Jersey

Jersey's care homes decades of abuse examined in report

Haut de la Garenne Image copyright NASA
Image caption Former children's home Haut de la Garenne was the focus of States of Jersey Police Operation Rectangle

Decades of slavery, bullying and abuse have been revealed in a report into the care system in Jersey.

Victims reported hundreds of alleged offences of physical, emotional or sexual abuse.

The police investigation began in 2006 but the apparent discovery in 2008 of part of a child's skull at a care home made headlines around the world.

It was later found to be coconut shell, but hundreds of victims had by then come forward.

Jersey care abuse inquiry: Children 'still at risk'

More on the child abuse report

'Do not ignore this report'

Following allegations dating from the 1960s, Operation Rectangle was launched with 192 people coming forward with 553 allegations of offences, including 315 at Haut de la Garenne.

Image caption Gifford Aubin was the first person to give evidence to the inquiry

Allegations were also made about the Sacré Coeur Orphanage, the Blanche Pierre group home and the successor to Haut de la Garenne, Heathfields.

The Independent Jersey Care Inquiry (IJCI), launched in 2014, has now published its final report.

Image copyright Gifford Aubin
Image caption Former Haut de la Garenne resident, Gifford Aubin said a lack of staff meant older boys were often left in charge

The inquiry heard from more than 600 witnesses over the last three years and its report concludes aspects of Jersey's services for children are still not fully fit for purpose.

Neil McMurray, who has been campaigning for victims of child abuse for more than a decade, said his message to the States is "do not ignore this report".

Image caption Lawyer Alan Collins said children's welfare became a secondary issue in Jersey

Lawyer Alan Collins, who represented the Jersey Care Leavers Association at the inquiry, said many of the victims have mixed emotions about the report as it deals with sensitive and painful matters.

He said: "They will want to ensure many of the recommendations are taken up by the States of Jersey to ensure children in the future do not have to endure what they had to endure."

Recommendations

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

Timeline leading to the inquiry

Image copyright Jersey Care Inquiry
Image caption The inquiry heard from hundreds of witnesses and looked through thousands of documents
  • 2006: States of Jersey Police begin a long-running covert investigation into child abuse
  • February 2011: Senator Francis Le Gresley lodges a proposition in the States Assembly demanding a public inquiry
  • March 2012: Victims of abuse are offered up to £60,000 compensation, without the need for a court hearing
  • March 2013: States Assembly unanimously agrees the framework for an independent inquiry into historical child abuse
  • July 2013: The inquiry is delayed when its chair, Sally Bradley QC, suffers a stroke. She is eventually replaced by Frances Oldham QC
  • 2014: As the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry finally gets under way in July
  • February 2016: It is revealed the care inquiry will spend the full £23m allocated to it including contingency funding

This is taken from a more detailed timeline examining the lead-up to the inquiry and political issues surrounding it.


Abuse charges

Convictions of historical abuse as a result of Operation Rectangle include:

  • June 2009: Michael Aubin who was a former resident at Haut de la Garenne and a victim of abuse. He admitted abusing other boys between 1977 and 1980 and was sentenced to probation
  • August 2009: Claude James Donnelly was jailed for 15 years for rape and indecent assault
  • September 2009: Gordon Claude Wateridge was sentenced for three offences of indecent assault on girls under 16 between 1969 and 1979 at Haut de la Garenne in September
  • November 2009: Ronald George Thorne sentenced to 12 months in jail for gross indecency between 1983 and 1984
  • 2010: Leonard Miles Vandenborn is sentenced to 12 years for rape and indecent assault in the 1970s and 1980s
  • In January 2011 Anthony and Morag Jordan were found guilty of assaults on children during the 1970s and 1980s and sentenced to six and nine months respectively

Skull or coconut ?

Image caption Former States of Jersey Deputy Chief Officer, Lenny Harper, faced criticism for his handling of the media during Operation Rectangle

Operation Rectangle was not all plain sailing. Under the gaze of intense media interest, the first head of the investigation, Lenny Harper, claimed a piece of a child's skull had been found.

This was later revealed to be a piece of coconut after testing by experts in the UK.

Speaking after that revelation, the then deputy chief officer of the States of Jersey Police, David Warcup, said there was no evidence any children had been murdered at the former home.

Mr Warcup expressed "much regret" at the "misleading" information previously released.

During the Jersey Care inquiry, when called to give evidence, Lenny Harper would only do so over video as he said he had been warned Jersey law officers had prepared a "nasty surprise" for him if he came to the island.

Political opposition

The inquiry has heard evidence from more than 200 people in 146 public hearings, with two million pages of hard evidence submitted and 600 total witnesses including evidence read to the inquiry by lawyers.

This is despite the fact that the inquiry nearly did not happen.

Some politicians suggested the scale of the abuse was "exaggerated" by the media. That led the then chief minister, Senator Terry Le Sueur, to suggest an inquiry was a waste of time.

A proposition by Senator Francis Le Gresley, overruling the chief minister, was successful in the States and that led to the inquiry going ahead.

Since the abuse first came to light the States says a number of changes have been made to the care system.

These include appointing an independent chairman for the child protection committee and providing millions in funding to support child care reforms.

There was also a new multi-agency system set up to manage sexual, violent and dangerous offenders.

The Brig-y-Don children's home was reopened under criteria set out in earlier reports into childcare and a board of visitors was developed to provide independent contact and support for children in care.

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