THE abuse experienced by some of children placed in Shirley Oaks took many forms. While those who were convicted of wrong-doing were predominantly sex offenders, former residents who spoke to the Advertiser this week described being the victims of physical and emotional cruelty on a day-to-day basis. David Annon, 47, who was sent to Shirley Oaks in 1969, was regularly subjected to punishments he says were designed to crush his spirit. "If we spoke at night time a guy would come in, get us out of bed, march us down to the kitchen and make us stand and face the wall with bare feet for two hours," he explained. "After a while they would come back down and make us take all of the pots and pans out of the cupboards and put them back again. This went on every other day. Imagine how that must have felt as a young child. We hadn't done anything more than giggle." Mr Annon, who now lives in Peckham, was regularly "slapped" but he also saw staff punch children, sometimes in the face. On one occasion a care worker pinned him to a wall by his neck. "They also used to force me down to the ground to comb my hair," he said. "They used to rake it out. Even now I flinch when someone touches my hair. "To me the abuse was constant and they got away with it. As a child you are frightened to talk. Kids used to be seen but not heard. We were so frightened that even when the punching was going on, we didn't say anything, even to each other." Last year Mr Annon tried to pursue legal action against Lambeth Council, but was told he was unlikely to be successful. "I was told I couldn't go to court because it would just be my word to go on," he said. "They said if more people came forward than they would have a case. Now it's starting to come out, my solicitor believes I should try again."
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