Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Jersey's coming 30 year war: what we didn't learn from the child abuse debacle and cover up in North Wales.

Given the two choices that were available to CM Gorst to recommend  to the States today, he took the clearly better option of the Verita way over the Williamson way. Many will doubtless be relieved about that.  However it is only his recommendation, and the debate on January 15th could yet see the Terms of Reference and composition amended.  (see  statesassembly.P.118-2012.pdf )

As drafted the ToRs probably are sufficient to deal with the immediate abuse of children in care and foster homes and the actions of those directly responsible.  They should enable those whose cases were dropped or never came to light to make their case publicly and be heard.

However the Terms of Reference appear  to exclude systemic possibilities. Do abused children not in the care system eg Sea Scouts and Victoria College come under its remit?.  If not, how shall we know if the same names and  common institutions recur and could be linked.   Similarly there is no mention of the judiciary or crown officers or former States members and their roles. How would the committee know if there were a common theme or failure in these institutions?  Another area that may not be covered, certainly needs clarification, is abuse whilst in care but not occurring at the care premises, or committed by people outside the care system.

The consequences of getting those ToRs wrong are immense.  If you have read the papers recently you should be aware there is a serious problem brewing for the UK government arising from events in North Wales and particularly around the investigation of child abuse centred at Bryn Estyn care home.  Abuse that had happened in the seventies  and eighties was investigated and resulted in the Waterhouse Inquiry in 2000.  However recent revelations have shown just how flawed that original investigation report was, having omitted evidence that pointed to the active involvement of very well placed people, including it is alleged, a cabinet minister.

These quotes from the BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-20182106  are telling.
Richard Scorer, a solicitor with Pannone and Partners, who represented 30 victims at the Waterhouse inquiry: "The terms of reference were an important restriction. It's also fair to say at that time, and we're going back to the mid to late 1990s here, at that time the idea that senior public figures; politicians; celebrities could be involved in child abuse was seen as a bit far-fetched"  "We now know of course from recent revelations that it isn't far-fetched at all - and that's part of the reason why it's important that these allegations are looked at again".

Getting the terms of reference right and being prepared to believe the victims and the testimony of children rather than preconceived prejudices and covering up for friends  are critical in getting to the truth.  Twelve years on two new investigations have been ordered by the Prime Minister into what seems certain to have been a high level widespread cover up. 

There are parallels between what happened in North Wales and here in Jersey.  Clearly the investigation there missed out important suspects.  Here in Jersey  Rectangle was closed down prematurely after suspending the Police Chief Officer. As in Wales, at least one cabinet equivalent (now dead) local politician has been linked to the abuse.  We also know that  , as in Wales, others of official rank and position must have colluded or turned a blind eye to the original event for them to go on so long.    With such parallels we are forced to face the obvious question: did Jersey undergo a similar large scale high level cover up as appears must have happened in North Wales?

If our Committee of Inquiry terms of reference are not wide enough to ask the questions that would have revealed the sort of detail that is only now, 30 years on, coming to public light about who was really involved in the child abuse in North Wales, then it it dubious it is fully fit for the purpose here.  It took the North Wales campaigners thirty years to get the unthinkable truth into the public eye.  Can Jersey face another couple of decades of campaigning should it fail to fully grasp the nettle on January 15th?


  1. Very good points well made. This could not be a better moment for Jersey to define its TOR based on what we now know was wrong with the Wales abuse inquiry TOR.

    Possibly the main thing wrong with those was that they limited the inquiry to what happened in the care homes and not outside, in other locations to which the children were taken.

    It also appears that those conducting the inquiry removed all references to named abusers who were not care workers, particularly the names of prominent individuals.

    Given that we have an example of a failed inquiry before our eyes, revealed in such a spectacular fashion by recent events, it would be sad, not to say, highly suspicious, if Jersey's inquiry made exactly the same mistakes.

  2. Yes, it must be done right this time without interference or it is destined to be done over yet again.

  3. Labour MP Tom Watson, speaking on child abuse investigations in the UK, said , “A narrow-down investigation is the basic building block of a cover-up.”

  4. "Getting the terms of reference right and being prepared to believe the victims "

    Amen to that. Will Gorst understand?