From the Guernsey Press, 17 November 2008
Former Jersey deputy police chief Lenny Harper this week found himself the target of accusations that he mishandled the Haut de la Garenne inquiry, stoking speculation about murders – the possibility of which has been ruled out by his successors. Speaking to the Guernsey Press’s Nick Mann from his Ayrshire home, Mr Harper claims he is the subject of a politically-motivated smear campaign
Do you feel you are being made a scapegoat by the Jersey authorities and/or Jersey police and if so why?
The States of Jersey Police is a professional and dedicated organisation. I have an extremely high regard for all of the officers and staff who were there when I was in the post.
Of course, I believe that this smear is politically motivated.
This has been an ongoing situation from the day the inquiry went public when the chief minister [Frank Walker] told me that I was in danger of bringing the government down, tried to admonish me for speaking to a politician who was representing victims and tried to force me to take the word ‘victims’ out of my media releases as ‘they are not victims until something is proved’.
Furthermore, I have been approached now by four journalists in the past 24 hours who tell me they have been questioned by police officers appointed by [Jersey deputy police chief] David Warcup and asked if I have leaked documents to them.
This refers to the report which I sent to the Attorney General in Jersey which was critical of him.
The efforts to smear me contrast markedly with the lack of effort which Frank Walker put into investigating the leak of an email by one of his ministers to a journalist after the SOJP [States of Jersey Police] made a formal complaint.
Both the minister and the journalist denied it, but the journalist’s admission was recorded on the publicly-known system at PHQ. That, and the timing of the release last week, which actually said nothing I had not said previously, give obvious clues.
If you are in any doubt that some months ago I was saying that the bones could be very old and that we might never be able to launch a murder inquiry, go to the BBC News website and go into the link of 31 July at 1756 UK time which features an article headlined ‘Jersey Murder Inquiry Unlikely’.
In that I am quoted as saying that if the evidence remains the same it is obvious there will not be a murder inquiry. This is vastly different to what Warcup inferred yesterday [Wednesday 12].
Do you regret the information you put out during the investigation or do you stand by it and feel the situation has been misinterpreted?
I stand by it and feel it has deliberately been misrepresented.
Was there enough evidence to dig up Haut de la Garenne and what was it?
The reasons for going in there are fully documented in a report on the SOJP website - unless it has been removed. Basically, witnesses were telling us of remains in the location and there was a local solicitor who said he had a client who would confirm the presence of a child’s remains.
We did not go into the home to dig, but to screen the area to try and prove the suggestions one way or another.
This was after a meeting in the UK with experts in the areas of search, anthropology, archaeology, canine recovery and scientific search methods and a desk top study by the leading scientist of a forensic science company.
There was close consultation with the National Policing Improvement Agency. It was only after we started to recover evidence and builders who had worked at the home were telling us that they had been told to burn bones and let bygones be bygones that we started to dig.
Who did you report to? Was there strong enough political oversight of the investigation? Did you make it clear to the Home Affairs minister or the chief minister that the evidence may not prove to be conclusive and when?
The Home Affairs minister [Senator Wendy Kinnard, who subsequently stood back because she was interviewed as a potential witness in the historic abuse inquiry} was totally supportive.
The political oversight of the inquiry was appropriate at her level. The degree of political interference from others masked as oversight was intolerable.
One bizarre aspect was the fact that the two politicians responsible for child safety showed no interest in the inquiry whatsoever other than to try and rubbish it.
Several months ago Frank Walker brought his wife to the scene for a tour. In her presence, and that of some of my team, I told him that he had to prepare for the fact that there would probably never be enough evidence to launch a homicide inquiry.
He put his hand on my shoulder and said that would be no bad outcome, but he was sure I would do what I had to do.
The Home Affairs minister was being closely briefed and she was strongly supportive.
How many officers were working on the investigation and did any of them voice concerns?
There were roughly 50 officers from the UK and Jersey working on this. The team morale at that time was superb.
UK officers were reluctant to leave the inquiry and all had a shared sense of purpose.
They fully supported what the team were doing. Not one of them ever expressed any concerns.
When did you find out the ‘fragment of child’s’ skull was probably coconut?
Again, I have fully explained this. The lab who had the fragment had it for three weeks and reported to us referring to the item as ‘the Jersey skull’.
Firstly they said the bone was too old or too degraded to date. They then reported that they had found collagen in the item, a substance only found in mammals, not wood or coconut.
They then changed their stance again saying that the collagen was too degraded to date.
They then, and only then, said they were no longer sure it was bone.
They added in response to a question from me that if I wanted it definitively identified I would need to have it examined again.
They have never answered my other question which was how they had found collagen in it.
By this time however, the item had been ruled out of the inquiry because our experts had said that the context it had been found in dated it before our inquiry.
All of this was ignored by Warcup on Wednesday.
Are the Jersey authorities deliberately trying to divert attention from Howard League report?
That is a possibility strongly put to me by a number of ex colleagues and journalists.
Have you been contacted by the Met Police who carried out the independent investigation into the inquiry? If not, does that cast doubt on its findings and why?
The Met have arranged to come and speak to me in a week’s time. There has been no other contact. I would be surprised if they had delivered any conclusion to Jersey before speaking to myself.
Have you met David Warcup or [Detective Superintendent] Mick Gradwell since they took over? if so when?
Journalists have told me that Warcup inferred on Wednesday that we had. This is nonsense. There has been no contact since I left the island other than a letter from Warcup advising me ‘of my public duty and for the good of the victims, not to speak to the media’.
Jersey police chief Graham Power has been suspended and you stand by him why? And will you be prepared to defend him as part of the disciplinary process?
Graham Power has been an outstanding chief officer. Under his leadership, an abundance of local talented officers at all levels have prospered.
The HMI has delivered glowing inspection results in marked contrast to those before he arrived.
He has taken a firm stance against corruption, inappropriate behaviour, and, most of all, has fought a long battle against political interference in the operational tasks of the force. I will do anything I am asked to do on his behalf.
Will Wednesday’s announcements affect abuse victims in terms of coming forward to the Jersey authorities and why?
They did not trust the authorities previously and this will make it worse. The view expressed to me by several victims in the past 24 hours is that yesterday was politically motivated as was the suspension of Graham Power. One victim said it is back to the bad old days. Speak to Stuart Syvret.
Is there anything else you want to add?
No. Other than to say that the victims and the people of Jersey were badly served on Wednesday by the blatant misrepresentation of my views and things I had said. They made it appear as if they were contradicting me. In reality, they were saying nothing new.
Article posted on 17th November, 2008 - 2.28pm