Friday, 3 October 2008

Do Directors of Education Abuse Children?

Suppose for just a minute - and I know it is going to sound far-fetched - that a Director of Education and his predecessor had been publicly accused by a local politician of systematic physical abuse of children. And that the allegations were under investigation by the police. What would you expect to happen?

You might expect the employee concerned to be suspended - without prejudice - while the investigation was conducted. You might expect the media - local and national - to afford the matter some attention: it would after all be an extraordinary story.

You might expect all this - unless of course it happened in Jersey.

For such an allegation has this week been made in Jersey - so far to absolutely deafening media silence. And not the slightest hint of anyone being suspended.

I make no apology for referring once again to Jersey Senator Stuart Syvret's blog. You need only know that McKeon is the recently retired Director before I let Stuart take up the story:

In the early 1980s McKeon was the Head of the then child secure unit, known as Les Chennes; this place having gradually taken over child imprisonment responsibilities from the infamous Haute de la Garenne, which closed in 1986.

While McKeon was the Head of the “school” – as it was euphemistically known – his Deputy Head was Mario Lundy.

McKeon, miraculously, worked his way up the Education hierarchy to become its Chief Officer – a position from which he retired only last Christmas. And – wouldn’t you know it – his side-kick, Lundy, followed the same career arc – and replaced McKeon as the Chief Officer of Education at the beginning of this year.
Tom McKeon and Mario Lundy were both in the habit of routinely committing savage, violent assaults on the male children in their care.
And so ‘normalised’ were both men to this criminal conduct they thought nothing of blithely carrying out such assaults on an open basis – in front of other witnesses – children and adults.

And we are not talking about the occasional slap on the wrist or tweaked ear.

McKeon was known as “The Pinball Wizard” because such was his calculated propensity for violent child abuse – he even had the furniture in his office at Les Chennes arranged in such a way as to afford a nice, clear run-up to the walls of the room.

He was then able to grab children by the arm, take a run-up – and swing them –wrestling-fashion – so that the child would smash savagely against the walls.

Bouncing children off the walls and furniture in this way gave rise to the nick-name “The Pinball Wizard”.

Now that's just a flavour of the astonishing allegations. I urge you to visit the blog and read the whole posting and the comments it has attracted.

So where on earth is the mainstream media coverage? Stuart Syvret's blog has attracted 60,000 readers. This is more than the circulation of "The Scotsman". So don't tell me this has somehow escaped the radar of the media.

Maybe they just don't care - Jersey after all is an island with half the population of Dumfries and Galloway, which sits nearer to France than England and enjoys a quaint constitutional status that affords it the same nationhood as Scotland at the Commonwealth Games, along with its vaguely suspicious `offshore' tax status. And sadly it is far from unique in having experienced institutionalised child abuse.

Or maybe they are just too lazy: there is a lot of reading in Senator Syvret's blog. Or maybe too cowardly - fearing litigation perhaps if names are aired. Stuart Syvret has no such fear, and he has explained clearly why. His blog is written in forensic detail and with passion. But it is the regular comments his blog attracts from some of Jersey's abuse victims that ultimately give the greatest credence to what he is trying to do. Beyond question they deserve justice. The UK Government (i.e. Justice Minister Jack Straw) has shown a marked reluctance to intervene to ensure justice, despite their constitutional entitlement - I should say obligation- to do so.

If there are any real investigative journalists with a social conscience still out there, the story is waiting. To capture the current public preoccupation, their starting place could be Jersey's dependence on international banking at this time of crisis, and a few short steps would lead them to the serious failings in the governance of the island and the devastating effect this is having on the quest for justice for the victims of abuse.

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