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Jersey's care homes decades of abuse examined in report

July 3, 2017 2:22 PM
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Jersey's care homes decades of abuse examined in report

Decades of slavery, bullying and abuse have been revealed in a report into the care system in Jersey.

One victim told how "live electrical wires" were used to abuse children.

The police investigation began in 2006 but the apparent discovery in 2008 of part of a child's skull at a care home made headlines around the world.

The skull fragment was later found to be coconut shell, however the intense scrutiny of the Jersey care system brought forward hundreds of victims.

Gifford Aubin was at the care home Haut de la Garenne in the 1950s, he told the BBC: "It involved putting live electrical wires on your legs, hitting you with a pre-war stick with a metal end."

Jersey police began investigating alleged child abuse at Haut de la Garenne in 2006, following allegations dating from the 1960s.

Operation Rectangle was launched a year later and 192 people came forward with 553 allegations of offences, including 315 at Haut de la Garenne.

Allegations were also made about the Sacré Coeur Orphanage, the Blanche Pierre group home and the successor to Haut de la Garenne, Heathfields.

The Independent Jersey Care Inquiry (IJCI), launched in 2014, has now published its final report to determine any patterns of abuse or systematic failings, what was the culture in the care institutions where abuse was reported and what lessons can be learnt.

Neil McMurray, who has been campaigning for victims of child abuse for more than a decade, said his message to the States is "do not ignore this report".

Lawyer Alan Collins, who represented the Jersey Care Leavers Association at the inquiry, said many of the victims have mixed emotions about the report as it deals with sensitive and painful matters.

He said: "They will want to ensure many of the recommendations are taken up by the States of Jersey to ensure children in the future do not have to endure what they had to endure."

Mr Aubin was the first person to give evidence to the inquiry. He was a child at Haut de la Garenne in the 1950s and said he suffered mental and physical abuse as well as having meals withheld.

While a lot of the inquiry focused on Haut de la Garenne, a number of other incidents, not previously revealed, came to light.

The revelations of assault, bullying and slavery at the Sacré Coeur Orphanage led to a fresh call for witnesses from the inquiry panel.

A witness, known as "Mrs A" said that outside of school hours, children were forced to work unpaid in the nuns' knitting factory run by the nuns who ran the orphanage.

In February 2015 one survivor known as "Witness D", now in his 40s, told the inquiry he was too scared to report the abuse he suffered to the authorities while he was at Haut de la Garenne.

He told the hearing he was sexually abused by two members of staff, William Gilbert and Phil Le Bais. They were never charged and have now died.

This is taken from a more detailed timeline examining the lead-up to the inquiry and political issues surrounding it.

Operation Rectangle was not all plain sailing. Under the gaze of intense media interest, the first head of the investigation, Lenny Harper, claimed a piece of a child's skull had been found.

Speaking after that revelation, the then deputy chief officer of the States of Jersey Police, David Warcup, said there was no evidence any children had been murdered at the former home.

Mr Warcup expressed "much regret" at the "misleading" information previously released.

During the Jersey Care inquiry, when called to give evidence, Lenny Harper would only do so over video as he said he had been warned Jersey law officers had prepared a "nasty surprise" for him if he came to the island.

The inquiry has heard evidence from more than 200 people in 146 public hearings, with two million pages of hard evidence submitted and 600 total witnesses including evidence read to the inquiry by lawyers.

Some politicians suggested the scale of the abuse was "exaggerated" by the media. That led the then chief minister, Senator Terry Le Sueur, to suggest an inquiry was a waste of time.

A proposition by Senator Francis Le Gresley, overruling the chief minister, was successful in the States and that led to the inquiry going ahead.

Since the abuse first came to light the States says a number of changes have been made to the care system.

These include appointing an independent chairman for the child protection committee and providing millions in funding to support child care reforms.

There was also a new multi-agency system set up to manage sexual, violent and dangerous offenders.

The Brig-y-Don children's home was reopened under criteria set out in earlier reports into childcare and a board of visitors was developed to provide independent contact and support for children in care.


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