Kevin Young obituary

The Guardian [London, England]

August 25, 2021

By David Greenwood

My friend Kevin Young, who has died of cancer aged 62, was a former businessman and prominent campaigner for the rights of victims of child sex abuse, whose civil action against his own abusers led to an important change in the law, enabling others to seek compensation many years after suffering abuse.

Born in Newcastle, to Margaret (nee Loveley) and John Young, Kevin was taken into care in 1961 suffering from neglect and malnutrition. His parents were convicted of his wilful neglect.

At the age of eight he was placed at the Catholic St Thomas More’s school in Devon. The sexual abuse inflicted on him by the school gardener was the first in a series of encounters with paedophiles. Aged 14 he was taken to St Camillus, a residential school in Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, run by the Catholic Diocese of Leeds, where he was sexually assaulted by the headteacher, James Bernard Littlewood.

Prosecuted for a trivial offence at the age of 18, he was given three months’ youth custody at Medomsley detention centre. There, a prison officer, Neville Husband, sexually abused hundreds of boys. Kevin complained of literally being tortured.

He coped psychologically by dissociating, in his words “putting it in a box in the attic”, and managed to run a number of successful businesses providing security for property.

His life began to break apart in 1996 after a chance meeting in York city centre when he accidentally bumped into Husband. Kevin was briefly knocked off course. He became distressed. He lost his confidence and bravado. His building security business collapsed and his relationship came to an end. In 1999 he refocused his life when the police asked for his help with cases against the abusers. He opened the metaphorical box, helping police convict Littlewood and Husband.

Kevin Young in 2012, the year he told the story of his abuse in the Guardian. Photograph: Gary Calton
Kevin Young in 2012, the year he told the story of his abuse in the Guardian. Photograph: Gary Calton

His civil case started the most significant fight for the rights of victims of child sex abuse Britain has seen. Time limit laws were being used to prevent compensation claims and Kevin’s pursuit of justice led to the House of Lords deciding in his favour in 2008. Their judgment made it possible for claimants to seek compensation many years after the abuse.

In 2005 he set up a charity providing telephone support and in his spare time was a guitarist and country singer in York venues. He used his compensation to open two antique shops in York. He told the story of his abuse to the Guardian in 2012.

I had the privilege of working for Kevin as his solicitor from 2003 until his death. During that time he showed incredible dignity and humanity. We became firm friends.

He is survived by his son.