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Abuse survivor calls for law change

16 January 2018

​An abuse survivor has made an impassioned plea to all States Members to support the draft Criminal Procedure (Jersey) Law, the principles of which are due to be debated in the Assembly today (Tuesday 16 January).

The man, who has asked to remain anonymous, contacted Home Affairs Minister Kristina Moore, who says she has lodged the draft law to ensure that no-one else has to go through the misery that he and others endured during a trial in Jersey’s Royal Court.

He described giving evidence as ‘horrendous”, as he had to face cross-examination by his abuser, who chose to represent himself in court.

He was one of the boys abused by Christopher Bacon, a music teacher at St Helier Boy’s school, who was found guilty of abusing six boys during the 1970s and 1980s. Throughout the trial, Bacon maintained his innocence, but a jury found him guilty.

Impact on the victim

“It was like being abused all over again, only with a room full of people watching,’ the man told Deputy Moore.

“It was quite simply horrendous, having the very man that abused me ask me very intimate questions and accusing me of being a liar was, apart from the abuse itself, the worst thing that has happened to me.”

The man went on to say that the current laws governing criminal procedure in Jersey are “not fit for purpose”.

He said “I don't think that barbaric is too strong a word for a system that allows this sort of thing to happen. Nobody should ever have to endure what I, and countless other victims have over the years.”

The message he asked to send to all States Members ahead of the debate is: “Imagine if it was your sister, brother or mother who had been attacked? How would you feel if you knew that they could be cross examined by their attacker and you could have stopped it by simply voting in favour of this law?”

And if the law is approved, he explained what it would mean for him. “Obviously I can't speak for other victims, but for me it will mean the knowledge that the States are putting victims first and protecting them from this secondary abuse,” he said. “I want to turn my awful experience into something positive, something good, and I hope by sharing this that no-one ever has to undergo this again.”

World-leading criminal justice system

Home Affairs Minister, Deputy Kristina Moore, said “If this law is approved by the States Assembly it would give Jersey a world-leading criminal justice system – the first law change of its kind in the Island for nearly 200 years.”

The new law will ensure that cases in criminal proceedings are dealt with more efficiently and flexibly, as well as reflecting on the significant lessons learned in past decades, especially with regard to the treatment of young and vulnerable people.

Deputy Moore added “Firstly, I wish to express my sincere appreciation to this man for courageously coming forward to share his distressing experience with me. I’m sorry that we hadn't made these changes soon enough to make a difference for him and other people who’ve suffered abuse.

“The significance of an abuse survivor willing to help and offer support to the States of Jersey after years of allegations of cover-ups in the past, is a significant step and should not be underestimated. It shows that the tide is turning. We have a duty to demonstrate we are here for all survivors of abuse and help them and by approving this law today it shows that we are willing to help do just that.”

Deputy Moore concluded “I hope that Members will listen to these heartfelt words today. Modernising our criminal justice process will improve outcomes for people who’ve suffered abuse, protect and support witnesses, and ensure justice for people accused of a crime.”

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