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Report :  The Jersey Child Abuse Crisis   Jersey Care Leavers speak

8th Aug 2008 | in Child Abuse

Tuesday 24 June 2008 Committee Room #7, House of Commons London SW1


Introduction: Austin Mitchell, MP Great Grimsby (Labour)

Austin Mitchell MP, became aware of this by his friendship with Stewart Syvret. His introduction outlined the basic problems facing the Jersey Careleavers and the current situation, (i) is the lack of transparency and accountability by the Jersey States authorities. The basis of this problem is that there is no separation of powers; ex: the Legal Advisor to Jersey is also the Legal Advisor to the Childrens’ homes. The nature of the islands Government facilitates cover up’ and it does this effectively; (ii) that, though the UK Parliament has responsibility for the good governance of Jersey, Jack Straw refuses to listen, or be involved. Question: how do we prepare and deal with this problem?

Will McMahon Spoke of his involvement from an early date with the Jersey Careleavers group, and his and of his association’s endeavours to assist and encourage them. He posed two questions: [1] how can we help and encourage, responsible and caring Jersey Child care? [2] How can we bring it to Parliament and ensure justice for children in care and for abused children?

He expressed his desire for many as possible to be involved in tackling Parliament for Jersey children in care and the Careleavers. A large problem is that of lost children’, the Guardian stated there are over 400 in the past few years. This is a national problem. Where did they go?

As an encouragement to the Jersey Careleavers who bravely formed their association, and to bring pressure on both governments, he has launched The Friends of Jersey Careleavers’ and requested as many as possible sign, with their organizations.

Two of the three Jersey Careleavers, Anna and James, briefly shared something of their experiences. James spoke of how being in care had damaged him, given him many problems and that for 12 years he was an alchoholic. He stated that the Jersey Government was now distrusted by the majority of the population; that it was adept at spin’ and cover-up’. They need to face up to their responsibilities and failures, must listen,heed the call for justice and heal the anger. Later James read his poingent poem.

A fourth Careleaver, Peter Musgrove, was unable to attend but via a note, spoke of how he was put into care as a baby; thought care was normal until he had a family, then realized it was not. Care blighted his life. More support is required for Care-leavers, & an urgent need for a new system to be introduced.

James (Joyce) stated there are 5 care homes in Jersey; that in “Greenfields’, formerly Les Chenes’, 20% committed suicide . There were no official investigations . A former head of this home was the current Minister for Education, Senator Mike Vibert. The greatest need is to try and rebuild damaged lives, especially as many in the Jersey Careleavers group are still building new life for themselves.

Bob Balfor, West Yorkshire Survivors was concerned for the wellbeing of the Jersey Care- leavers group. They were under powerful emotional stress thus he was not so concerned with the legal outcome but the human outcome , suggesting that a central body be set up in Jersey to deal with the trauma, stress and human damage. This Bob again reiterated as a deep concern at the end of the meeting.

Valerie Smith, Therapist Child abuse observed that trauma frightens people off people and this is true for Jersey too. She stated that they need funding for rest, respite and emotional help, and that all the present organizations should write to their MPs and the appropriate government bodies.

It was suggested from the floor the need of a totally in-depth and independent legal enquiry, which brought the responses “that Jack Straw runs a mile from the issue”; “that the Jersey Careleavers Association cannot get involved politically” (James);” the entrenched oligarchy would do their utmost to frustrate this” (Stewart).

David Woodward supported the need for an independent enquiry adding that Jersey needs and independent Child Care and Protection body, that child protection in Jersey needs bench marking’ but it is probably too early yet.

James Wheeler, of Justice for Families’ concurred, observing that this too is required in Wales and England, who have similar problems, of accountability too, though are not as great as in Jersey. He suggested the need for a separate political lobby. If the UK Government will not heed us we could use EDM’s, the Media and call for a Judical review. Should these fail and the UK Government does not listen, another method is to approach the Council of Europe Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee’ who are already proposing to investigate the UK.

He then suggested that the concerned lawyers get together to develop a European approach.

He spoke of the plight of Care leavers who, simply because they have been in care, can have their babies taken from them ( others spoke of job and other discriminations) therefore these issues need addressing urgently.

Lorna Archer, Barrister, who handles Child abuse work is willing to assist, especially towards helping the next generation. Lorna who is a member of Maranatha Community advised they have an excellent information base with meticulous and accurate details, if required.

Senator Stewart Syvret, former Minister of Health in Jersey ( the whistle blower who lost his post through revealing this problem) shared that he became involved whilst Minister with people coming to him sharing their experiences. He realized that Jersey child care and protection was in chaos, and worse. He brought this to the Government; within 2 hours his own staff began maneuvering for his removal. Because of his 18 years in opposition, the Jersey Government were quite ready to see him removed.

Stewart said the Jersey Government is worse than “Yes, Minister”, self-serving, incompetent, not accountable. It is run by an oligarchy for 800 years. There is an election at the end of this year, but even if the current politicians were thrown out they would ensure the next incumbents were identiti kits’ of existing politicians!

Further, ” I can tell you now you cannot in anyway change or influence to change the Jersey States government. It NEEDS outside intervention, GB has legal power over Jersey, though Jack Straw and his civil Servants refuse to acknowledge this and state UK has not. This is a lie, the fact is that GB has the authority and this has been used in recent years.

The only way we can get justice is by the formation of an independent judiciary.We need real independent rule of Law and the introduction of party politics. You realize the value of this when a mole’ advised me of emails to Williamson from his boss as to what his independent’ review should contain! My reaction was to warn the boss concerned and advised the police”.

In response to a question concerning the Island police Stewart stated that the 3 UK police officers brought in to handle the case were doing a most excellent job despite deliberate lack of cooperation and harassment.

James Hemming stated that Cultural cover-up’ is everywhere, though in the UK alongside this there are those who are doing good jobs whereas this is not the case in Jersey. An illustration was that 50 families had contacted him about sadistic and group abuse to their children yet not one had been offered an official investigation when they had approached the authorities.

Other speakers stated that in Jersey some were threatened by the CLA Jersey that they might take action against them by rescinding personal benefits (James); another ” a young man speaking to his Dr was told he was delusional and would be sectioned if he did not keep silent’; In the past the police would not listen, were even involved’ (Stewart).

Karen Baker ( Voice’) said how young people and care leavers are not listened to. They, Voice, stand alongside young people until someone listens to and believes them. Her concern is how to get advocacy into Jersey.

There is a need of putting into Jersey services, such as a phone line for care leavers (Will Mc Mahon); that emotional and trauma support and helps need to be provided for (Bob Balfor); that the Jersey Care leavers do not trust the authorities at all therefore the Jersey Authorities to be made aware they are being watched and monitored. (Stewart);

Tom Perry (Independent) informed the meeting that he has produced a film concerning his own suffering of sexual abuse, which will be released shortly. In his view Jack Straw would not intervene as JS is unwilling to step into manure”!

Summary: (Stewart / Will)

In view of the action needed and the fact that the Jersey Careleavers not trust the authorities at all there is a need to approach this in several ways including political, legal, joining and making effective the “Friends of Jersey Care-leavers Association, making visits to Jersey and the association, especially by people of expertise or organizations known to be involved (or have a high profile’. This will ensure the authorities know they are being watched, monitored and will bring a measure of protection and help.

The meeting was excellent, well run with much time given to Q & A.

Others present included: Chris Simpson, Mike Shenton (Exec, members UK Careleavers;

Fay Maxted National Co-ordinator The Survivors Trust : Will McMahon Chairman, UK Careleavers’ Association


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