A SURVIVOR WHO SPOKE OUT
TO PROTECT OTHER VULNERABLE CHILDREN
Dannie Jarman – 18th December 2015 – R.I.P
Dannie has died. Her needlessly damaged – her cruelly wrecked life – ended on Friday 18th December 2015. A Person too young – too good – to die.
I’m too numbed by this brutal news to know what to say, how to think straight, at this moment. I’ll try and write a fitting tribute to Dannie in the coming days. For now, I think we should remind ourselves of her simple honesty, purity and strength; her willingness to speak-out against failed systems, so that other children should not suffer.
Dannie can be seen here, in this documentary, with her courage, speaking the truth for BBC Panorama: –
And this is Dannie’s Facebook page: –
For now, I’m re-posting an article I wrote back in 2008, when we still imagined there were people in the British Establishment who cared about such concepts as the rule of law.
I first published the following posting on the 14th April 2008 – and it refers to, and includes a speech I’d attempted to deliver to the Jersey parliament on its last sitting before Christmas 2007. At that time I was the senior Senator, and thus ‘Father of the House’, so tradition had it that I should deliver a speech of reflection on the year just past, and looking forward to the coming 12 months.
But this was no ordinary occasion. At this time – December 2007 – Jersey was being forced to confront the awful reality of many decades of concealed child-abuse – generations of suffering – wrecked lives – appalling levels of neglect – worse, highly evidenced examples of pro-active, collusive concealment of child-abuse by all of Jersey’s public authorities.
That level of state-sponsored child-abuse cover-up had even included the obstruction and oppression of me – of an actual Health & Social Services Minister – for trying to protect vulnerable children and trying to bring recognition and some kind of justice for abuse-survivors.
One of the key episodes of child-abuse I was trying to expose was the decade-long regime of terror carried out by Jane and Alan Maguire who ran the Jersey government’s Blanche Pierre Group Home. A regime of abuse all the relevant Jersey authorities had been aware of at the time – but which they strove – and still strive – to down-play and cover-up.
In those hard months of 2007 and 2008 – four years “pre-Savile”, so it was still a huge challenge to bring about public recognition of high-level child-abuse cover-ups – I had to go over the heads of the captured, ‘gone-native’ local BBC outfit, and make contact with the BBC at a national level. This led ultimately to a BBC Panorama program on the Jersey child-abuse cover-ups. With her guided and supported decision, I introduced Dannie Jarman to the BBC. Dannie was a victim of the States of Jersey – along with a number of other children, a victim of the psychopathic Jersey government employees Jane and Alan Maguire.
Dannie’s evidence – her strength – her leadership – her readiness to speak truth to power on behalf of so many other victims can be seen in the BBC Panorama program here: –
I had tried to make Jersey’s parliament of inadequate spivs & grifters face-up to the reality of the decades of concealed child-abuse; tried to make them understand, at an emotional level, the savage, crushing consequences on real little lives, of our failures.
The Jersey parliament being what it is – an accretion of crooks, morons, & crook/morons – they actually shouted-down my speech – barracked and abused me – and the directly – personally – expressly – conflicted head of the assembly, the London appointed Sir Philip Bailhache, cut my microphone and adjourned the meeting.
I was left standing there at my desk, looking up, staring at the roof windows, thinking – “this just didn’t happen. This is a nightmare. I’ll wake up any moment” – whilst the rest of my “esteemed colleagues” rushed off to the Old Library for their free Christmas lunch.
Anyway, a part of the speech the Jersey parliament refused to hear, referred to Dannie. This was the part: –
“Amongst our victims have been many many children who had not misbehaved; children who had to be taken into “care” for their protection; or children who had to be taken into the States-run institutions because of the death of their parent. I have met with siblings who’s mother died of cancer when they were little children. I have met with several of the victims of this particular States-run institution. But when I met with the brother & sister – now adults – and listened to their experiences – all I could feel were two things: shame – that the States of Jersey allowed these things to be done to them – and anger that upon the tragedy of the death of these young children’s mother from cancer – we – the States – heaped violence, cruelty, battery and abuse upon these already bereaved children who needed our care, support & love.
Towards the end of my conversation with them – they embraced tearfully, and the brother repeated a vow that no one would ever harm his sister again.
That meeting took place in a room in this building. And I confess at that moment I seriously considered walking from the door and never setting foot in this place again.”
That sister, that daughter, that survivor – that constituent of mine – was Dannie Jarman.
And now she’s dead.
She was as killed by the States of Jersey – killed by the Crown – as assuredly as if some Bailiff or Attorney General had stuck a knife in her heart.
There’s only so much a person can endure.
This is the blog-posting from 14th April 2008 – in which I explain the context of the December 2007 Christmas speech for Jersey’s child-abuse survivors – the speech the Jersey parliament refused to hear.
Let’s remember Dannie Jarman – in spite of her needlessly harmed, damaged life – she was able to have more strength, honesty, ethics and simple engagement with the necessary truth than all of Jersey’s accretion of entrenched gangsters and spivs combined.
I hope you’ve found a good place, Dannie, and are having the life there you were denied from having here.
THE SPEECH THE JERSEY PARLIAMENT REFUSED TO HEAR.
Empathy for Abuse Survivors vs. States Members Christmas Lunch.
A number of people have asked me if I would post the speech I attempted to make in the Jersey parliament in December last year. So I produce it here below this post.
Some background information.
Believe it or not – I am the “Father of the House” in the States assembly, this by dint of being the longest continually serving Senator.
And by tradition and custom, the Father of the House leads the Christmas speeches, made at the end of the last assembly meeting before the Christmas break.
Admittedly, these speeches are usually a load of hackneyed, smug and platitudinous rubbish.
But as I had spent most of 2007 learning of the terrible things endured by the survivors of the Jersey child abuse disaster – and attempting to battle on their behalf for truth & justice – I thought I would write a speech which addressed their sufferings.
Having spoken with many of the battered, abused and raped survivors of several generations – it seemed to me to be entirely apposite to express some kind of recognition and empathy towards them at Christmas.
This speech represents the first ever occasion a member of the Jersey parliament had stood in the assembly and acknowledged the truth of what had taken place and had tried to express how dreadful it was.
Now, to be sure, I knew the speech would be a departure from the clichéd effusions of self-congratulation which are usually displayed on these occasions.
And I knew it would deeply anger some members of the assembly who – even at that stage – were still trying to suppress the truth in an effort to conceal the utter folly of their decisions to side, during the year, with abusers and those who would conceal abuse.
However – it did not occur to me that the States of Jersey would be so degenerate, so cretinous, so immoral and so decadent as to actually stop the speech from being delivered.
Yet – that is precisely what they did.
Only about a quarter of the way through the speech, I was barracked, interrupted and halted.
And – in another of those ‘You Couldn’t Make It Up’ episodes – the Bailiff, Sir Philip Bailhache – Speaker of the assembly – sided with the mob.
He ordered me to stop delivering the speech. I declined, as the speech was ‘in-order’ – so he cut my microphone and adjourned the meeting.
You see – in addition to being very annoyed that a member should speak the truth – Jersey politicians were impatient to get to their Christmas lunch in the Old Library.
If you’re interested in this extraordinary episode, I have written about it in two previous posts, ‘Parallel Universes’ and ‘Anatomy of a Spin – Temps Passé #1’.
But I haven’t previously posted the actual speech I was prevented from delivering.
So here it is.
As you read this, bear in mind a few key facts:
It was the first ever speech by a Jersey politician which attempted to acknowledge the victims of decades of child-abuse in the island.
I attempted to give this speech as we approached Christmas.
Phil Bailhache – speaker of the Jersey parliament – in siding with the mob-rule of the Jersey establishment, became probably the only Speaker of a parliament in any western democracy who would support tyranny by the majority and prevent minority opinions from even being expressed.
Not one single sentence of the speech conflicted with any rules of procedure, standing orders or code of conduct – it was entirely ‘in-order’.
Therefore the halting of the speech – in addition to being a sickening display of immorality – was also an assault upon democracy and the rule of law. Phil Bailhache and his Jersey establishment allies had, precisely, zero legitimate grounds for preventing me from speaking.
I suppose, in many respects, it was the final illustration of an establishment drowned in its own moral turpitude, incompetence, hubris and decadence.
It was, perhaps, the moment when I realised my political career was over. I knew then, if I didn’t before, that I just had to get out of it and cleanse myself of the sensation of filth, decay and futility.
In my post “Parallel Universes” I described the way I felt attempting to deal with the banalities of the local media interviews in the immediate wake of this episode. I quote some of that post here:
“Midst this scene like something from ‘Drop the Dead Donkey’, I was asked a question which suddenly attracted my interest. I was asked by a BBC Jersey TV journalist whether I “was surprised at the attitude and actions of States members in response to my speech?”
I was about to tell the truth – “yes – very surprised. How could one imagine people objecting to an expression of empathy for abuse survivors?”
But then a greater truth struck me – of course I wasn’t surprised. Being shocked at this reaction by States members was like being surprised to discover that lawyers charge too much and string-out cases to maximise fees.
So, I answered. I forget the precise words, but it was something like this:
“Am I surprised at States members’ reactions? No, not really – after all, let’s face it, we all know the States assembly is largely a collection of gangsters and halfwits. So, surprised? No.””
Anyway – for those who have requested it – here is the actual speech that the Jersey parliament refused to hear.
FATHER OF THE HOUSE SPEECH TO THE STATES ASSEMBLY BY SENATOR STUART SYVRET
Sir, Your Excellency, fellow members – but especially the people we are here to represent,
As Father of the House, it is customary for the senior Senator to lead the seasonal exchange of greetings with which we end the year.
In these addresses, it is common to reflect upon the year past – and to contemplate the coming year. And it is the birth of Christ that we mark with these reflections and which we celebrate in this season of goodwill.
Christ taught many things in the course of His life. Amongst His teachings was the virtue of honesty.
For even though I am an ordinary, fallible person, with no particular religious convictions, still, I could not stand here and falsely claim that the past year has been an episode upon which we, as an assembly, could look back upon with satisfaction – or even self-respect. This has not been a year in which we have displayed wisdom, compassion or even basic common sense.
As is now public knowledge, we as a society – Jersey – this community – have begun the awful task of facing up to decades – at least – of disgraceful failure – and worse – towards children.
I will not refer to my personal experiences of 2007; perhaps I will speak of such things on another occasion.
Instead, I wish to speak of the children, the victims, the innocent – the many – who have been catastrophically failed by the edifice of public administration in Jersey – year in and year out. Decade after decade.
We like to imagine ourselves as being some kind of model community; a safe, well-governed and happy group of people. Whilst I cannot speak in detail of individual sufferings now; nor of the many betrayals – I can say this: that as far as I am aware the coming months and years are going to require the most painful reconsideration of our communal values, our competence – and our collective ethics.
Indeed, I am not aware of a more wretched and shocking example of communal failure in the entire 800 year history of Jersey as a self-governing jurisdiction.
How much worse could things be than the systemic decades-long betrayal of the innocents?
As we approach the birthday of Christ, we should reflect upon his words. When on an occasion, some little children were brought to Jesus, Jesus’ disciples became angry and rebuked those who had brought the children into Christ‘s presence. Scriptures then tell us, “But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them “ Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.”
Jesus is also recorded as saying, “And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name received me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea”
I would hope that these simple words – that place children and their welfare at the heart of human values – could be accepted by any decent person – regardless of their particular religious thoughts or beliefs.
Greater minds than mine have said that we may gauge the quality of a society by how it treats its children. Having learnt what I have learnt in the course of this year I have to say that our smug self-satisfaction as a charitable and civilised community in fact conceals a festering canker. For though it would be bad enough for us to have amongst our midst’s the abusers that are to be found in all societies – the victims in Jersey have been doubly betrayed – betrayed with indifference, betrayed with contempt, betrayed with the naked and idle self-interest of an administration that should have been protecting these – the most vulnerable of the vulnerable.
Sir, some people seem to enjoy being politicians. This is not a view I ever understood. My 17 years as a States member have, to me, been a fairly consistent period of struggle; on some occasions so Kafkaesque, so dispiriting that many times I just wished to cast it all aside and seek a civilised occupation instead. But nothing – nothing – nothing in those 17 years even begins to approach the sheer existential bleakness of this year; of trying to contact, to listen to, to help so many people whose childhoods and lives were wrecked by abuse – often abuse at the hands of the States of Jersey and its employees – and doubly wrecked by the conspiracy of cover-ups engaged in by public administration.
A few brave people – front-line staff, victims, and whistle-blowers began to bring these failings to my attention. As my understanding developed, I took extremely high-powered specialist advice on child protection issues – and I think this assembly should acknowledge with gratitude the involvement of Chris Callender, Andrew Nielson and their leader, Frances Crook of the Howard League for Penal Reform. The support and guidance of the Howard League was a great source of strength to me and those whom I was working with in Jersey.
Likewise Professor June Thoburn, who agreed to bring her world-renowned expertise to the post of Chair of the Jersey Child Protection Committee.
In particular I believe we should acknowledge the bravery, integrity and unshakable commitment to child welfare exhibited by Simon Bellwood. He alone – amongst the entire panoply of the child “protection” apparatus in Jersey – said that the way we were treating children in custody was simply wrong. He alone took a stand against the appalling ill-treatment of children who needed care – not abuse. That he was sacked for his efforts really speaks volumes, and illustrates well the ethical void within the system we are responsible for.
Sir, I repeat, we must focus upon the victims – and the friends and families who suffered along with them.
For a period of many months, I investigated these issues – and the more I investigated – the greater became my alarm and anger at what I was learning from people throughout our society. Jersey being the kind of place where many people know other people, the chains of contacts which developed – the networks of victims and witnesses simply grew and grew. Sometimes new revelations occurred – almost by the hour.
As I met, and spoke with people of all ages – young teenagers to retired people – it became clear to me that what we were facing was something far worse than occasional, isolated instances of abuse. What Jersey had tolerated in its midst was a culture of disregard, abandonment and contempt for children – especially those children in need; the vulnerable; the defenceless. During these dark days, when I contemplated how people could treat children in these ways, I was often reminded of the words of Sartre, when he said “hell is other people”.
But, the strength and bravery of the many victims was a source of strength to me as I contemplated several years of bitter struggle against the Establishment, who were clearly going to use the predictable range of oppressions against me in an effort to keep the truth concealed.
So when the States of Jersey Police Force took me into their confidence and gave me a comprehensive briefing about the work they were doing – it was as though a great burden had been lifted from my shoulders. I had been steeling myself for years of struggle to expose the truth and to seek justice for the victims. The realisation that I was not going down this road alone was a tremendous release – to me – and to the victims. So I must pay tribute to the leadership of the Police Force. This time – finally – there is no hiding place.
During my work I have had conversations with people – teenagers, parents, young adults and older people. People from all parts of society and all backgrounds. Many of these people – victims and witnesses – naturally enough found speaking about their experiences extremely difficult; and many of them were, and are, reluctant to become identified. Likewise the many brave front-line staff who still contact me regularly – notwithstanding the blocking by management of e-mails sent to me by Health & Social Services staff from their work computers.
Such is the climate of fear that victims, witnesses and decent staff experience, that very many of the meetings I have taken part in – have had to be arranged in great secrecy. For example, one brave employee who gave me very important information, made initial contact with me via a text-message sent from her daughter’s mobile phone.
I went about the back-streets, the housing estates, the tenement blocks, the foul, overcrowded and exploitative “lodging houses” in which the poor in Jersey often dwell. And I listened to people opening up; often for the first time in their lives speaking of what they experienced – what they saw – and how they had been failed by everyone. For many of these people, I was the first person in authority they felt able to speak to about what happened to them.
I listened to things – things sometimes said through tears – that I hope never to have to hear again.
As time passed, I found myself moving from these dark rendezvous with witnesses – going amongst the soaked and blackened streets – experiencing encounters with victims – and clandestine meetings with brave whistle-blowing front-line staff.
In the early stages of this odyssey – this drizzle-soaked sodium-lit quest amongst the night roads and back alleys of St. Helier – in the unspoken underbelly of Jersey – I realised what I was seeking – and finding – were ghosts.
Shades and spectres – the vaporous trails of long-departed children – still haunting the outer shells of people I met. Sometimes you catch a glimpse of these ghost children – in eye – or word – or gesture – and you want to reach out to them – but these burnt and vanished phantoms disappear into the scars, the tattoos, the needle marks, the self-harm lacerations, the haunted faces and the wrecked lives.
Although many of the people I met are in their twenties, thirties, forties, fifties and sixties – I cannot but see them as children still. And many of these children have passed through the hands of the States of Jersey ‘system’ – I cannot bring myself to use the phrase “care”. Some of these children ended in custody for minor offences – and such was the cruelty, abuse, neglect and violence they suffered – many went on to become habitual criminals. When many of these people explained their criminal life-styles, they did so with humility, many candidly use the phrase ‘we were no angels’, and they have said they were not proud of the things they have done. But as a States member – I cannot look at these people – these victims – and not ask myself the awful question: “had these vulnerable, confused and angry children been treated with love and respect and care by the States, perhaps they would have avoided criminal life-styles; perhaps they would not be – in many cases – alcoholics, drug addicts – often broken and shattered beings, wrestling with mental health issues.”
Could I – could any of us – say with confidence that our failures have not contributed to, or led to, such tragic outcomes for so many people?
No, we cannot say that. We must, at the last, admit the awful truth that many of our regular inmates at La Moye Prison are there because of what we – the States of Jersey – did to them as vulnerable children – in the time in their lives when they most needed love, care, support & nurturing.
Amongst our victims have been many many children who had not misbehaved; children who had to be taken into “care” for their protection; or children who had to be taken into the States-run institutions because of the death of their parent. I have met with siblings who’s mother died of cancer when they were little children. I have met with several of the victims of this particular States-run institution. But when I met with the brother & sister – now adults – and listened to their experiences – all I could feel were two things: shame – that the States of Jersey allowed these things to be done to them – and anger that upon the tragedy of the death of these young children’s mother from cancer – we – the States – heaped violence, cruelty, battery and abuse upon these already bereaved children who needed our care, support & love.
Towards the end of my conversation with them – they embraced tearfully, and the brother repeated a vow that no one would ever harm his sister again.
That meeting took place in a room in this building. And I confess at that moment I seriously considered walking from the door and never setting foot in this place again.
Another, older, man I met explained his experiences of being a resident in Haute de la Garenne in the mid-nineteen sixties. Even for the “standards” of the day, the treatment of the children there was barbaric & cruel – at best; for worse things happened.
What really struck me about my meeting with this man was that he was not especially bothered at the treatment he received. I was touched and moved that his overriding concern was – and still is to this day – the fate of his best friend in that institution. He gave me the name, and some details, such as he could recall, from these days far ago in his childhood.
I was able to look into what happened to this boy who was in our care in Haute de la Garenne in the mid-sixties. Little information was available, but the Office of the Deputy Viscount was able to supply me with the following facts:
Michael Bernard O’CONNELL
- Aged 14 years • Died on 7th or 8th October 1966, by hanging from a tree, off Rue des Haies in Trinity. • Inquest held on 17th October 1966.
The memory of this young man is kept alive by his friends – children – people who had similar experiences and who – in the midst of their own struggles with their lives – keep the flame of their friend burning.
But let no one imagine that the things of which we speak are confined to the past; an age of dark and sick attitudes. No – today we have the very same problems.
Recently, I made the appointment and accompanied a young man to the police station so he could add his experiences to the present investigations. This young man had fallen foul of the law in some very minor ways as a young child – and thus he suffered the awful fate of falling into the maw of the so-called youth “justice” system of Jersey. Such was the counter-productive barbarity of the treatment meted out to him – and others like him – that his behaviour became more angry, bitter and lawless. At various stages he passed through Les Chenes and then Greenfields. This young man was, at one stage, held in near complete isolation for two months – passages of solitary confinement which went on for weeks. Having induced – unsurprisingly – a complete mental collapse in this child through this solitary confinement – the response of the institution to his needs was to send a “councillor” from CAMHS to speak with him – for half-an-hour – once-a-week.
As I listened to him recount his experiences over about 2 hours to the police officers who were conducting the initial interview, I kept looking at the vast cross-hatchings of self-harm scars which make his left arm look like a road map of New York, and I listened to him explain how he lay bleeding from these wounds alone in his cell and untended – as a child – I looked at him and I thought “we have done this to him”; “we have wrecked his life”.
It is striking just how many people who passed through the hands of the States of Jersey as innocent children emerged from the other side of that experience, bitter, angry, contemptuous and lawless. Former inmates – current inmates – and those about to become inmates – many many of them are our victims.
Society has a low regard for those who break the law, and that view is routinely echoed in this chamber. So it is not often a member asks us to reflect upon those who have crossed the law and to consider that amongst these people are many – far too many – children who were broken and betrayed in so many ways – especially by the States.
For amongst these people who find themselves imprisoned, these adults cast adrift – within them linger still the ghosts of the children they were – and the spectres of what they should have been.
So Sir – today – the expression of seasonal goodwill, the greeting, the recognition and the charity I stand to offer goes, from me at least, to all the victims of abuse, all those who have suffered – and all those whose childhood experiences have led them to become prisoners. Those who have languished in La Moye – or who are still there now – I want them to know that if their lives are wrecked, their actions driven by the nightmares of their childhoods – some of us understand. Some of us recognise them as victims – tragically and shamefully – often victims of the States of Jersey.
I wish to finish by quoting the final verse of a song by Mary Chapin Carpenter:
‘Somewhere in a dream like this The light of love leads us home Broken worlds will not be fixed Vengeance take us as thy own We’re just like beggars now On our knees we hear our names God forgives somehow We have yet to learn the same.’
(Excerpt from Dead Man Walking by Mary Chapin Carpenter)
Senator Stuart Syvret Christmas address to States of Jersey 2007