THE PINBALL WIZARD – AND HIS ACCOMPLICE:
[First posted on 2nd October 2008 – four years ‘PS’ (Pre-Savile) – From the archive on the Jersey child-abuse atrocities.]
AND WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER VOTE FOR MIKE VIBERT:
A WINTER’S TALE.
A Cautionary storey.
And a Deeply Troubling Question.
Before I get into this post, I have to say I am addressing issues that some readers will find personally upsetting.
It is a long post – but, I feel, its length is merited given the importance of the subject.
I have written at such length, partly in the hope that many of those victims and witnesses who are out there – but who have so far chosen not to contact the police – will reconsider. Others have taken their courage in their hands – but they need the support of those who shared or witnessed their experiences.
These are the contact details:
States of Jersey Police: Historical Child Abuse Investigation.
Tel: 0800 735 7777.
NSPCC – UK-based dedicated helpline:
From within UK: 0800 169 1173.
From outside UK: +44 (0) 2078 257 489.
Should you wish to contact me, these are the details:
In a recent post I ran a Readers’ Quiz in which the question was ‘guess the identity of “The Pinball Wizard”?’
Sure enough – readers rapidly came up with the goods and correctly identified “The Pinball Wizard” as being recently retired Chief Executive officer of Jersey’s Education department – Tom McKeon.
So why did McKeon earn this nickname amongst a very substantial cohort of people who were in child custody during the 1980’s?
Well – in the early 1980’s McKeon was the Head of the then child secure unit, known as Les Chenes; this place having gradually taken over child imprisonment responsibilities from the infamous Haute de la Garenne, which closed in 1986.
While McKeon was the Head of the “school” – as it was euphemistically known – his Deputy Head was Mario Lundy.
McKeon, miraculously, worked his way up the Education hierarchy to become its Chief Officer – a position from which he retired only last Christmas. And – wouldn’t you know it – his side-kick, Lundy, followed the same career arc – and replaced McKeon as the Chief Officer of Education at the beginning of this year.
Now before going on – if you’re a Jersey tax-payer – bear in mind the following facts:
Both of these characters will have been – and still is in Lundy’s case – on a salary of circa £150,000 per annum – plus vast, two-thirds, final salary pension.
Just absorb the thought of those astronomical funds coming out of your pockets in tax – whilst you read the rest of this post.
Tom McKeon and Mario Lundy were both in the habit of routinely committing savage, violent assaults on the male children in their care.
And so ‘normalised’ were both men to this criminal conduct they thought nothing of blithely carrying out such assaults on an open basis – in front of other witnesses – children and adults.
And we are not talking about the occasional slap on the wrist or tweaked ear.
McKeon was known as “The Pinball Wizard” because such was his calculated propensity for violent child abuse – he even had the furniture in his office at Les Chenes arranged in such a way as to afford a nice, clear run-up to the walls of the room.
He was then able to grab children by the arm, take a run-up – and swing them –wrestling-fashion – so that the child would smash savagely against the walls.
Bouncing children off the walls and furniture in this way gave rise to the nick-name “The Pinball Wizard”.
So bad were some of these assaults, the sounds of the impacts and the screams of the children would be heard in other parts of the building.
But the assaults on children were not confined only to the office. Punching, pushing and slapping children was regarded as perfectly normal, acceptable conduct.
For example – on one occasion a female member of staff, wrongly, as it transpired, thought that a £5 note had been taken from her handbag. She went to McKeon and complained.
This is what happened.
McKeon stormed into the classroom where a number of children were having a lesson. These children were sat on high stools – of the kind you might find in a school science lab.
Amongst these children there happened to be a particular, troubled child – who was articulate and argumentative – and therefore particularly hated by McKeon & Lundy.
McKeon stormed up to this child – and punched him full in the face with a haymaker of a right-hook. The child in question was knocked flying backwards by the force of the punch, off the stool where he had been sitting.
As he lay, dazed, on the ground, McKeon then – to use the words of the victim himself – “he put a foot on my chest and kind of stood on me to keep me on the floor – and he was, like, screaming – I mean really screaming, you could see the purple veins bulging in his neck – “this is what we do to scum like you!””
This kind of behaviour from McKeon – recently retired Chief Officer of Education – was routine.
Just as it was for Mario Lundy – the present Chief Officer of Education.
Lundy committed violent assaults of a similar nature to those described above. He would be in the habit of punching children, slamming them against walls and doors, slapping them, grabbing them by the hair and generally treating them in an abusive manner.
For example, when Lundy was accompanying some children to the old swimming pool at Fort Regent, a child misbehaved – and was violently slapped around the head and then thrown to the floor by Lundy – with sufficient violence to break the child’s arm.
The child was taken to Accident and Emergency – where staff were told the injury “had been caused by an accident during sports at school.”
As a further illustration of just how ‘normalised’ violence against children was to Lundy, consider this.
A grown man – who is a survivor of Haute de la Garenne – explained this incident to me. This man’s son was a pupil at Granville School – by which time Lundy had become the Head Master of that institution. The man’s son had misbehaved in some way, so the man and his son had to go and see Lundy in his office to speak about the son’s behaviour.
Lundy – in the open presence of this child’s father – threatened to punch the child in the face. He made this threat of direct violence against this child in front of his father.
In addition to the routine, violent conduct of McKeon and Lundy themselves – both men tolerated – indeed, actively supported – similar conduct on the part of other members of staff.
For example, one Derek Carter, who worked at Les Chenes, was in the habit of using a tray to beat children over the head with. The same man was known to be commonly drunk during daytime working hours – yet McKeon & Lundy permitted him to drive the minibus in this state – it, apparently, being of no concern to them that this criminal conduct could lead to a crash in which many children might be killed and injured.
Tom McKeon and Mario Lundy are – for the type of violence described above – both suspects within the core-group of abusers being investigated by the States of Jersey Police.
And there are further examples of reprehensible behaviour on the part of McKeon – which I will return to later.
Much of the information described above, which has been made known to the Police, was uncovered by me during 2007 – in which period McKeon was still the Chief Officer of Education, and Lundy his deputy.
Let us now turn our consideration upon the conduct of present Education Minister – Senator Mike Vibert.
So, events are, by this stage in the latter half of 2007, in the political sphere. During September of that year, I was dismissed as Health & Social Services Minister on the supposed grounds that by “publicly criticising Jersey’s child “protection” apparatus, I was “undermining staff morale””.
I had made the first ever public utterance to the effect that things had gone very badly wrong in Jersey’s child “protection” system when I gave an honest answer to a question I was asked in the island’s parliament in July. I concluded my answer by saying words to the effect, “if I’m being asked do I have any confidence in Jersey’s child protection systems, honestly, I have to say no; and I’m going to commission an independent enquiry.”
I had spent much of the first half of 2007 conducting my own enquiries as Minister, so by the time that question was asked of me – I had accumulated through my own efforts, knowledge of some serious issues.
Though I didn’t know it at the time – my answer had caused wide-spread panic and fear amongst the ranks of Jersey’s senior civil service. People like Lundy & McKeon – and the Directorate Manager of Social Services, Marnie Baudains – will have known perfectly well the kind of issues I was uncovering – so immediately set about engineering my dismissal in a terrified effort to maintain the culture of concealment.
They thought – “get rid of Syvret – there will be a bit of a political fuss, but that won’t be our problem – and once he is out of the way, and the dust has settled, everything can go back to business as usual.”
A key fact which must be born in mind is that, at this stage – none of us – not me, not the civil servants, not the other Ministers – were aware of the covert Police investigation. Back in the summer of 2007, it still appeared to the civil servants that if they could remove me from Office – the cover-ups could continue.
To this end they lobbied senior civil service colleagues – not least the States Chief Executive, Bill Ogley – to make it plain to the other Ministers that I was “upsetting staff”. In addition to this, Baudians also wrote a three-page letter – and got the then Chair of the Jersey Child Protection Committee [the child-abuse concealing Iris Le Feuvre] to sign it – which demanded my sacking because I was – supposedly – “undermining staff morale” – and “placing children at greater risk by publicly criticising the service.”
It should be noted that every single respectable child protection agency the length of the nation, rightly, takes the opposite view – which is that it’s always preferable that anyone aware of breakdowns in child protection systems should speak out.
“Secrets” are the friends of abusers – openness and transparency are the friends of vulnerable children.
That the Directorate Manager of Social Services – THE civil servant with key responsibility for child protection – could so brazenly write such lies speaks volumes about just how the Jersey Child Abuse Disaster was able to occur – and was able to be covered-up for all those decades.
Amongst the issues I was exposing – thanks to the brave efforts of Simon Bellwood – was the institutional abuse of children at Greenfields, by which children would be subjected to weeks and months of punitive and coercive solitary confinement. This conduct against children is – unambiguously – criminal.
A clear breach of the Children (Jersey) Law 1969 and the Children (Jersey) Law 2002.
Thus the efforts of people like Baudians and others to conceal the truth of this illegal practice was a straightforward attempted perversion of the course of justice.
She is amongst those I have given formal statements against – to the States of Jersey Police Force.
Incidentally – she too is costing Jersey taxpayers a substantial sum in salary – around £120,000 per annum – plus pension.
Now we come to Mike Vibert – and why no decent person should ever vote for him again.
As Health & Social Services Minister, I was one third of the “Corporate Parent” – the States entity which has responsibility for all matters concerning children. The Other two thirds were the Home Affairs Minister, Wendy Kinnard – and the Education Minister, Mike Vibert.
One might imagine that any politician with some kind of responsibility for child protection – as Senators Kinnard and Vibert had – would be implacable in their determination to investigate and expose any system-failures in child protection?
That if a colleague raised serious concerns – they’d support that colleague in getting to the truth?
But – this is Jersey. Whilst all of the Council of Ministers needed no second invitation to do me down politically – two Ministers in particular were rabid and vociferous in their demands that I should be sacked. Kinnard quickly realised the error of her ways and found excuses to be “conflicted”. So who were the two Ministers who were desperate that the civil service should win their battle to eliminate a democratically elected Minister who was exposing their malfeasances?
Mike Vibert and Philip Ozouf.
Ozouf’s reasons were purely Political. As a rabid, devil-take-the-hindmost Thatcherite, hard Right-winger – he applied no greater consideration to the subject than as a means of eliminating me. He certainly deserves to not be re-elected for putting partisan Political opportunism over and above something so fundamental as child protection.
Looking back over events, you may well ask, ‘Philip Ozouf? I didn’t think he had played any prominent role in events.’ And you could be forgiven for having that perception.
For Philip is the arch-manipulator; the person who likes to be “the power behind the throne” – a Machiavellian schemer who strives to be meticulously careful in keeping his own head below the parapet – whilst driving forward and manipulating others to do his dirty work. So he made sure his name was not publicly associated with the controversy – just as he did in an earlier episode, when he manipulated others into a state of near-crises – because I had written a satirical open-letter.
It is, perhaps, also worth noting that Philip Ozouf is the campaign organiser for the [covert]Jersey Establishment Party. He is to the Jersey establishment what Peter Mandelson was to New Labour back in 1997. He spins, and co-ordinates which Establishment candidates will be standing in which district. For example, Alan MacLean was one of his great successes three years ago. You have to hand it to him – it must take some doing to get a predominantly poor, working-class district to elect a multi-millionaire property speculator like MacLean.
But as I said – Ozouf’s role in this matter was purely “Political”; it was simple opportunism on his part.
But what of Mike Vibert – the Senator presently seeking re-election – and current Education Minister? The man with all that responsibility for the island’s children?
Vibert is, essentially, thick. It’s not for nothing that he is known as Mike – ‘12 careers and all of them failures’ – Vibert. Admittedly, there is some poetic licence in the figure 12 – but the essential point remains.
But in this matter, his intrinsic stupidity was also heavily coloured by the fact that he is a former teacher himself – so would instinctively be on the side of the staff – as opposed to being on the side of the children.
He was desperate to keep a lid on things; to avoid any controversy – and, like most other politicians, not make an enemy of the senior civil service. The smooth and untroubled career of Mike Vibert was his overriding consideration.
But as the Minster for Education, no less – and as one third of the “Corporate Parent” – his instinctive desire to place his own and his civil servants’ interests over and above those of vulnerable children is simply beyond forgivable.
Who could forget his high-profile spin and, frankly, lies – in attempting to pretend there was nothing wrong with the so-called “Grand Prix” system of coercive and punitive long-term solitary confinement as used against already vulnerable children?
Throughout this episode Vibert has exhibited a rabid determination to carry on conning the public into thinking that nothing has gone wrong. Be it the solitary confinement of children, senior civil servants allowing staff to “resign” when they should have been sacked and prosecuted for child protection offences, the transportation of children in the same prison van as adult prisoners – or the investigation of the criminal conduct of his senior civil servants – at every stage he has sought to cover-up the truth.
Frankly, I find it difficult to comprehend such behaviour from any politician with any kind of concern for children. As one third of the Corporate Parent – and as the Minster with responsibility for Social Services – it would have been the easiest thing in the world for me to have ignored the problems, disregarded the whistle-blowers and survivors, maintain the culture of concealment – and to have given a dishonest answer to that fateful question I was asked in the States – back in July 2007.
But I didn’t. Instead I did what I believed to be right and honest and in the best interests of children. I told the truth, and in so doing I became the first States member ever to identify the disastrous, decades-long failure of the island’s child protection apparatus.
But rather than join with me and support me, people like Vibert preferred to be on the side of the cover-up merchants; those immensely expensive senior civil servants that your hard-earned money goes to.
Until this episode began, I’d had no particularly major rows with Vibert and I had no dramatic difference with him over political policy. So what I say is not based upon a history of animosity – it is simply my honest opinion.
Mike Vibert has – sadly – shown himself to be utterly unfit and unreliable to hold any public Office.
Should he still be a States member at the conclusion of these elections – it will serve as proof of that wise old saying, ‘people get the government they deserve’.
And it is not as though the revelations of the Police investigation – and all that has passed since 2007 – has caused the slightest modification of his behaviour.
On the contrary – as I will explain.
I stated earlier that McKeon and Lundy are both key suspects in the historic child abuse investigation – this for the appalling violence they inflicted on children.
The Police regard the allegations as well-evidenced and credible – and to that end, recently issued a Disclosure Notice to Lundy’s employers – the States – that he is under serious investigation for violent child abuse.
On the 22nd September, I drew this fact to the attention of Bill Ogley – the ultimate head of the civil service – and to Senator Mike Vibert – the Minister for Education.
Not only have both men refused to acknowledge the facts – both have refused to even suspend Lundy from his post, pending the outcome of the investigations.
Ask yourself this question:
What kind of Education Minister keeps in post – will not even suspend – a Chief Officer of the Education department – who is under investigation for child abuse?
I trust islanders will know the answer to that question – and come to their own judgments.
Setting aside the child abuse controversy – there are, as I said earlier, further examples of unethical behaviour on the part of the recently retired Chief Officer of Education, Tom McKeon.
I would not normally refer to such a subject; my views are essentially liberal, and I consider that which takes place in people’s private lives to be a matter for them. It is for this reason that I do not publish on this site the various ‘personal’ issues of other public figures which are made known to me.
However, as what I’m about to explain involves the senior civil service in various ways, it is a matter of inescapable public importance. As well as being a further illustration of “The Jersey Way” at work.
Those who have followed this saga closely will be familiar with the case of Simon Bellwood, the courageous whistle-blower. Around late 2006, early 2007 – he was oppressed by “the system”, and was unjustly driven out of his job by the established senior civil service.
A key figure in this episode was one Madeline Davies – a senior HR civil servant in the Education department.
Whilst – by some margin – the role she played in oppressing Simon Bellwood was the worst, there are many examples of her utter ineptitude and incompetence in the job for which Jersey tax-payers employ her.
So how did she secure this post – when – as is widely known amongst the decent middle ranks of the civil service – there were far superior candidates available?
It was a mystifying appointment – given that she was manifestly unqualified for the job – and even had no prior experience in HR.
Even more fascinatingly – in direct contravention of States policies – the post was not advertised throughout the civil service – and even more extraordinarily – no interviews were held.
So why did McKeon go to such extraordinary and highly irregular lengths to secure this post for Ms. Davies, a decision which mystified other staff?
[I have edited this post at this point following a request which I consider to be legitimate. However, the key point concerning the ethical bankruptcy of McKeon remains unchanged.]
McKeon was having a long-standing affair with an assistant director, Elizabeth Middleton.
And McKeon was using tax-payer provided resources to enable him and Middleton to engauge in what were ficticious “work” activities – which were merely a smoke-screen for McKeon’s and Middleton’s clandestine affair.
It is one thing for relationships to break-down and people find other partners – but quite another matter when one engauges in such utterly reprehensible behaviour as using work-time – and public money – to enable the deception. [End of edit.]
Madeline Davies – being a close friend of Ms. Middleton – knew everything about the secret affair – hence her securing the lucrative – tax-payer funded job – for which she is manifestly unqualified, and in which she is plainly incompetent.
Wheels within wheels. “The Jersey Way”.
It is this kind of ethically bankrupt chicanery – senior civil servants working the system to their own ends, rather than honestly serving the public – which underpins the Jersey Child Abuse Disaster – and a significant number of other failings of public administration in this island.
An incompetent HR manger – only in post because her close friend is having an affair with the Chief Officer – a man with a history of violent child abuse; an HR manager who then goes on to participate in the unlawful dismissal and oppression of Simon Bellwood – who was simply trying to do the right thing for vulnerable kids.
Is it any wonder we in Jersey have this disaster on our hands?
But – as I said at the head of this post, there is a deeply – deeply – troubling question, which all decent people must reflect upon.
I have described how vulnerable children in care – frequently already the victims of inadequate homes, drunken parents, domestic neglect or abuse – would be further violently abused and treated like filth by people like McKeon and Lundy.
When you take children from already troubled circumstances – and then subject them to yet more – and frequently worse – abuse, the result is most unlikely to be positive.
On the contrary – most of the children who suffer such experiences will become even more damaged and dysfunctional.
Many of the children who had the great misfortune to fall into Jersey’s soi disant child “protection” system are not here to tell their stories – because they are dead.
Usually through suicide – but also drug overdoses and alcoholism.
So many children – in the “care” of the States – who needed protection and nurturing – yet who were betrayed and further harmed by Jersey’s very expensive and self-serving civil service.
Of those who survive, some – despite the States of Jersey – have managed to make some kind of life for themselves – but, alas, many others are the wreckage of society. In many cases languishing in prison.
I am aware of two men – now in jail – with, undeniably, a lot of very ‘bad-form’ behind them – theft, drugs, serious violence – and in one case, a killing.
This is the profoundly troubling question I referred to.
One of these two men was the child punched in the head by Tom McKeon and knocked to the floor.
The other – who is serving life for murder – was subjected to the same kind of treatment.
Whilst many will view these two men as simply ‘villains’ – who deserve the condemnation of society – let us remember – these two troubled, violent men were children once.
Children; 13 year-olds – from already troubled backgrounds – who needed love and support – not savage assaults at the hands of civil servants.
Of course – we cannot say for sure – but these two men – and many others like them – might have descended into a life of crime – quite regardless of how they were treated as children.
But by the same token – had they received some care and nurturing – they might not now be largely permanent inmates of the custodial system – and might not have left such a trail of victims and harm behind them.
In fact, I would hope no decent person could reasonably expect children to be treated in such ways – and to emerge from the experience as well-adjusted human beings.
POST-SCRIPT: after I first published this posting, a family member of one of the two child victims of violence I refer to here, left the following comment:
In this post I have explained in detail just how poisonous, corrupt and toxic public administration is in Jersey.
So I repeat the request I made at the beginning of this post – if you are a survivor, a victim – or a witness – to any of these atrocities against children – please contact the Police, the NSPCC – or even me, in strict confidence if you wish.
I know – for a fact – there are people out there who will recognise absolutely what I have described in this post – but who now have settled lives, very successful lives in some cases – and just don’t want to revisit the issues and get involved.
I appeal to you – please – speak to the Police. Now is the time for everyone to take a stand – and contribute to the rooting-out of such barbarism.
And to those of you who have no direct personal experiences of such things – remember – you’re still involved. It is your taxes which are flooding into the bank-accounts of people like McKeon, Lundy and Marnie Baudians.
Now is the time – finally – to repair public administration in Jersey.
Please – speak out.