saw cutting of the skin in any way."
Watson told Christopher Millington QC, defending, that he did not physically assault one youth or punch him in the stomach or slap his face.
He said on one occasion when he was alleged to have caned another boy at Riverside he was at Lichfield at the time.
He said he never caned a boy without another member of staff being present because of regulations. He described as "rubbish" a claim by one youth that he administered seven strokes of a cane.
Mr Millington said: "Three youths complained you struck them with a plimsoll or pump."
Watson replied: "No."
Mr Millington continued: "And that you used Boris and Percy as pet names for the pumps or plimsolls."
Watson replied: "I had no reason to use them if the cane was available."
Evening Sentinel, Stoke-on-Trent, 19 March 2002
Man Who Thought He Was Above The Law Of The Land
Youngsters sent to Riverside Community Care Home were certainly 'no angels'.
These schoolchildren had been taken into the care of Staffordshire Social Services because they had started a life of crime or because they were out of control in their own homes.
They would have rightly expected to face a regime of strict discipline at the Rocester care home they were sent to live in. They would have expected to face corporal punishment if they stepped out of line too often. It was the 1980s and up to six strokes of the cane were permitted by law. But the boys, removed from the security of the family home, would not have dreamt they could be subjected to violent physical assaults by the man who was responsible for their care - Thomas Watson.
Watson was the head of the observation and assessment unit at the home which closed at the end of the 1980s and he spent two years as the deputy head. A large man, he used physical threats and violence to keep youngsters under his control in check.
Some boys would run away. Riverside was in the middle of the Staffordshire countryside and the youngsters did not know where they were going. But they still ran.
The 1980s was a different era to today. Designated members of staff were allowed to administer corporal punishment but it had to be within strict guidelines. Watson however, thought he was above the law. He was wrong.
Evening Sentinel, Stoke-on-Trent, 20 March 2002
Victims Urged To Talk To Abuse DetectivesBy Dave Jones
Victims of abuse at children's homes in Staffordshire were today urged to come forward.
An investigation into claims of sexual and physical abuse at children's homes across the county has been on going since 1999.
Detective Chief Inspector Andy Dunning of Staffordshire Police is now appealing for anyone who has information on any incidents to come forward.
He said the vast majority of the alleged offences were committed against children who attended the former Riverside Community Home School, Rocester, during the 1980s.
The move comes after Thomas Watson, a 57-year-old former deputy headmaster of the school, was given a nine-month prison sentence suspended for 18 months yesterday. He was found guilty of two counts of committing cruelty to a child.
Mr Dunning, who is leading the investigation, said: "Staffordshire Police is committed to investigating historic allegations of abuse occurring within Staffordshire.
"The conviction of Thomas Watson serves to reinforce that commitment and determination to bring the perpetrators to justice."
Staffordshire Police started the investigation into allegations of historic physical and sexual abuse at children's homes throughout Staffordshire in June 1999.
Thomas Watson, of Meadow View, Burntwood worked at Riverside Community Home School, Rocester from 1979 to 1988. He became the deputy headmaster in 1986.
Watson was found guilty of two counts of committing cruelty to a child in 1983 and was cleared of 11 other counts of causing actual bodily harm and cruelty to children.
Watson, had denied assaulting Darren Underhill, now a 33-year-old labourer in Stoke-on-Trent.
Mr Underhill, who was 15-years-old when he was sent to Riverside, had described a series of attacks to a jury at Stafford Crown Court.
He said Watson had launched a viscous attack on him one evening after he refused to eat his dinner, smashing a plate over his head and ramming a table into his stomach.
Sentencing Judge John Shand said the fact Watson had been convicted on two separate counts meant he could not treat his actions as a "lapse".
He said: "There was no reason for you to act as you did. You were in breach of your trust."
In sentencing he said he took into account Watson's previous good character, his age and the fact the offences related back to the 1980's.
The 17-strong police investigation team looking into allegations of abuse at children's homes is being run from an incident room at Stafford.
Anyone who has information they wish to discuss can talk to member of the inquiry team in the strictest of confidence on 01785 218660.
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