The Forgotten Boys are a group of men requesting a public inquiry into the sexual and physical abuse they suffered over a two-decade period in Liverpool. Now closed, Lower Lee Residential School in Woolton was the site of ‘horrors – mentally and physically’ perpetrated by staff in the ‘80s and ‘90s, causing lifelong trauma to the pupils. The victims and survivors believe that both Liverpool City Council and the Merseyside Police failed them by missing crucial chances to stop the abuse.
The Abuse and its Impact
The Forgotten Boys have spoken about their lives being ‘destroyed’ by the physical and sexual abuse, experienced from as young as five years old. Jack Barnes would repeatedly run away from Lower Lee. Despite him disclosing the ongoing abuse, Liverpool’s social services department would place him back at the residential school. Jack has spoken publicly about his experiences as part of his campaigning with the Forgotten Boys. His involvement aims to amplify the voices of those boys lost to suicide following their shared experiences.
The pupils, boys with educational or behavioural needs, were exposed to:
Whippings with wet towels;
Being hit with weapons including hockey sticks and cricket bats;
Time locked inside classrooms;
Having objects such as tables and chairs thrown at them;
Being pushed into scolding hot baths and burnt as a punishment for bedwetting from fright;
Having their heads pushed down toilets and flushed;
Nightly kissing from staff (‘put their tongues down our throats’);
- Teachers pushing their hands down their trousers;
Being asked if they ‘loved’ staff;
Being forced to stand naked in school corridors.
There was a constant state of fear, with pupils never sure what staff would do next.
Disordered sleeping and eating are among the lifelong impacts for the Forgotten Boys. They also suffer from PTSD and suicidal ideations, turning to drug and alcohol misuse as a method of blocking out their pain. The Forgotten Boys have shared how the abuse has led to homelessness, failed relationships, lack of trust, addiction, and suicide.
Merseyside Police revealed they were aware of the abuse at Lower Lee, having received 14 reports from the pupils during the 1990s. Two men were convicted and imprisoned in the 1990s as a result of Merseyside Police’s investigation dubbed ‘Operation Care’. Peter Amundsen (Head of Care) pleaded guilty to 53 sexual abuse offences perpetrated against eight young boys over almost 20 years. Liverpool Crown Court’s sentencing judge stated: ‘You are an evil man … monstrous … a sexual monster. Your behaviour was an abomination and desecration of the innocence of young boys.’
Amundsen was hired despite having active mental health issues and no qualifications. The judge found that there was no adequate system of monitoring, scrutiny, or checks on the backgrounds of paedophiles. Merseyside Police missed a clear opportunity to stop the abuse by Amundsen early on: one man has spoken of finding clothes in order to run away following a severe beating in the early 1980s. His mother took him to the police station, where he made a statement and had his injuries photographed. Despite his trust in the police, no further action was taken against the head of care.
The victims and survivors maintain that, despite the imprisonment of Peter Amundsen and Thomas Curbishley, further abusers remain free. Merseyside Police have committed to reviewing their investigation and considering a reinvestigation. Deputy Chief Constable Ian Critchley has stated:
‘It is truly humbling and emotive to hear the voices of victims of child abuse and we need to ensure we commit our service to improve in every aspect … I have apologised, in my role as the national lead for child protection, to all the victims of abuse that policing has let down and I continue to reiterate that heartfelt apology.’
Liverpool City Council, which ran the residential school, is ‘truly sorry’ for the impacts on the men; ‘it should never have been allowed to happen.’
The Forgotten Boys are now a support organisation for men who suffered trauma, torture, sexual exploitation, and abuse in statutory institutions. They are a united voice for those who were failed, aiming to help safeguard children today. They believe that crimes against children should never be accepted, normalised, or forgotten.
At Farleys, we have supported hundreds of survivors of abuse to seek redress for what they have been through. Our team handles cases with experience, sensitivity and confidentiality. To speak to a specialist in abuse claims today, please call our dedicated number on 0330 134 6430, or contact us by email or through our online chat below if you prefer.