Report lifts lid on Jersey child abuse

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Children may still be at risk in Jersey’s care system, a report into seven decades of child abuse has found.

The Independent Jersey Care Inquiry has recommended demolishing the Haut de la Garenne children’s home.

The report said the States of Jersey “proved to be an ineffectual and neglectful substitute parent”.

Chief Minister, Senator Ian Gorst said: “We failed children who needed our care.”

Led by judge Frances Oldham QC, the inquiry heard hundreds of witness testimonies.

More on the child abuse report

The report said at the end of the inquiry’s hearings in June 2016 “aspects of Jersey’s services for children remained not fully fit for purpose”.

It said: “Children may still be still at risk in Jersey and children in the care system are not always receiving the kind or quality of care and support that they need.”

The inquiry heard 553 offences took place between 1947 and 2004, with more than half said to have occurred at Haut de la Garenne.

The report says the buildings at Haut de la Garenne are a reminder of an “unhappy past or shameful history”.

It says they are also a symbol of the “turmoil and trauma” of the early stages of the police investigation, which began in 2006.

Read more of the survivors’ stories here

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The report says there is no doubt that “many instances” of physical and sexual abuse were suffered by children in the care of the States of Jersey.

It adds that the wellbeing of vulnerable children has been “low on the list” of Jersey’s priorities.

It found a “worrying history of both inappropriate and ineffectual state invention and state indifference”.

There was no will to invest the resources required in child care services and unsuitable people were appointed to management roles on the basis of local connections, the report said.

Gifford Aubin, who was at Haut de la Garenne in the 1950s, told how “live electrical wires” and “a pre-war stick with a metal end” were used to abuse children.

Mr Aubin said he also suffered mental abuse and had his meals withheld.

‘Nightmares’

Jacky de la Haye was one of a handful of girls at Haut de la Garenne and says she suffered psychological abuse.

“I have nightmares that I’m still there,” she said.

A witness, known as “Mrs A” said outside of school hours children were forced to work unpaid in a knitting factory run by the nuns at the orphanage.

In February 2015 one survivor known as “Witness D”, now in his 40s, told the inquiry he was sexually abused by two members of staff, William Gilbert and Phil Le Bais. They were never charged and have now died.

The report refers to the use of the phrase the “Jersey way” by witnesses, which was often used to describe a system where “serious issues are swept under the carpet” and “people avoid being held to account for abuses”.

There are more than 600 recommendations contained in the report, which include:

  • An independent commissioner for children be appointed
  • Giving children a voice through an effective complaints system
  • Jersey should establish “truly independent” inspections of its children’s services
  • A stable and competent workforce should be employed
  • The whole legislation system should be amended to centre on the child
  • A public acknowledgment for victims
  • Haut de la Garenne should be demolished

Alan Collins, the lawyer for some of the victims, said it was important that the recommendations made in the report are implemented quickly.

He said: “It is interesting to see how much could have been prevented if there had been good government.”

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Senator Ian Gorst, Jersey’s chief minister, apologised to “all those who suffered abuse in our islands over the years”.

“Unpalatable truths were swept under the carpet because it was the easiest thing to do,” he said.

“People cared more for the status quo, for a quiet life, than for children.

“We failed children who needed our care who needed to be protected and listened to.

“I am shocked I am saddened and I am sorry. I accept every recommendation.”

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