Comments Issued by Senator Stuart Syvret
In Response to the Jersey Establishment
12th November 2008.
To those who read my previous posting – and to those who haven’t, I ask, please do – I offer these comments on today’s events.
And please note that a lot of this posting consists of the response document I thrashed out today over lunchtime and issued to the media this afternoon.
I’ve tidied it up a bit – corrected a few errors & typos – and expanded on the issues a little – so I hope readers find it useful. Any journalists – feel free to copy and paste anything from this should you want quotes from me.
And please note and remember these two, crucial, issues:
The imminent publication of the report of the Howard League for Penal Reform.
The issues I raise below concerning radionuclide dating.
As I predicted, two Jersey oligarchy press conferences were held today – the first by the new leaders (and very new, at that) of the States of Jersey Police Force.
The second by Frank Walker and current Home Affairs Minister, Andrew Lewis.
Again – my speculations as to what would be said, why, and by whom, were generally on the money.
The response of the Jersey oligarchy’s media too, was very easily predicted.
I carried out my promise to deliver a press conference in response to today’s events, in St. Helier’s Royal Square this afternoon.
I have to hold such press conferences outside, as the Bailiff, Phil Bailhache – brother of Attorney General Bill Bailhache – has issued orders to the ushers of the Jersey parliament building to have me thrown out should I take any journalists in the building with me.
Yes – things really are that absurd.
When I last tried to give an interview with a French TV crew in one of the interview rooms, the ushers burst in, and threw us out. It made great TV.
But that should give you an idea of just what a profoundly dangerous banana republic Jersey has been made by its oligarchy – when an elected member cannot carry out a media interview in a small room in the island’s parliament building.
There were two interesting features of the hack response to my press conference.
Firstly – there appeared to little, if any, recognition on the part of the assembled hacks that the insubstantial and un-evidenced ‘line’ fed to them by Gradwell, Warcup, Walker & Lewis suffered from even worse versions of the supposed flaws of Lenny Harper’s approach.
Secondly – I was repeatedly asked whether I was pleased that “my demand” that Jersey Police Chief Graham Power “be sacked” was being taken seriously?
I had to repeatedly point out that I had made no such “demand”.
All I had done in last night’s posting was to extrapolate – and take to a logical conclusion – the spin that the HDLG investigation ‘had been a farce’.
That conclusion being that if – I repeat, if – the HDLG investigation proves to have been so badly wrong as Walker, Warcup & Gradwell are now claiming – then the buck had to stop with the Chief Constable, Graham Power.
This was merely a logical observation – not a “demand”.
Personally – I’m extremely pleased to see that Graham Power had the integrity to turn down the Jersey oligarchy’s nice and easy “offer” of “early retirement” – and has instead taken the suspension from his post – and will fight all allegations against him.
I suggested last night that this episode could prove to be the greatest PR cock-up yet by the Jersey establishment. Events such as trying to crush and silence Graham Power strongly reinforce that conclusion.
So, two separate, but obviously co-ordinated, press-conferences have been given by the new leadership of the States of Jersey Police Force, and the Chief Minister, Senator Frank Walker.
These exercise had two, plain and transparent purposes – one of which was explicit – the other less immediately obvious.
Firstly, what we have seen today represents serious and concerted attempts by the Jersey establishment to discredit the investigation into Haute de la Garren; an exercise which has not – tellingly – confined itself solely to doubts over the issue of possible, unexplained child deaths.
Instead, determined efforts have also been made to discredit many aspects of the abuse allegations made by living survivors.
That aspect of the comments made today by the new leaders of the States of Jersey Police cannot be regarded as anything other than deeply disturbing.
Secondly – and less obviously – this precise moment for these press conferences has been carefully chosen by the Jersey establishment and their spin-doctors in order to create a diversionary media storm – calculated to divert and distract attention away from the imminent publication, this Friday, by the Howard League for Penal Reform, their report into youth justice and child custody practises in Jersey during comparatively recent years.
Those few parts of the Howard League report of which I am aware are unambiguously utterly damning of the States of Jersey policies which saw already troubled and vulnerable children being subjected to lengthy periods of punitive and coercive solitary confinement – isolated imprisonment in cells – which, in some cases, lasted for months.
This criminal conduct has always been strenuously denied by the States of Jersey – even up to today; the actual politician with responsibility for child protection, Jimmy Perchard, has been denying the truth and desperately trying to rubbish the work of the Howard League. But the definitive report by the independent Howard League shows the entire edifice of official denials – made over a 20 month period – to be literally incredible.
So apocalyptically damning of the Jersey establishment is the report that it generated an overwhelming Political imperative to spin-doctor some form of hi-profile distraction – hence the timing of these two press-conferences.
And we are forced to draw this conclusion because it cannot be regarded as anything other than mystifying as to why the attempt to discredit the Haute de la Garenne investigation should have been launched now – quite extraordinarily – before the Met review team, Mr. Gradwell or Mr. Warcup have even interviewed certain key figures – such as former Deputy Chief Constable, Lenny Harper.
It is simply astonishing that such a fundamentally important subject should be dealt with in such a deeply premature and cavalier manner – to the extent that the key figure previously involved in leading the investigation has not yet even been interviewed as a part of any supposed review of the investigation.
Turning to the question of the forensic claims now being made by the States of Jersey Police.
I am not yet in any position to offer any authoritative comments on the forensic claims being made by the present leadership of the States of Jersey Police Force.
Nor is anyone else outside of the Force – so far as I’m aware.
To offer a detailed response, one would have to have unimpeded access to the actual, scientific evidence, the documentation – and the forensic reports themselves.
Quite plainly – a few sound-bites and a few PowerPoint slides delivered by the Police officers at a press conference – cannot be remotely considered sufficient evidence to satisfy ourselves that no unexplained child deaths occurred at HDLG.
Indeed – perhaps the most striking feature of the comments made today by Officers Gradwell & Warcup – is that the approach they adopt is actually far worse than the accusations they make today against Lenny Harper.
Worse in that they have they rushed into making public comment on the basis of non-scientific, untested, vacuous assertions – and have glibly done so without even speaking with the central, living witness in their ‘investigation’ – Lenny Harper.
To Mr. Gradwell and Mr. Warcup – all any thinking person can say is – ‘physician, heal thyself’.
For me, personally – the failure of the Police to make all the forensic evidence openly available for professional peer-review is deeply disappointing.
For as I have always stated since the possibility of child deaths at that place were first raised earlier this year – I really hoped we would receive definitive evidence to the effect that no such deaths occurred.
I have always hoped that we could set aside such grim possibilities – and, instead, focus upon the survivors – and the more recent cases of institutional child abuse.
I have wanted the community to gain “closure” as far as the possibility of post-war, unexplained child deaths are concerned.
To that end, I have repeatedly, during recent weeks, asked the States of Jersey Police a number of questions concerning the forensics.
I repeat – I have, on behalf of my constituents, and of my own initiative – asked perfectly reasonable questions of the Police in respect of the forensics.
However – disappointingly – and quite disturbingly – they have flatly refused to engage with my queries.
Indeed – I have not succeeded in recent weeks in even gaining so much as an e-mail acknowledgment from Mr. Gradwell or Mr. Warcup of the questions I have asked.
I just hope those journalists – the Jersey hacks – and one or two of the sceptical national journalists, such as David Rose, who like to imagine themselves working on an ‘evidence-based’ approach – will apply the same standards to the vacuous assertions being made by the Jersey establishment today.
We shall see.
There is a central – and definitive question – which arises from the human remains found at the site – fragments of human bone and around 60 teeth.
Were the individuals who these remains originated from living in the period prior to WW II – perhaps even far earlier?
Or – were they living in the post-WW II era?
In modern decades?
Are the remains pre-war – or are they post-war?
For this – central – question has been at the heart of the debate over the remains.
Why is this question important?
If the remains predate World War II – whilst still something of a mystery – we would then be justified setting aside the concerns we have that children may have died through foul play at Haut de la Garenne during modern times.
However – if the remains originate post- WW II – then we, as a community, have to confront the possibilities of what may have happened to vulnerable children in HDLG.
For if we’re faced with the knowledge that the remains originated from people who were living, say, during the 1950’s, 1960’s or 1970’s – Jersey faces an altogether more serious – and deeply disturbing – situation.
This is why that simple question – are the remains pre-war – or post-war – is so important.
If pre-war – we can gain some form of “closure”.
But if post-war – we cannot so easily set the matter aside.
Yet – so far as I am aware – the forensic tests required to answer this single, definitive, question have not been undertaken.
I say ‘so far as I am aware’ – because disturbingly, the Police Force has refused to state whether these tests have been carried out – notwithstanding repeated questions from me.
I will describe some of the forensic tests which would need to be carried out in order to make us reasonably confident that none of the children’s teeth found on the site originate from the post-war years.
And I very much hope that any self-respecting journalists will put these issues to Gradwell, Warcup and Walker.
Human remains – such as bones and teeth – can be readily assessed as originating pre-war – or as originating post-war – because of the use of nuclear weapons.
From the first megaton nuclear explosions – and for a sustained period during the 1950’s and 1960’s – the atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons spread around the world a range of novel, radioisotopes which, prior to the nuclear weapons era – were present in the Earth only in minute quantities – or were not present at all, instead being the ‘man-made’ isotopes introduced into the atmosphere via nuclear bomb detonations.
Traces of these novel, radioactive substances are now found in all of us – in our bones, our teeth and other parts of the body.
By way of contrast – if a person was living, and died, before the onset of the nuclear weapons era – no internal contamination with these novel isotopes would be found within that individual’s bones and teeth.
Therefore – testing for radioisotope contamination of human bones and teeth is widely recognised as a forensic method of determining whether the remains are pre, or post the nuclear weapons age.
Due to my environmental campaigning against nuclear installations, I have a number of specialist contacts who have been able to furnish me with some observations and questions concerning radionuclide contamination.
1: Plutonium 239 is a man-made transuranic – with a half-life of 24,100 years.
Small traces of Pu239 would have been distributed to a limited extent through the very early nuclear detonations of 1945. However, Pu239 will not have been heavily and widely distributed through the atmosphere until the first megaton explosions around 1952 or possibly later, through to the 1960’s.
It is, therefore, possible to test for the internal presence of Pu239 in bones and teeth and conclude – definitively – whether the remains come from people who were living after the dawn of the nuclear weapons era.
Pre-war – no such internal contamination with this isotope would be found.
Post-war – especially if the individual were living in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s – then yes, such internal contamination would be present in teeth and bones.
Has this test been carried out? If so – will the scientific papers be published in peer-reviewable format?
If not – why not?
2: Strontium 90, I am told, would be an even better ‘tag’ for determining whether human remains such as bones and teeth were from the modern era. This isotope was also spread throughout the planet’s atmosphere via nuclear weapons testing from 1952.
The highest levels of this contaminant would originate from the years 1960 to 1965.
Strontium 90 is also easier to detect and analyse than Pu239 – especially in bone fragments.
Have the tests been done? If so – can the papers be published?
If not – why not?
3: Carbon 14, although occurring naturally – was very widely distributed – in a heavily detectable ‘spike’ of contamination, during the period, mid-1950 until mid-1960.
However, I’m told that the detection or measuring of Carbon 14 is more challenging as it has to be done by concentration, which can prove problematic.
But nevertheless, man-made volumes of Carbon 14 appearing in human bones and teeth are used as a measure to approximately date the remains to the pre – or post – nuclear weapons era, by forensic anthropologists.
Have tests for anthropogenic quantities of Carbon 14 been undertaken?
If so – can we have the scientific papers?
If not – why not?
4: We can be categorically certain that any human remains which have internal contamination of the above-described isotopes originate from people who were alive during the nuclear weapons era.
5: In the event of bones being burnt, it is strongly probable that any Strontium 90 would remain incorporated within the bone-matrix.
6: Burning any human remains would be most unlikely to remove or destroy the radio isotopes described above.
7: The sample size required to test for Strontium 90 or Plutonium 239, I am told, is around 20 grams – perhaps 3 or 4 teeth, or a similar weight of bone.
8: Many Labs would undertake testing for Strontium 90 and Plutonium 239.
9: My understanding is that it would costs around £300 to undertake alpha spectrometry to detect Pu239.
10: A similar sum would be required to fund the chemical separation and Beta spectrometry needed to detect and measure Strontium 90 within teeth or bone matrix.
If the tests I describe above – which are crucial to determine that key question – are the remains pre-war or post-war – have, in fact, been carried out – why the secrecy?
If the tests have not been carried out – why not?
These are the fundamental questions which any self-respecting journalist should be asking Gradwell, Warcup, Walker and Lewis.
As I have said throughout this whole episode – I really hope for such definitive, scientific evidence which would show that the human remains did not originate from the post-war era.
But I do not believe we can gain “closure” on the question of whether the human remains recovered from Haute de la Garenne are pre-war – or post war – until such tests have been undertaken – and the results published in peer-reviewable form.
I hope very much that all such tests would prove to be negative.
But they simply have to be carried out.
Have they been?
If so – where are the peer-reviewable results?
If not – why are the Jersey establishment so indecently ready to seize upon a few vacuous sound-bites and some PowerPoint slides as grounds for dismissing the whole episode?
I suggest that there are several answers to that question – not least the imminent publication of the Howard League report.
Do not be distracted – the report of the Howard League for Penal reform is published this Friday, 2.00pm, at a press-conference in Jersey.
Somehow – I very much get the impression that the Jersey oligarchy aren’t going to like it – not one little bit.