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The Police Investigation into Historic Child Abuse - a statement from the Chief Minister, Senator Frank Walker to the States on Tuesday 26 February 2008

26 February 2008

"I rise with great sadness to make this statement.

Members are all now aware that over the weekend the Police announced the discovery of the apparent remains of a child buried at the former children’s home at Haut de la Garenne.  I will not speculate on the potential events surrounding the child’s death and we must all await the outcome of the Police investigation before commenting further.  However the death of a child is always one of the saddest and most traumatic events and I ask the assembly to reflect on this and join with me in feeling and praying for this child, whoever he or she may be, other victims of child abuse in Jersey and any surviving family members and friends.

None of us imagined that children in Jersey could be abused and mistreated in the way that is being suggested and I am sure I speak for all members when I express my shock and horror that these things have apparently happened within our island and to express our full support for, and deepest sympathy to all those affected..

We will continue to provide the fullest support to the people who have been affected in any way by this horrific episode including of course those now coming forward to give evidence after so many years. Today Health and Social Services are inviting anyone who feels the need of support to contact their professional counselling service. This will not be a substitute for any of the Police arrangements, but will offer professional support to those who need it.

Yesterday the Council of Ministers met and confirmed our fullest support for the Home Affairs Minister, the Police and our Criminal Justice authorities. We also confirmed that all necessary resources will be made available to ensure the most comprehensive enquiry possible, and to support any prosecutions that lead from it. Whilst the Council of Ministers prime concern is protecting our current vulnerable children, our next priority is to ensure that anyone who has perpetrated crimes against children is identified and prosecuted. We have complete confidence in our Police, and here I must express my admiration and gratitude to the Honorary Police who, as always have risen to the occasion and underpinned the investigation by providing invaluable and indeed essential support. I’m sure Members will also want to join me in expressing our complete confidence in The Law Officers and the Judiciary. We know that together they will do everything in their power to ensure that the criminal investigations and any subsequent prosecutions are thorough, and pursued with the utmost rigour and professionalism..

There is no hiding place in Jersey for anyone who abused children or, who in any way may have colluded with that abuse and no stone will be left unturned to bring them to justice. 

Now is not a time for personal agendas and political point scoring, it is a time for grief and collective commitment to uncover the events of the past and protect our local community, so that we emerge from this trauma stronger in the knowledge that we have dealt properly with this historic outrage and that we can prove to the world that we are, despite the very damaging statements to the contrary, more than capable of managing our own affairs in a way which is in accordance with the very highest standards.

I come now to the standard of current services and I want to assure the Assembly that I and the Council of Ministers believe that today’s child protection arrangements are sound and work well to protect our most vulnerable children.  In September we commissioned Andrew Williamson, a leading expert in these matters, to undertake a thorough review which he is doing with the support of other independent professional people as necessary.  He intends to report in March, and his report will be published in full. At the outset, Mr. Williamson undertook to inform us immediately if he discovered any weaknesses which have to be urgently addressed and, should he do so, we have undertaken to respond immediately. To date he has not brought any such weaknesses to our attention, indeed he has confirmed that our services today work well in protecting our children and that he has identified no current risks or cause for serious concern.

The police have said, as is normal practice in such cases, that if their enquiries raise concerns regarding the suitability of anyone who may have access to vulnerable people, they will make an immediate disclosure to the relevant authority.

I can confirm that there are no people currently employed in a role with access to children about whom any disclosures have been made.

We are also concerned about the possible effect these revelations may have had on guests of the YHA who have stayed at Haut de la Garenne and, in particular their staff. Counselling is also available to any of them who may need it.

Whilst the Council of Ministers prime concern is protecting our current vulnerable children, our next priority is to ensure that anyone who has perpetrated crimes against children is identified and prosecuted. We have complete confidence in our Police, The Law Officers and the Judiciary. We know they will do everything in their power to ensure that the criminal investigations and any subsequent prosecutions are thorough, professional and totally impartial. Our major concern is now that any media coverage should not in any way undermine the potential of a successful prosecution should anyone be accused of crimes. I would ask all States members to avoid making any comments which could jeopardise the judicial process.

Sir, today a dark cloud hangs over Jersey and we must clearly now demonstrate to Islanders, and the many millions of others throughout the U.K. and further afield, who are also appalled at this terrible turn of events, that we are capable of bringing the investigations to a successful conclusion and of prosecuting those responsible without fear or favour and we will not rest until we have done so. We must demonstrate to our people and the rest of the world that Jersey is indeed the well-governed, responsible and generally law abiding community we know it to be.

At this time however our thoughts should above all rest with the young person whose body has been found at Haut de la Garenne, anyone who has suffered abuse and their friends and relatives who are suffering now." 

 

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