An independent inquiry into seven decades of child abuse in Jersey’s care homes has concluded that the Haut de la Garenne should be demolished and that there may be children in the Island’s care system that remain at risk.
The inquiry was led by Judge Frances Oldham QC and has stated that the, “States of Jersey proved to be an ineffectual and neglectful substitute parent.”
Over 650 witnesses gave evidence in the inquiry. The Panel found 11 major failings and 600 recommendations have been made. These have been summarised into 8 lessons to be learnt:
- Welfare of child trumps all other interests
- Give children a voice – and listen to it
- Have clear standards
- Independent scrutiny is essential
- Stay connected
- Investment is essential
- Quality of leadership must improve
- Openness and transparency essential
The Inquiry also found 10 fundamental failings:
- Failure to value children in the care system
- Failure to adopt an adequate legislative framework
- Failure to keep pace with advances in the developed world
- Failure to achieve positive, measurable outcomes for children
- Failure to establish a culture of openness and transparency
- Failure to mitigate the negative effects of small island culture
- Failure to make sufficient investment in staff development
- Failure to promote the recruitment and retention of suitable staff
- Failure to fulfil corporate parenting responsibilities
- Failure to tackle a silo mentality
The report says, “over many decades, there were persistent failures in the governance, management and operation of children’s homes in Jersey. Failings were at all levels: there was no political interest in defining and promoting standards of care and performance in residential care and no will to invest the resources required in child care services.”
“Unsuitable people who were appointed to management roles, often on the basis of local connections, lacked the leadership skills to manage and raise practice standards and had little up to date knowledge of child care theory and practice. “
“As a result, ill-suited carers continued to look after children in unsuitable facilities, using outdated practices. The consequences for the children in their care were devastating and, in many instances, lifelong.”
There is concern that vulnerable children in the care system remain at risk and Neil Murray who has a blog, “Voice for Children “has said, “If the States of Jersey doesn’t implement the recommendations in full then the UK government should step in.”
The inquiry was commissioned in 2010 after a Police investigation named Operation Rectangle brought to light years of physical and sexual abuse at Haut de la Gerenne and other children’s homes in Jersey. As a result of the operation,” eight people have been prosecuted for 145 offences and seven men and women have been convicted. Many more alleged offenders, some now dead, have been identified by almost 200 former residents. Police have recorded more than 500 alleged offences.”
Jimmy Saville is amongst those who have had allegations made against them. Wilfred Krichefski, deceased, a TV executive and Jersey Senator, was also named as an alleged abuser.
Gifford Aubin, who was a child at, Haut de la Garenne was the first person to give evidence to the inquiry. He was at the home in the 1950s and said, “He suffered mental and physical abuse as well as having meals withheld”. He is quoted as giving evidence that one form of punishment was, “It involved putting live electrical wires on your legs, hitting you with a pre-war stick with a metal end.”
Evidence was given at the inquiry that 553 offences took place between 1947 and 2004, with more than half taking place at Haut de la Garenne.
The inquiry heard that the abuse took the form of children having their mouths washed out with carbolic soap to being beaten with stinging nettles. One girl gave evidence that, she was punished by having to spend a night in a room with the body of a dead nun.
Over half of the offences at Haut de la Garenne involved allegations of sexual abuse. One man told the inquiry that he was raped repeatedly by Krichefski and another man in the early 1960s. He said, “the senator told him to be a good boy and do as you are told otherwise you will never go home.”
A woman also described four or five incidents in which three men in their 30s, “scruffy looking with Jersey accents came into the dormitory one night and raped a girl in turn, egging each other on.”
Evidence was also given by residents said they were sexually abused by Jimmy Savile. One said “the television star sexually assaulted him between eight and 12 times in a camper van parked in the home’s grounds.”
The report stated that, “many instances of physical and sexual abuse were suffered by children in the care of the States of Jersey ” and that the,” wellbeing of vulnerable children has been low on the list of Jersey’s priorities. It concluded that there is a “worrying history of both inappropriate and ineffectual state invention and state indifference”.