Child Abuse in Jersey,
And the continuing suppression of the truth.
I wrote a brief post last night in which I drew your attention to yesterday’s editorial comment in the Jersey Evening Post – the island’s only newspaper – implacable mouth-piece of Jersey’s oligarchy – and enemy of this community.
Many people who read this blog are not based in Jersey.
I know that a number of concerned people, campaigners and journalists from around the world follow, with incredulity, the tragedy and farce of public administration in this island.
Though it was never my intention or wish to have written so much about the Jersey child abuse disaster on this site, that subject has come to dominate both my posts and reader’s comments, as can be seen when looking back over the last five months.
Many of the particular strands of the whole, wretched episode are complex, and difficult to fully comprehend in detail. But it is, in fact, quite easy to gain an accurate and well-founded understanding of what has taken place – and continues to take place – in Jersey.
In essence, there is a single, fundamental question which implacably confronts us in the Jersey child abuse disaster.
And, in essence, there is a single, fundamental answer to that question.
The question is this:
‘How can it have been possible for the culture of abuse to have continued for decades upon decades, for 98% of that abuse to have been concealed, and for the island’s establishment and its media to have succeeded in maintaining the culture of concealment until 2007?’
And the answer to that question is this:
‘All meaningful power in Jersey resides in the hands of a narrow, entrenched ruling elite who occupy and control the judiciary, big business, the prosecution service, the legislature, the executive and the local media – all of which unite in a common purpose when the status quo needs protecting.’
You consider this answer to be too paranoid to be credible?
A stark exhibit of evidence which shows the plain truth of the answer is to be observed in last night’s Jersey Evening Post leader comment – which they have, incidentally, now placed on their web site following my criticisms of their clear wish to keep the absurd screed out of national view.
Earlier in the post, I made the point that, in many ways, the fundamental problem continues to take place in Jersey. That we haven’t “moved on” from the central, cultural problem which enabled the depth and magnitude of the child abuse disaster.
And in the pathetic Andrew Williamson report – and the predictably dishonest editorial comment of The Rag – we see – tragically – the culture of concealment still, starkly displayed in the response of Jersey’s oligarchy.
Let us take a close look at the spin, omissions and sophistry of the comment on a stage-by-stage basis.
The comment begins thus:
“The investigation into child abuse at Haut de la Garenne involves offences allegedly committed many years ago.”
This assertion is a frankly embarrassing example of the transparent spin-campaign placed on events by the Jersey establishment.
Firstly, it names Haute de la Garenne in the first line – and then goes onto assert that the offences were committed “many years ago.”
The purpose of this spin is three-fold. Firstly – it seeks to maintain the focus on Haute de la Garenne – and thus continue the attempts by the Jersey establishment to divert and distract people from the fact – for it is a fact – that abuse was committed over a sustained period at a variety of other Jersey child institutions; for that is the true extent of the culture of child abuse.
Secondly, it again pushes the Jersey oligarchy spin that the abuse was committed “many years ago” – and therefore almost doesn’t matter – and because it was ‘all such a long time ago’ no parallels can be drawn between today’s child “protection” apparatus, and all the historic failures. But in truth, the problem – the culture of concealment – persists to the present day – as is proven by the JEP leader comment.
Thirdly – by making its assertion, The Rag further strives to distract people away from the real issue. How is this so? Because the Andrew Williamson report – and my response to it which form the subject matter of the comment – does not deal with Haute de la Garenne. The Williamson report covers only recent issues – indeed, in a stark illustration of just how worthless the Williamson report is – so recent he wouldn’t even deal in detail with the abusive “Grand Prix” regime which was only stopped 18 months ago – thanks to the brave efforts of Simon Bellwood, the whistle-blower – and which was one of the prime triggers of the whole controversy.
So, we have established that the very first line of the comment is calculatedly diversionary, irrelevant to the particular subject matter at hand and is an attempt to con people into thinking the abuse was all a long time ago – so ‘don’t worry, everything in the garden is rosy today.’
The Rag’s comment continues thus:
“In spite of this, the whole grim affair has cast a shadow over the Island’s child protection system.”
Again – and as already established above – the “grim affair” is not confined to only Haute de la Garenne. Though quite dreadful enough – if only we were dealing with just one institution – the controversy may have assumed lesser proportions. But instead, the extent and depth of the culture of child abuse which we are confronting – and the attendant culture of concealment – are the things which have caused the Jersey child abuse disaster to become – quite rightly – a matter of great interest to the national and international media.
‘Rightly’ – because, let’s face it – if the victims, the police and the campaigners were relying on the local media to convey the truth, we’d get nowhere. As reading The Rag’s comment proves.
The sentence quoted above is accurate in one respect – namely that a shadow has been cast over Jersey’s so-called child “protection” apparatus. And given the scale, persistence and extent of the child protection failures, the resultant shadow is vast and deep.
But in Jersey Evening Post world – it is the shadow that is the problem. But as any thinking person can see – the shadow, the controversy, are merely symptoms of the real problem; namely a multi-decade culture of contempt, disregard and cruelty – and worse – towards vulnerable children.
The JEP leader comment then states this:
“That shadow has been darkened by Senator Syvret’s insistence that the system has been failing and that children are still, or have recently been, in danger because of harsh regimes and institutional negligence.”
Firstly, let us observe again The Rag’s spin that ‘the shadow’ is the problem – rather than the persistent neglect, cruelty, battery and rape of vulnerable children.
And in the sentence quoted, they introduce me into their spin as a part of ‘the problem’. Clever, no? Could have been written by a spin-doctor – well, it was actually, but let us not be diverted by that. But such is the absence of subtlety; you could take this as an object lesson in ‘attack being the best form of defence.’
Let us also note that The Rag refers to “Senator Syvret’s insistence that the system has been failing”. Again – in this phraseology we see an embarrassingly obvious attempt to further depict me as a part of the problem, because of my “insistence”.
This also serves as yet further evidence of just how and why widespread child abuse could have persisted in Jersey for generations. In how many normal societies – just ask yourself – would a person campaigning on behalf of survivors be condemned for their “insistence” on carrying on their work for the vulnerable?
It just wouldn’t happen in any functioning, respectable democracy. And a couple of people at The Rag know this perfectly well – hence their pathetic attempt to get away with not posting their comment on their web site. They knew that real journalists and other observers would read the comment – and see immediately just how profoundly the Jersey Evening Post is a part of the culture of concealment.
There is also a more subtle, but even more ethically bankrupt, spin in the sentence quoted.
By stating that the continuing concerns are merely at my “insistence”, The Rag deliberately implies that the concerns which have been expressed, are just some kind of figment of my imagination; that there is no evidence to justify my concerns, and those of others.
Now – pay attention – this is yet another stark demonstration of the real problem in Jersey – the arrogance and hubris of the powerful – and their wish – and ability – to simply lie and conceal the truth.
For not only are my concerns, and those of other people, well-evidenced – but rather embarrassingly for the JEP, I have actually furnished them with significant parts of that evidence.
Now, can we guess how The Rag responded to the receipt of clear evidence for massive dysfunction in Jersey’s soi-disant child “protection” apparatus?
They chose to suppress that evidence.
As I have written previously, I leaked a copy of the Sharp report, a report into a major child abuse scandal at a Jersey school, to the Jersey Evening Post. I actually took it there in person and met with the journalist dealing with the story, the editor and the deputy editor to who I gave a copy of the document. From that day until this – they didn’t print a single key fact revealed in that report.
‘But’ – they will argue – I ‘gave them that report in the year 2000, and it dealt with a scandal which took place during the 1990’s’. ‘It isn’t’, The Rag will argue, ‘relevant to the question of recent or current child protection failures.’
To which there are two responses.
Firstly, to claim the issues revealed in the Sharp report are not relevant is simply wrong.
The JEP says that it is merely my “insistence” – “that children are still, or have recently been, in danger because of harsh regimes and institutional negligence.”
The gross, disgusting and systemic institutional failures – and those of several named individuals, as described in the Sharp report – is demonstrably of relevance to today’s concerns.
Not least because several of the senior civil servants who failed in that case remain working in an educational or social services environment. Can we – therefore –state with confidence that today’s child “protection” systems are reliable – as The Rag and Williamson would have us believe?
Clearly – no.
There is also an even more serious and profound reason as to why the Sharp report remains very – very – relevant today.
Because several present members of the judiciary played a role in the cover-up and concealment of that abuse episode during the 1990’s.
The very, self-same judiciary which is now insisting it can deal properly with child abuse court-cases.
So when the Jersey Evening Post claims that this evidence and the issues are irrelevant, we have to ask what most people would think?
What do you think? A judiciary who’s senior members are actors in the culture of concealment?
I don’t think so.
But we needn’t even use the Sharp report in our argument. Let us set it aside. A variety of other, more recent, evidence – evidence of “harsh regimes and institutional negligence” – has been furnished to The Rag throughout much of last year.
To cite just a few examples:
The report into the Blanche Pierre abuse episode – and the eventual, but corrupted, trial of the two perpetrators (who were tracked-down and door-stepped by BBC Panorama) – was supplied to the JEP – by me – last summer.
The case of the paedophile Martin Cougan who worked at the Heathfield children’s home – where he embarked upon an abusive relationship with a teenage resident. When management – the same management which exists today – discovered the abuse, they said to Cougan that he could just resign – and no more would be said about it, provided he left the island. A stark and recent example of the culture of concealment. And what does Williamson say of that episode – and several others like it? Nothing. So that is the worth of the Williamson report and the JEP’s support for it.
The Rag was also supplied with the so-called “Grand Prix” document – a policy which was such a stark example of institutionalised abuse that even Williamson said such practices were unacceptable and could never be condoned. Grand Prix was worse than the infamous Pindown policies of Staffordshire County Council in the 1980’s.
A four page initial legal opinion by Chris Callander of the Howard League for Penal Reform, in which he described the Grand Prix policy as unlawful. This document too was furnished to The Rag, by me, last year.
I also supplied them with written evidence – in the form of an e-mail – which proves that the letter sent to Frank Walker by the then Chair of the Jersey Child Protection Committee demanding my sacking – on the grounds that I was supposedly “undermining staff morale” by publicly stating that the child protection system in Jersey had failed – was, in fact, authored by the Directorate Manager of Social Services, Marnie Baudains. Who just happens to be the most culpable of the present senior civil servants for the catastrophic failures.
We will return to Ms Baudains, later.
The JEP comment then states:
“Exactly what happened at Haut de la Garenne has yet to be established, but it is to be hoped that the case will have nothing to do with what happens in present-day Jersey. Senator Syvret’s allegations, however, encompass the present as well as the past and it was imperative that their substance should be investigated independently, not only for the sake of young people potentially at risk but also to throw light on the condition of our child protection agencies.”
Again we see the clear spin – the attempted diversion of focusing again on Haute de la Garenne in order to down-play the significance of the more recent cases – merely some of which I described above as examples of evidence supplied to the Jersey Evening Post by me.
Yet again, we can observe a clear and calculated attempt to attack me and con people into believing that ‘there is no evidence’, when The Rag refers to my “allegations” –implying that there was no justification for such concerns – which were merely “allegations”.
As already described – this claim by the JEP is a straight-forward lie – given hard evidence; – evidence which was supplied to them by me.
Amusingly, The Rag then says that the “substance” of my concerns needed to be “investigated independently”.
I’ve already explained merely some of the evidenced substance for my concerns. So let us consider this wonderful phrase “investigated independently”.
Firstly – many of the concerns raised by me – and, indeed, other people – were not investigated at all – independently or otherwise. Huge tracts of the important issues are simply completely absent from the Williamson report. Just by way of example, consider the above-cited evidence. Where, in Williamson’s report is an investigation of those matters?
Which neatly takes us on to the question of the so-called “independence” of the “investigation”.
Mr. Williamson was commissioned by Frank Walker and his Chief Executive Bill Ogley. Bill Ogley being a close friend of Health & Social Services Chief Executive Mike Pollard – whose wife, Jane Pollard, works in a senior position in the States of Jersey Human Resources department.
Given this decidedly non-“independent” commissioning group, how can anyone possibly regard the Williamson report as an “independent” investigation?
And – you couldn’t make this up – Williamson, for the first half of his supposed investigation, worked out of Frank Walker’s office. Now that’s really “independent” – isn’t it? That arrangement was only changed under the threat of a proposition to the island’s parliament, brought by me, which would have had him removed from the Chief Minister’s department.
In fact – the stark absence of “independence” – and even of an “investigation” – provides us with a clear explanation for the abundant and appalling inadequacy of Williamson’s report.
The Rag next states:
“An inquiry to be conducted by UK expert Andrew Williamson was duly commissioned and has just reported on these matters of utmost importance.”
I suppose the law of averages means that the JEP can’t be wrong all the time – so they got this much correct when they describe these matters of the ‘utmost importance’.
Which makes it even more of a pity that The Rag and Big Frank’s factotums, like Williamson, should seek to suppress the truth.
Now working our way through the comment, we begin to get to some really interesting assertions when The Rag says:
“Mr Williamson, the former head of Devon Social Services, has concluded that no children in care in the Island are currently at risk, though he condemns detention practices that now appear to be things of the past. He has also concluded that although there is room to raise standards further – as there always will be in any organisation – the children’s service is moving forward and improving.”
First, let us observe the attempted neat footwork of the JEP when they try to quickly skate around the “detention practices” – which The Rag would have us forget now as “things of the past”.
The detention practices of which we speak were such things as described in the Grand Prix document – and involved the routine coercive and punitive use of solitary confinement against already vulnerable children.
Solitary confinement which could go on for weeks – even months.
One young man recently wrote to me explaining how he had been kept in isolation – and kept in a cell which only had a skylight – for 23 hours a day – for three weeks.
It was such practices that Simon Bellwood spoke out against – and got sacked for opposing. And which in turn led to me being sacked – because when Simon came to me, I believed him – and not my senior civil servants.
Another young man was kept in such conditions for two months.
Many others had similar experiences.
Yet it is this type of abuse – of utter barbarism – that the ‘great’ Mr. Williamson and the Jersey Evening Post would glibly dodge around without honestly confronting it.
Given merely some of the above-cited evidence – what, then, are we to make of Mr. Williamson’s assertion – repeated by the Jersey Evening Post – that “no children in care in the Island are currently at risk”.
The assertion by Williamson, and repeated uncritically by The Rag – is manifestly insupportable.
And this is another – implacable – illustration of the fact that the Jersey Evening Post is a part of the problem; is a part of the culture of concealment.
The island’s vulnerable children cannot be regarded as safe and at no risk – when you have a senior management cohort of the Jersey child protection apparatus who have repeatedly demonstrated themselves utterly incompetent, dangerously neglectful, happy to design and run manifestly criminally abusive regimes against children in custody, who oppress whistle-blowers, who engage in political actions against their Ministers – and who have demonstrably and repeatedly lied.
Would you trust a vulnerable child to services under that kind of management?
Mr. Williamson, Jersey’s establishment politicians – and the Jersey Evening Post clearly would.
99% of people wouldn’t even countenance the idea.
But the fact that the Jersey oligarchy would, explains starkly just how all these dreadful things were able to happen.
The utter invulnerability and complete lack of accountability of public administration in Jersey is displayed starkly by Williamson’s report and the JEP comment, in that both together are yet another example of how the culpable are protected by the establishment.
The Rag begins to move towards the end of its comment like this:
“No one is doubting that Senator Syvret is genuinely and deeply concerned about the welfare of children in care – though it remains very hard to account for his very limited direct contact with the service when it was his political responsibility. It is, however, extremely difficult to reconcile the criticisms he continues to level at the children’s service and its personnel with Mr Williamson’s findings.”
By this they refer to assertions – made by people like Marnie Baudains – that I had no contact with social services. In order to gauge just how reliable this woman’s assertions are, let us remember that she wrote the political letter which demanded my sacking – and – of particular relevance – oversaw and endorsed and supported the oppression and sacking of Simon Bellwood. The man who was objectiing to children being locked in cells for days and weeks and months at a stretch.
I couldn’t actually estimate the very significant number of meetings I took part in over the years when she – and other wonderful examples of Jersey social services, such as Anton Skinner – were present. This was routine at H & SS Committee meetings, and, actually, it is an illustration of just how utterly incompetent she is that she neither dealt with the institutional child abuse at places like Les Chennes and Greenfields, nor reported such system-failures to me.
And this is a person who is paid in excess of £100,000 per annum – plus vast final salary pension – by hard – pressed taxpayers – for her supposed “expertise” in social work and child protection.
Indeed – the irony is that I actually had a meeting with her and Anton Skinner, called at my insistence – which took place in Maison Le Pape – the social services headquarters – during which I had to draw to their attention a variety of manifest deficiencies and flaws in a recently up-dated Child Protection Handbook.
The rag then says that it is difficult to reconcile my concerns with Mr. Williamson’s findings. Another rare example of a correct and factual statement by the Jersey Evening Post. It is indeed difficult to reconcile my concerns with the Williamson report.
This is because my concerns happen to be factual, evidenced, supported by victim testimony, that of whistle-blowers and parents and by documentation. Unlike the Williamson report. So we can’t be surprised that it does not reconcile with the facts.
The comment then criticises my criticisms levelled at the personnel of the children’s service. This is a further example of spin – and which again illustrates the causes of the Jersey child abuse disaster.
Far from me being critical of frontline staff – the vast majority do an excellent job. Contrary to The Rag’s assertions – and as explained above, and in previous blog posts – my criticisms are of the senior management of Jersey’s child protection apparatus.
But can we be surprised at the persistence of the Jersey child abuse disaster – when people like Mr. Williamson, Jersey’s politicians and the island’s only newspaper – exhibit no understanding of the fact that a great deal of the examples of malpractice, incompetence, policy failures and dishonesty amongst senior management personnel – were actually drawn to my attention by a number of brave, whistle-blowing front-line staff. People who have exhibited a degree of integrity and professionalism that is utterly shaming of their managers, contrasting as it does with the evidenced cover-ups engaged in by their bosses.
We now come to the end of The Rag’s comment:
“The Senator is now saying that what we are witnessing is a substandard report that is ‘bland, wishy-washy, hopelessly compromising, inoffensive, weak and full of sophistry’ and that insufficient attention is being paid to past gross deficiencies.”
Note how they assert that I am “now” saying that the Williamson report is substandard – implying that I thought it was going to be great – and am only condemning it now because it didn’t say what I wanted it to say.
As I remarked on several occasions on past blog entries and in responses to comments – I ceased to have any faith in Mr. Williamson months ago – as did a number of the victims and their parents – when Mr. Williamson agreed to be wheeled out like a performing monkey by the Jersey oligarchy when they were desperate for a bit of spin when the international media storm was at its height.
My description of the Williamson report as quoted by The Rag is entirely accurate; indeed – it could easily and justifiably have been a good deal more blunt.
The JEP concludes by saying:
“It is up to Islanders to judge whether there is any substance in the former Health Minister’s claims or if it is merely another manifestation of his disdain for anything that can be connected with the establishment.”
It will forever be difficult for Islanders to judge for themselves just what the facts are – given the plain and rabid desire of the Jersey establishment – and its mouthpiece, the Jersey Evening Post – to con and lie to the people of this community.
As to my “disdain” for the Jersey establishment – given the facts explained in this post – and the very public child protection disaster, which has persisted for decades – and the pro-active and public assaults on the Police investigation by the local oligarchy – which, extrordinarily, includes public assualts on the Police by the present Minister for Social Services. In just how many etsblsihments do you find the politician responsable for child protection – attacking a Police investigation into child absue? I’m pretty confident that a significant majority of islanders share such “disdain” for the establishment.
It is difficult – isn’t it – to see how the public can accurately judge these most serious matters – when the island’s only newspaper gets furnished with hard, documentary evidence of child protection failures – and then suppresses the stories?
Like I’ve said many times before – if you want to really understand how these appalling child abuses can have persisted for decades – without being exposed – you need only look at the conduct of the Jersey Evening Post; – it is a fundamental part of the problem.
As our deconstruction of its leader comment demonstrates.
Actually – it’s been quite entertaining.
They’ve produced another classic screed of ignorant garbage of pre-Victorian standards in tonight’s comment. I think I’ll undertake the same exercise upon it. It really isn’t difficult.