28 February 2008
A STATEMENT FROM THE COUNCIL OF MINISTERS MADE AT A NEWS BRIEFING ON THURSDAY 28 FEBRUARY 2008.
Chief Minister Frank Walker and Senator Terry Le Sueur
"Thank you for attending here today.
We are here to make this statement on behalf of the full Council of Ministers.
Firstly, I would like to again express, on behalf of all my fellow ministers, our absolute horror at the revelations of the terrible child abuse which have cast a shameful shadow over our island’s history.
Like everyone in Jersey, we have been rocked to the very core by this matter, and we are resolute in our commitment to ensure that nothing is overlooked in getting to the heart of inexcusable things that have gone on in the past.
The ongoing major crime investigation into the allegations of serious and serial child abuse at Haute de la Garenne is, of course, a matter for the Police, and we will do everything necessary to support and work with the investigating team in their search for the truth.
We are, too, committed to responding to any evidence of wrong-doing by individuals and/or agencies within our control, to ensure that past matters are properly and thoroughly investigated, and resolved in whatever manner is deemed appropriate, whether that be criminal prosecutions or internal disciplinary action.
It is important, however, to recognise and acknowledge that much has changed in Jersey in recent years and, as you may already be aware, in September 2007 the States of Jersey appointed an independent consultant, Andrew Williamson, to conduct a detailed review into current standards of child protection on the island. The Council of Ministers took the decision to undertake an independent review in July 2007, as soon as Senator Syvret voiced his concern.
We await his full report with interest, but we have been enormously encouraged by his interim comments on the quality of our current provision. Of course, we expect him to make further recommendations in due course, and we will consider them positively, with a view of setting Jersey’s child protection service as the standard others will want to follow.
Now is the time to focus our attention on the protection of our vulnerable children and, of course, on righting any indefensible wrongs of the past.
The Council of Ministers has refrained from commenting in any detail on the allegation made by Senator Stuart Syvret, in his wave of media activity, that he was sacked from his ministerial post for ‘whistleblowing’, because it was concerned that such response would only serve to further an unseemly political spat, at a time when attention should be focused on the integrity of the ongoing inquiry and respect for those who have suffered.
However, it is clear that there is a growing misunderstanding about the circumstances of his dismissal, and a belief that his departure, supposedly for whistleblowing, only serves to reinforce allegations of a culture of ‘cover-up and concealment’ in today’s States’ system.
For that reason, we have decided that this must be answered and we intend to do that here today. We will do so only this once, and then it is our intention to focus all our attention and energies on addressing the shocking issues that have emerged over the past week, and ensuring the high standards of child protection today are maintained and, wherever possible enhanced.
We will present the facts and the evidence, and we will leave it for others to judge us on our actions.
We believe it is vital to understand that the current Police investigation, headed up by Deputy Chief Officer Lenny Harper, was launched well before Senator Syvret started to complain about service standards and staff.
The Council of Ministers put forward a detailed public report, copies of which are here for you. In summary he was dismissed because his erratic and abusive behaviour led to a complete lack of confidence in his competence as a Minister.
The key facts relating to the dismissal of Senator Syvret by a vote of 35 to 15 on September 11th 2007 following two days of debate by States Members, are these:
• Senator Syvret’s bullying and harassment undermined current child protection services, only serving to increase the risk to vulnerable children in our care.
• In his eight years as Minister with responsibility for Social Services and Child Protection he failed to visit social workers, or discuss any matters of concern with his managers.
• Senator Syvret was responsible for the Greenfields Secure Unit, which ultimately became the core of his allegations. He has never visited the home.
• No one could remember him having visited any of the Children’s homes, other than one in 2002
• Senator Syvret disclosed confidential files to third parties and allowed a child to be identified, in breach of Data Protection laws.
• His behaviour towards other Ministers became so abusive that they decided they could no longer work with him.
The Council of Ministers is absolutely confident in the States’ decision, and the reasons for it, to dismiss Senator Syvret from his role. He was not sacked for whistleblowing, and pretending that this was the case will not change that fact.
Now, we are determined to refocus all our attention on the current matters which have to be addressed. We have no intention of engaging in further political debate on this matter. The facts are irrefutable clear and public, and we will leave it to observers to make up their minds on the truth behind these events.
We are grateful to you, the media, for keeping the public informed of developments in this important investigation and ask only that you continue to do so by reporting the facts fully and accurately."