Thursday, 3 December 2009
Friday, 10 July 2009
The politically-motivated arrest and charges are a blatant gagging attempt by the de facto dictatorship that runs the island in the interests of the rich and well-connected.
In his blog based campaign seeking justice for survivors of Jersey's culture of institutionalised abuse Senator Syvret has frequently named names and challenged those named to take action against him for defamation. Despite a readership approaching 200,000 - more than twice the island's population - no such action has been taken against Syvret. It must therefore be assumed that the named individuals are guilty and know that the Senator has compelling evidence that would emerge in court in any defamation case.
Yet the Jersey authorities seem intent on burying bad news by attempting to silence the leading whistleblower, rather than pursue alleged abusers. They announced recently that eleven investigations had been dropped due to `lack of evidence' and it is widely expected on the island that further such announcements will follow. Meanwhile abuse survivors, denied the redress of justice through prosecution of their abusers, are preparing to launch civil actions against the States of Jersey.
The ham-fisted attempt of the Jersey oligarchy to crush dissent betrays a mindset of presumed unquestioned power. At best this might be likened to the regime of a third-rate 1950s public school - but most current observers will find more compelling parallels in the actions of despotic rulers and power cliques in countries such as Zimbabwe, North Korea and Iran.
Tuesday, 23 June 2009
Colm O'Gorman's recently published book "Beyond Belief" is the account of his childhood abuse at the hands of a Catholic priest, the estrangement from his own family that was a direct result, and his long journey of recovery.
It has been a remarkable journey. In his late teens, haunted by the trauma of the abuse but unable to speak about it to anyone, he left his Wexford home, ending up homeless and destitute in Dublin. Some twenty years later, in 2003, he was chosen as one of Ireland's People of the Year.
The story of the intervening years charts his many struggles - finding a job and getting a roof over his head, coming to terms with his own sexuality, recovering the ability to trust and build relationships, building a successful career, the eventual reconciliation with his family, and ultimately his decision to confront his past and fight for justice.
The reason for his decision in 1998 finally to contact the police was the fear that his abuser, Father Sean Fortune, might still be claiming other victims. Even as he found the courage to speak out for the first time, he was still in denial of the events that had damaged him:
"Denial is a splendid defence mechanism; a comfortable kind of ignorance I learned to embrace with all the enthusiasm of those who had taught it to me. I'm not being sarcastic; denial is a powerful, powerful defence mechanism. If you can't change something, can't escape it or defeat it and if surrender to it has its own dark horrors, then denial becomes your very best friend. You can deny what's happening even as it is happening. I always found a spot on the wall as I was being pawed at and disappeared into it, placing my entire focus on that spot or stain or cabbage rose wallpaper pattern until it was over, until it was safe to return to my body and to the world." (p128)
The police quickly gathered a mass of compelling evidence against Fortune, not just from Colm O'Gorman, but from nearly 30 other victims. In court he was charged with 29 specific offences against 8 victims and pleaded not guilty. But the closure of having the charges tested in court was never to come. In March 1999, Sean Fortune committed suicide. He had taken a lethal cocktail of drugs and whiskey and was found dead in bed by his housekeeper. He had been remanded in custody pending trial but had been released on bail days earlier.
O'Gorman and others had been denied the prospect of justice by Fortune's final act. They would now only ever be his alleged victims. But by this time, however, much wider concerns about an apparent cover-up in the Catholic Church in Ireland had surfaced. Suspicion fell on Bishop Brendan Comiskey, and his predecessor in the Ferns Diocese Bishop Herlihy. Both men were said to have failed to act on a number of previous abuse allegations about Fortune, simply moving him from one pastoral assignment to another. Pointedly Bishop Comiskey issued a statement after Fortune's death inviting people "to remember him and his family in their prayers at this difficult time". O'Gorman widened his quest for justice by taking out civil actions against the Diocese and even against the Pope himself through the person of the Dublin Papal Nuncio.
O'Gorman was outraged by the silence of the Catholic Church in Ireland and its failure to act over repeated claims of sexual abuse by a significant number of its priests over many decades.
"Silence in the case of very great wrong, " he argues, " has a deeply corrupting effect. It diminishes and cheapens us all, and denies us the opportunity to confront that wrong and make it right. And yet, so often we stay silent in the face of abuse. If we can make it invisible and secret then we don't have to deal with it. But our silence has victims, and not always obvious ones. A hurt denied and ignored can rarely heal. More likely it will fester for years after the event." (p227)
Not only did the Catholic Church remain silent and inactive over a 14 year period when they were receiving regular complaints against Fortune, but O'Gorman discovered that as early as 1986 the Archbishop of Dublin had sought legal advice with regard to the Church's legal and financial liability if a priest was returned to the ministry after undergoing some form of treatment - and abused again. The liability was made clear and the Archbishop was advised that there was a duty in law to remove a priest from ministry if an investigation established that there was a basis for complaint.
"So what did the Archbishop do? Did he immediately remove from ministry priests who had been accused? Did he inform the police and social services of all accusations and ensure a proper investigation? Did he put in place a robust child protection policy? Did he inform his brother bishops of what he had discovered and alert them to this legal difficulty and their responsibility in law to remove credibly accused priests?
No, he did none of that.
Instead, on the advice of his lawyers he . . . took out an insurance policy to protect against the costs of any claims resulting from priests raping and abusing children. He did not act to protect children; he acted to protect the Church's money." (p 287)
It took until 2003 before the Diocese of Ferns finally settled with an admission of negligence and an award of damages. The action against the Papal Nuncio was dropped after he claimed diplomatic immunity.
O'Gorman's tireless campaign achieved a measure of justice for himself and many other victims who he has encouraged and supported; and he has contributed significantly to a cultural change in Ireland, where the people and the state are no longer content with a hands-off attitude towards abuse within the Church. This change offers a promise of a far more robust response to cases of clerical abuse, and an understanding of the need for effective child protection becoming ingrained within Irish society.
But worldwide the battle against the Catholic Church's tendency towards denial, cover-up and obstruction continues. While lessons may have been learned in the western world, there are signs that little has changed in developing countries. On a visit to Brazil, for example, O'Gorman uncovered many current cases of children abused by priests, together with a very similar pattern of cover-up and denial that had been common in Ireland, the USA and elsewhere twenty or thirty years earlier.
And the stench of guilt again goes right to the very top: Cardinal Ratzinger, before he became Pope Benedict XVI, sent a letter instructing all bishops that every case of sexual abuse involving a priest anywhere in the world was to be referred to the Vatican.
The message to the Roman Catholic Church in the biblical quotation with which O'Gorman ends the book could hardly be clearer:
Let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. (1 John 3:18)
Archbishops' cover-up of child sex abuse revealed (Irish Independent 23/11/09)
Monday, 11 May 2009
Cathy Scott-Clark Guardian 14 March
Eileen Fairweather Mail on Sunday 18 April
David James Smith Sunday Times 10 May
There is also an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons relating to the politicised police harassment of Jersey's leading dissident, Senator Stuart Syvret. It may sound like I am talking about Burma, China or Zimbabwe here. I make no apologies: I honestly don't think the comparison is too far fetched. The motion has been proposed by Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming. At the time of writing it has picked up 19 signatories, despite MPs' preoccupation with other matters; and the list includes Labour, Lib Dem and Conservative MPs.
Sunday, 26 April 2009
I do not know how those four words in particular came to be on the mace, and at first glance it seems easy to think of others that might have sat there quite nicely. Truth, trust, honesty, tolerance for example.
But the words on the mace are really clusters of dispositions, rather than discreet concepts; thus the creators have also ensured value for money - many words for the price of just four. Tolerance, for example, is surely implicit in compassion; and truth, trust (trusting and trusted) and honesty are core ingredients of integrity.
If you want to know what a western government looks like when it lacks wisdom, justice, compassion and integrity, you need look no further than the island of Jersey, and in particular the response of the island's establishment to the allegations of decades of concealed abuse in its childcare establishments.
The best starting place is here.
Monday, 13 April 2009
The answer may lie in Nick Davies's polemic on the dire condition of the UK media "Flat Earth News", published earlier in the year. In his book, Davies characterises Rose as having "all of the self-confidence of the great reporters, but less of the judgement." And here is why. During the period between 9/11 and the war on Iraq, Davies tells how Rose wrote a series of "high profile and aggressive" stories for the Observer linking the 9/11 attacks (amongst other atrocities) to Iraq, and trumpeting his belief that Saddam Hussein was preparing weapons of mass distruction. This campaign led to the Observer endorsing the Bush/Blair illegal war, and ultimately caused serious damage to the paper's reputation for well-evidenced independent journalism.
Rose has since confessed that his enthusiasm for the invasion had been "misplaced and naive" and that he had been the victim of a "calculated set-up , devised to foster the propaganda case for war". He had allowed himself to be misled both by accounts from unreliable Iraqi defectors and by deliberate misinformation from CIA and MI6 sources. He has since published a retraction. (Roger Alton, whose role in this fiasco is starkly detailed by Davies, resigned as editor of the Observer shortly before the book was published.)
Whether or not the Jersey oligarchy knew that Rose had a history of being duped, they fed their line to an investigative journalist with clear potential to be manipulated. (Davies, incidentally, has also written about the Harper investigation, but mainly as a critique of the media for over-hyping police press releases.)
Davies's book is a fascinating read for anyone interested in poking beneath what is presented as fact in large swathes of the UK national media. It sheds light on what motivates Rupert Murdoch, Andrew Neil, Paul Dacre and the other unsavoury big beasts who have presided over the decline of journalistic ethics in the UK in the last 20 years or so. It is not hard to see some of the same structural fault-lines that he describes at play in the Jersey media.
I was thinking of reviewing "Flat Earth News", but it is quicker and far more useful to suggest you read this.
Saturday, 21 March 2009
In November 1991 nurse Beverley Allitt was charged with attempted murder and grievous bodily harm after evidence emerged that she had attacked 13 children in her care in a 15 day period. Four of the children died. In May 1993 she was found guilty on all charges and sentenced to 13 concurrent life terms. Allitt was sentenced to a minimum term of 40 years imprisonment, later reduced on appeal to 30. She is currently being held at Rampton secure hospital.
GP Harold Shipman was arrested and charged with murder in September 1998. He stood trial in October 1999, accused of killing 15 elderly patients. In January 2000 he was found guilty on all counts and given a life sentence. The Shipman enquiry reported in July 2002 that he had killed at least 215 patients, and possibly many more. Shipman was found dead in his cell in January 2004, having hanged himself.
In May 1999, Jersey's chief police officer sent a report to Attorney General Michael Birt seeking approval to pursue an investigation against a former nurse who had worked at Jersey's General Hospital. The confidential report included evidencen from several witnesses alleging that this individual may have been responsible for the deaths of 13 patients during February and March 1998. The former nurse had already been sacked following prosecution for theft of drugs from the hospital. On searching premises where he had been living police discovered, amongst other suspicious items, eleven syringes containing a clear liquid, together with various medications. A police surgeon attested that if a person with a serious medical history were to be injected with the combination of drugs found, the cause of death would not be clearly apparent. The drugs recovered in the raid were sufficient for several lethal doses.
What happened? Nothing. The subject of the allegations is believed to be living and working on Jersey. The police report to Jersey's Attorney General has recently been made public. You can read it here. Alternatively, I have reproduced it below. In July 2009 Senator Stuart Syvret was arrested by the States of Jersey Police and charged with Data Protection offences. One of the charges apparently related to his publication of this item of evidence on his blog. The legal action against my rule that he must remove this material, but it's out there now, in many places, including right here:
STATES OF JERSEY POLICE
Our ref: RHLeB/PAO
Date: 12th May 1999.
M C St. J. Birt Esq. QC.
HM Attorney General
Law Officers’ Department
Dear Attorney General
Andrew Charles MAROLIA
I refer to the attached report by Detective Inspector Faudemer concerning the above named who is currently on remand from the Magistrates' Court for a variety of charges involving Drugs, Theft and Firearms.
Mr. Faudemer's report details allegations and innuendo, the most serious of which indicate that Marolia may, over a period of time, have terminated the lives of some patients at the General Hospital where he was employed as a Nurse.
I support Mr. Faudemer's recommendation that if enquiries are to continue a phased approach should be undertaken, the first of which would be to collate further evidence. However, I recognise that the continuation and development of this investigation will require a high level of legal advice and guidance from your department and our work will impinge upon the Health Authority and Viscount and given the uniqueness and sensitivity of such an investigation I feel it is appropriate to hold a high level meeting with yourself and others to whom I have copied this letter.
The purpose of the meeting will be to receive an oral brief from Mr. Faudemer who will be able to answer questions which you and others may have, followed by a general discussion to determine the way forward.
The meeting has been arranged for Thursday 20th May at 2.15 p.m. in the Conference Room at Police Headquarters and I look forward to seeing you.
R. H. Le Breton
c.c. Legal Adviser – Mr. Ian Christmas, Deputy Viscount – Mr. P. De Gruchy, Chief Executive Health Service – Mr. G Jennings, Deputy Chief Officer – Mr. R. Jones, Superintendent – T. Garrett, Director of Finance – Mr. M. Szpera.
Submitted by: Detective Inspector B. Faudemer.
Date: 8th May, 1999.
Subject: Investigation of Nurse Andrew Charles MAROLIA.
This report has been compiled into three separate areas, namely:
1.Evidence which gives rise to concern, relating to the activities of Andrew Charles MAROLIA.
2. The recommended for phase 1 of any investigation.
3. The suggested manpower requirements for conducting such an investigation.
On Thursday, 1st April, 1999, Police Officers attended the home address of a female who disclosed that Andrew Charles MAROLIA, a Staff Nurse on Corbiere Ward, had stolen and stored drugs at her home address. The female, an ex-lover of Mr. MAROLIA, produced to the officers, drugs in the form of Valium and Hypnoval, together with a syringe containing clear liquid and several packets of Coproxamol. These have since been identified and their content verified. Hypnoval is more commonly known as a 'date rape' drug. Enquiries confirmed that the drugs were from the hospital and indeed had been sent from the Hospital Pharmacy to Corbiere Ward, where Mr. MAROLIA worked.
A check on the Firearms Register held at Police Headquarters, revealed that Mr. MAROLIA had possession of several firearms, and that his Firearms License had expired in October, 1998. The female who handed the drugs to the Police confirmed that MAROLIA had attended at her premises with a loaded firearm.
Mr. MAROLIA was arrested on returning to the Island on the 17th April, 1999, and, armed with a Warrant, his home address was searched. During the search, the following property was recovered.
1. One lump of brown cannabis resin, tablets and scales.
3. A Police Philips radio (in working order).
4. Bag containing various medications.
5. Eleven syringes with a clear liquid within, and other medication, including
two bottles of potassium chloride.
6. Six firearms, with large quantity of ammunition.
7. One expired Firearms Certificate.
MAROLIA was interviewed concerning the medication found, and at first suggested that the insulin in the eleven syringes was intended as an aid to body-building. He later changed this story, in that he intended to kill himself with the medication, by marching down to the Cenotaph in military dress, where he would inject himself with a lethal dose of insulin and potassium chloride.
He claimed that the medication recovered from his ex-girlfriend's address by the Police, which prompted the investigation, had originated from himself, but that he had taken it to the location by mistake, from Corbiere Ward, having left it in the pocket of his nurse's uniform.
Police Surgeon Dr. Michael HOLMES first expressed concern when he viewed the drugs recovered, in that a combination of insulin and potassium would be very difficult to detect in the body. Added to this, the amount of drugs in the possession of Mr. MAROLIA cast doubt on his account, in that he had several lethal doses of drug. If a person with a serious medical history were to be injected with the combination of drugs found in the possession of MAROLIA, the cause of death would not be clearly apparent. His possession of such drugs was therefore regarded as suspicious.
Enquiries have continued over the last three weeks, and have established that Mr. MAROLIA has had several affairs with either patients or relatives of patients at the General Hospital.
A disturbing disclosure was received from a nurse in the United Kingdom, which will be subject of comment later in this report. The evidence which gives rise to the suspicion that Mr. MAROLIA may have endangered the life of patients is as follows.
Nurse A in the UK, has disclosed in a statement recorded on the 6th May, 1999, that she had worked with MAROLIA in Corbiere Ward during 1997 and 1998. She was part of a team of three who were responsible for one of four sections on Corbiere Ward. MAROLIA, Nurse A and another male nurse, would work together. She was the more senior of the three, and had responsibility for assessing Mr. MAROLIA's performance. It should be stated at this stage, that this nurse is currently critically ill in hospital, awaiting a lung and heart transplant, and may die in the near future. She holds the view that MAROLIA was intent on terminating the life of very ill patients, and to support such a claim, she cites specific incidents.
Incident 1 - an elderly male admitted to Corbiere Ward (name unknown) suffered a heart attack which was further complicated when his insulin levels became abnormal. He was placed on a glucose drip, which is the normal procedure. The drip had been inserted correctly, and was working fine when Nurse A checked the patient on the previous evening in question. Nurse MAROLIA handed over to a nurse on the ward, just prior to Nurse A arriving for duty (the am. shift). On this occasion, MAROLIA had not worked with Nurse A and the normal team. As normal, the nurse checked on her patient and discovered, to her horror, that the glucose drip had been disconnected from the patient, and a bung put into the base, preventing the substance from leaking. The patient was unconscious and close to death. The nurse reconnected the drip and the patient recovered within about ten minutes.
Nurse A checked the patient's records and established that MAROLIA, who had been solely responsible for his care had, at about 07.00 hours, entered a blood/sugar reading of '0.3'. She states this would be regarded as dangerously low (confirmed as critical by Dr. HOLMES). The nurse confronted MAROLIA immediately, as he was still on the ward, and he explained that the patient must have moved and the drip disconnected. She, however, cannot accept this account, due to the bung being in place and the fact that the patient was unconscious. The nurse endorsed the patient's records accordingly, and reported her concerns to the Senior Nursing Officer Lesley HIGGINS.
The nurse alleges that HIGGINS disregarded the incident, in the hope that MAROLIA would shortly move to another position in the Accident and Emergency Department, and would therefore no longer be a problem.
The nurse checked the patient's records some days later and noticed that an entry had been inserted by MAROLIA which stated that, on discovery of a 0.3 blood/sugar level, the Duty Doctor had been informed. The nurse believes this to be a false entry on the part of MAROLIA and that the doctor had not been consulted.
By placing a bung in the drip, she is firmly of the view that this was a deliberate act aimed at ending the patient's life.
Incident 2 - A Mrs. [name excised] was admitted to Corbiere Ward at around Easter 1997, with liver failure. The son of Mrs. [name excised] confided in the nurse that MAROLIA had asked him why he bothered visiting, because his mother would be dead in the morning.
Mrs. [Name excised] died whilst on Corbiere Ward.
Incident 3 - Perhaps of greatest concern to Nurse A, was an incident in 1997, around the time Princess Diana died. Andrew MAROLIA had responsibility for a patient on the ward who was critically ill (name unknown). In the final days of the patient's life, the family attended upon the patient 24 hours a day. Nurse A was approached by a member of the family, who asked why MAROLIA would turn up the dose on the diamorphine pump during the evening and re-set it to its original setting, before the morning shift began. This rang alarm bells for Nurse A, who reported the matter to Lesley HIGGINS, who again did not take the matter very seriously. Dr. HOLMES holds the view that such action could result in the early termination of a patient's life.
Incident 4 - A young girl was admitted to Corbiere Ward, following an overdose. MAROLIA found her attempting to hang herself in the toilet on the ward. The patient was transferred to the APU, where it is alleged that the young girl disclosed to a member of staff that MAROLIA had offered to show her how to commit suicide correctly.
This incident occurred within the UK at Basingstoke Hospital. Nurse B was employed at the hospital and has disclosed in a statement, that she entered into a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship with MAROLIA during his one year attachment to Basingstoke Hospital. She explained that they had experimented with [sexual activities excised], with her permission. This had, however, progressed to MAROLIA becoming very violent, and he had on one occasion, thrown her over his shoulder and placed his knee on her chest, asking her if she wanted to die. She suffered a fractured sternum on this occasion. She alleges that the violence progressed to rape, and on one occasion, she was tied up on a table, naked, when he put a poker in the fire, took it out, placed it in water and ran it along her body at the time. Nurse B is very scared of MAROLIA, and she was spoken to by her line manager, after sporting a black eye and cut lip at work.
Basingstoke CID have been asked to undertake a thorough investigation of her allegations, which, on initial assessment, suggest the victim may have suffered over 20 incidents of rape.
Nurse C worked with Nurse A and MAROLIA. The nurse supports Nurse A's account of the detached glucose drip, and will provide a statement on Tuesday, 11th May, 1999. The early indications suggest that the allegation that the hospital authorities, in the form of Senior Nursing Officer Lesley HIGGINS, did not act correctly, are supported by Nurse C.
SENIOR NURSING OFFICER LESLEY HIGGINS
HIGGINS paints a picture of an over-confident Andrew MAROLIA, who was taken to task for answering the telephone on the ward, introducing himself as the Ward Manager, rather than the junior nurse that he was. She recalls a clash of personalities between Nurse A and MAROLIA, but has omitted to reveal important evidence. Firstly, she has not mentioned the incident described by Nurse A. In addition, she has failed to produce the written assessments on MAROLIA, when Nurse A placed her concerns on record, in writing. Nurse HIGGINS has stated that she misses MAROLIA, due to being short-staffed. Nurse HIGGINS regards the Police enquiries to date as an inconvenience.
The Hospital Authorities, with the assistance of Senior Nursing Officer Jenny LE GALLAIS, have conducted a survey of deaths on Corbiere Ward, in conjunction with the duties of Andrew MAROLIA, from the 1st March, 1998, to the 31st March, 1999. The average death rate is 4.5 deaths per month, but evenly distributed between MAROLIA's duty time, rests days and annual leave.
In February, 1999, however, the records show a significant departure from this trend, and we see 8 deaths in four nights when MAROLIA was on night duty. In March, 1999, five deaths occurred, all during the duty time or the next morning when MAROLIA would have been on night shift. Such fluctuations could easily be explained by a serious bout of flu affecting frail or already critically ill patients, but equally it could be due to foul play.
The services of Andrew Charles MAROLIA were dispensed with by the States of Jersey Police in September, 1993, as a result of:
a) irrational behavior;
b) consistent failure to seek advice;
c) consistent failure or refusal to follow advice given;
d) regular indications of mistrust between him and his peers.
Due the lead-up to his dismissal, he was described as deceitful and sly.
Medical reports from Dr. Ian BERRY and Dr. VINCENT, the suspect's GP, indicate that MAROLIA has suffered from post traumatic stress syndrome linked to his service in the Gulf War. He suffered from depression in January, 1999, when he attended his GP. At no time has he given an indication of suicidal tendencies. The treatment for depression and the rise in deaths on Corbiere Ward during February, 1999, do give me cause for concern.
Mr. Richard WALTER
Mr. Richard W ALTER is a US Forensic Psychologist based at the Michigan State Prison. He has considerable experience in the field of offender profiling and visited Jersey to attend the International Police Surgeons Conference. Whilst in Jersey, I took the opportunity to relay the facts of this case to him. He confirmed my suspicions that MAROLIA possessed the hallmarks of a serial killer and that he was an extremely dangerous man. He found the sexual activities of MAROLIA to be of particular note and the threat to kill Nurse B, on the occasion that he allegedly broke her sternum, was an indication of the man's unhealthy interest in death.
MAROLIA is due to reappear at the Magistrate's Court on the 19th of May, 1999, and a bail application is expected. He is currently held at St. Saviour's Hospital. The degree of security on Chausey Ward can only be described as poor.
Arising from the evidence above, I would recommend the following response from the States of Jersey Police.
I would advocate that this incident is broken up into two phases. Phase 2 should only be considered if significant evidence is uncovered during Phase 1.
The following action should be undertaken in pursuit of this case:
1) Recover all documents and appraisals from the Hospital in relation to Andrew Charles MAROLIA and patients mentioned in the statement of the nurses already interviewed.
2) Identify the patients referred to in the statement of Nurse A, and interview the relatives.
3) Identify and recover records of patients who died in February, 1999, and interview all relatives of such patients.
4) Identify and interview all past and present members of staff (46) in 1998.
5) Trace [name excised] reference possible sexual advances to her in Jersey by MAROLIA.
6) Re-interview Lesley HIGGINS in more depth reference the disclosures of Nurse A.
7) Identify all patients who were resident in Corbiere Ward in February, 1999, and during incidents referred to in the statement of Nurse A.
8) Identify and interview the female and members of staff reference the suicide attempt, including the hospital staff she disclosed to.
9) Engage a UK expert arising from a similar enquiry, to advise on this investigation.
10) Devise a press strategy.
11) Conduct an emergency conference with Hospital Authorities and request Senior Nursing Officer Jenny LE GALLAIS assists with the enquiry.
12) Commence a HOLMES incident room.
13) Seize drugs records on Corbiere Ward.
14) Invite Basingstoke CID to conduct enquiries into MAROLIA's activities whilst in post at that location.
15) Identify all friends in Jersey of Nurse A and interview them.
16) Record possible 'dying declaration' from Nurse A.
Dependent upon the results of Phase 1, Phase 2 may require the following action.
Consideration should be given to expanding this enquiry to all patients who died on Corbiere Ward during the term of office of Andrew MAROLIA. This should, in my view, only be considered upon receipt of all the information obtained in Phase 1.
I have attempted to assess the manpower implications of undertaking such a major enquiry, and they are attached to this report in the following folders, together with other relevant data:
Folder 1: Schedule of suggested manpower requirements re: Phase 1.
Folder 2: Survey of deaths between the 1st March 1998, and 31st March 1999.
Folder 3: Statement of Nurse A.
Folder 4: Police report of Detective Sergeant 202 Andrew SMITH re: the seizure of drugs at the home address of Andrew Marolia.
Inspector – CID
Footnote (November 2010)
Stuart Syvret has been sentenced to 10 weeks' in jail for publishing the above on his blog. He has also been ordered to remove all references to Marolia from his blog.
Sunday, 15 March 2009
Home to something evil
What really happened at Haut de la Garenne, the children's home at the centre of the Jersey care scandal last year? Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy report on a building that still houses some very dark secrets.
How Jersey's tourism bosses must have lamented the marketing slogan they chose last year: "Small enough to really get to know, yet still big enough to surprise."
It was supposed to mark a campaign to rejuvenate the holiday business.
Instead, it served to highlight a child abuse scandal that erupted on the island.
The story had first trickled out in November 2007, gaining almost no press attention. Following a covert police inquiry into allegations of mistreatment in the island's care homes, police and the NSPCC in London had appealed to former residents to come forward. By January 2008, hundreds were said to have made contact, reporting physical and sexual abuse, mostly at Haut de la Garenne, a grim, Victorian industrial school that had, until the mid-80s, served as Jersey's main children's home. Soon, Jersey was in the grip of one of the largest police child abuse inquiries seen anywhere in Britain.
How would the tiny island and its 88,000 residents hold up? They pride themselves on their traditionalism (the pound note survives here) and an independent spirit that locals refer to as the Jersey Way. The mantra, reflecting a closed community that knows how to look after itself, is credited with transforming the place from a bourgeois bucket-and-spade resort in the 50s into the oyster-shucking tax haven it is today. So potent is the lure of the island's low-tax, non-intrusive regime that the level of wealth required of prospective settlers has risen to stratospheric levels: only those who can pay a residency fee of about £1m and show assets in excess of £20m need apply. The lucky few include racing driver Nigel Mansell, golfer Ian Woosnam, broadcaster Alan Whicker and writer Jack Higgins, as well as hundreds of reclusive tycoons, who have made the island the third richest compact community in the world, after Bermuda and Luxembourg.
And then February 2008 arrived like a fist in the face. All anyone on the outside looking in could talk about was paedophiles. Then Jersey police announced they were investigating murder as well as complaints of physical and sexual abuse: witnesses said they recalled seeing the corpses of children at Haut de la Garenne; others claimed to have found bones buried beneath the foundations.
What made it worse for those on the inside was that the crisis had been started by an outsider, a Northern Irish copper called Lenny Harper, second-in-command of the island's police force, and the antithesis of the Jersey Way. Instead of managing bad news, Harper had teams of forensics specialists excavating for it. Every day, sitting on a granite wall outside the home, Harper regaled the world's press with stories that "something evil" had happened there - Haut de la Garenne had been a virtual charnel house. The first find was a sliver of human skull on 23 February. As the investigation progressed, the supposed tally rose to "six or more" bodies buried beneath the home.
By August last year, Harper had retired, to be replaced by a new policeman from the British mainland. More experienced than Harper, detective superintendent Mick Gradwell was a veteran whose cases included the deaths of 23 Chinese cockle-pickers at Morecambe Bay in 2004.
At his first press conference, on 12 November, Gladwell stunned reporters with his findings: "There were no bodies, no dead children, no credible allegations of murder and no suspects for murder." Only three bone fragments could be definitely said to be human, he said - and they dated from the 14th to 17th centuries. Newspapers ran gleeful headlines: "Lenny Harper lost the plot." By the time we arrived on Jersey in February 2009, a year after the digging had begun, it was as if Harper and his inquiry had never existed.
The Jersey establishment was triumphant. One of the island's most senior social workers expressed a view we were to hear many times: "I'm not saying all the former children's home residents are liars but some have misremembered," he said. "Some have embellished and a small number have been telling porkies to get money." Nothing was wrong with the island. Jersey was off the hook. It was all a cock-up.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Among the thousands of statements that still line the shelves of Harper's old incident room, and in the testimony of former residents and workers at Haut de la Garenne and other institutions across Jersey, many of whom we tracked down and interviewed, harrowing stories are buried.
Over a period of three decades, residents of the care homes made repeated complaints that they were being sexually and physically abused. A series of damning reports was produced, following confidential inquiries into these institutions, most of which went unheeded. Few prosecutions ensued.
It is true to say there were no corpses. However, the testimony provides compelling evidence of a catastrophic failure within Jersey's children's services that ran a regime so punitive, they preferred to lock up problem children en masse than deal with them in their own homes: four times more children, proportionately, are imprisoned in Jersey than in its nearest neighbour, France. And what happened to them once in care was something that Harper's team, had they not been distracted by murder plots, came close to exposing.
Harper clashed with the Jersey Way as soon as he was appointed head of police operations in 2002. A career officer, he had been office-bound for a few years and on Jersey he wanted to get back to real policing. Summing him up, one former Jersey colleague told us that Harper "was a bit of a pit bull" who found himself on a small island where discretion and subtlety were valued above all else. Early attempts at making his mark, including a clear-out of illegally held weapons and a curtailment of the often cosy relationship between local police and businessmen, made him instant enemies. Harper, who now lives in Ayrshire, told us: "I started getting death threats. But I'd been on the streets of Northern Ireland."
His most significant problem was recognising the limits of his power. Jerseymen trace their ancestry back to the medieval Dukedom of Normandy and a feudal culture survives. The island is divided into 12 parishes, each governed by a connétable or head constable, who between them raise a private volunteer police force, the Honorary Constabulary. It might sound like a toytown operation, but these so-called "hobby bobbies" form a network of neighbours, friends and relatives licensed to arrest and charge fellow islanders through powers vested in them by the 500-year-old States Assembly.
The assembly - made up of the connétables, their deputies and 12 elected senators, many of them multimillionaires - is supervised by the bailiff, Jersey's highest officer, who is appointed by the Queen, while the task of upholding the law and keeping the hobby bobbies in check falls to the attorney general. These two key posts are currently held by brothers, Sir Philip and William Bailhache, members of one of the oldest and most powerful families on Jersey. At the bottom of the heap are the 240 officers of the States of Jersey Police, imposed on the island in the 50s but even today requiring attorney general Bailhache's approval to charge anyone with anything more serious than a traffic citation.
It was a system that frustrated newcomer Lenny Harper, until he found an ally inside the attorney general's office. This was a mainlander who similarly mistrusted the Jersey Way and told Harper of a "web of child abusers" who he claimed all knew each other. He also alleged the attorney general's office appeared reluctant to prosecute. When we put this to William Bailhache, he replied that Harper had repeatedly suggested his office was "soft" on child abuse - this is untrue, he says, and so is the suggestion that he was reluctant to prosecute. "I have signed many indictments for people charged with child abuse offences, some of them historic. Several cases have resulted in substantial sentences of imprisonment."
Harper recalls: "I was cautious at first. The allegations reached into many worthy organisations, including the Sea Cadets and the St John Ambulance, and there were whispers about establishment men. One name that kept cropping up was Paul Every, a commanding officer in the island's Sea Cadets." Every had also served as a senior civil servant.
Harper dug around, discovering that Every's name had surfaced in connection with child porn offences during Operation Ore in 1999. In late 2004, Harper applied for a warrant to search the Sea Cadets' HQ. He was refused. Harper then contacted the Jersey Sea Cadets directly: "They completely ignored me and refused to sack Every." When the States Assembly, too, declined to act, and Harper received a message from the attorney general's office that it was reluctant to prosecute, Harper began to suspect a cover-up. He says, "What made things more fraught was that some of my own officers were in the Sea Cadets." (On this case, the attorney general comments: "It is absolutely not the case that I decided not to prosecute Every. It is true that one of my officials wrongly gave Mr Harper that impression.")
Harper pressed on, and in January 2005 had Every arrested and his home computer seized. On it, police recovered a cache of child porn and evidence that Every had scoured the internet for "naked sea cadets". Still unable to persuade the local Sea Cadets to act, Harper wrote in August 2005 to the youth organisation's national HQ in London, and finally Every was removed from his position. The following month, Harper arrested Roger James Picton, another Sea Cadet volunteer; Picton was found guilty of indecent assault on a schoolgirl in February 2006 and Every was convicted of child porn offences that December.
In early 2007, convinced there was a broad network of abusers operating on the island and mindful of Jersey's steadfast refusal to introduce a sex offenders' register, Harper began reviewing statements made by Sea Cadets who had alleged abuse. He discovered that many had been in care, especially in Haut de la Garenne. Calling up their care files, Harper found that a member of Jersey police's family protection team, Brian Carter, had been there before him. Carter was no longer in the force, but finding him on the island was easy. It turned out that in 2004 Carter had noticed an unusually high incidence of suicide among men who had passed through Haut de la Garenne. Reviewing the records of 950 former residents, he discovered that a significant number had complained of sexual and physical abuse, describing similar acts and perpetrators, going back to the 50s. Shockingly, even though supervisors at the homes had dutifully noted the complaints, none had been properly investigated.
Carter had sought out victims and taken statements detailing how they were allegedly beaten and raped by older children and staff, and also by Sea Cadet officers, St John Ambulance volunteers and at least one senator in the States Assembly. In April 2006, Carter handed the dossier to Jersey CID. Nothing happened.
Suspecting that allegations of crimes against hundreds of children were being brushed under the carpet, Carter quit the force in late 2006. Now, Harper alerted Graham Power, head of Jersey's police, to the dossier. Appalled, Power contacted the Association of Chief Police Officers which launched an independent inquiry, currently being handled by South Yorkshire. In September 2007, Power gave Harper the go-ahead to launch a full-scale child abuse investigation, with Carter re-employed as a civilian investigator. Together they set up an incident room at Jersey police headquarters in Rouge Bouillon, St Helier. Detective inspector Alison Fossey, another outsider, originally from Strathclyde, was called in to help sift through the first of 4,000 children's files.
Abuse claims were rife. Haut de la Garenne was at the centre; other child facilities on the island were also implicated, including a secure unit called Les Chenes and a "group home", Blanche Pierre. Harper ordered his men to find and interview as many victims as they could - something that proved difficult because several former care home residents had already spoken to Carter and were disillusioned when nothing came of it.
Fearful that his inquiry would collapse, it was then that Harper went public, making an appeal for witnesses to come forward, with the backing of the NSPCC. "I was summoned to the chief minister's office and given a rollicking," Harper claims. "CM Frank Walker told me, 'Stop calling these people victims. It's not proven yet. You can't say that. Do you realise what you are doing here can bring the government down?' " We tried to contact Walker, but he declined to respond.
A firestorm now swirled across the island. Harper recalls: "The NSPCC opened a helpline and the phones went haywire." Former Haut residents talked of being slammed into walls, punched and slapped. One victim from Les Chenes claimed to have been knocked out by a staff member and told police, "The supervisor put a foot on my chest and stood on me, screaming, 'This is what we do to scum like you!' " Former care home children also detailed sadistic sexual abuse, with residents raping their dorm mates and supervisors doing the same.
Dozens of potential protagonists were thrown up by the new inquiry, the same names having also been identified by victims in the Carter report. One of them, a former Jersey senator, Wilfred Krichefski, who died in 1974, was known as the "Fat Man" among Haut residents who accused him of multiple rapes. Other Haut victims claimed to have been "lent out" to men who took them sailing into international waters before forcing them to have sex - crimes thus committed outside Jersey's jurisdiction. Colin Tilbrook, a former headmaster at Haut de la Garenne in the 60s, was repeatedly named as having roamed the corridors at night with a pillow tucked under his arm with which to stifle the screams of the children he raped. Jersey social services had never investigated Tilbrook, who went on to secure a job in the early 70s on the British mainland. When news of the Jersey investigation became public, Tilbrook's foster daughter, by then in her 30s, came forward to reveal that he had repeatedly raped her when she was a child.
Like Krichefski, Tilbrook was dead, as were others accused, including Jim Thomson, the superintendent of Haut de la Garenne in 1979, who was repeatedly accused of abuse. It was the living that presented Harper's team with the knottiest problems. The list of those who had worked at the homes included the serving education director, Tom McKeon, and his deputy, Mario Lundy. Both were interviewed by police earlier this year; both vigorously deny any wrongdoing.
The inquiry was delivered a blow when, in January 2008, Harper's deputy, DI Alison Fossey, went to the mainland on a strategic command course. Fossey had a law degree and had worked in child protection for most of her career. She was a details person, while Harper had a more scattergun approach. In her absence, the investigation was transformed by lurid claims of bodies and murder. One police report from this time states, "Among the [Haut] victims were a few who said that children had been dragged from their beds at night screaming and had then disappeared." A local builder who had done renovations there in 2003 said he had found what he thought were children's bones and shoes. These items had been disposed of by the Jersey pathologist. Harper remained suspicious. On 5 February 2008, he flew to Oxford to take advice from LGC Forensics, a crime scene service used by forces across the UK.
Two weeks later, an LGC team encamped at Haut de la Garenne. A squad of technicians in white suits pored over the site. Central to it all were two sniffer dogs, Eddie and Keela, which Harper took to describing as his "canine assets". They were veterans deployed in the search for missing Madeleine McCann in Portugal, although the controversy caused there should have served as a warning to Harper. In Portugal, the dogs had crawled over a car used by Gerry and Kate McCann, and sounded the alarm. The Portuguese police then claimed that the McCanns had killed their daughter, when what the dogs had actually picked up on was both parents' legitimate proximity to death, working in hospitals.
At Haut de la Garenne, the dogs made straight for the place where in 2003 the builder said he had found bones. A senior police officer recalled, "They did cartwheels on the spot. And Harper went through the roof." As in Portugal, the dogs had smelled something but could not differentiate between ancient remains and a contemporary murder. But at 2pm on 23 February, caution cast aside, Harper called a press conference, telling reporters police believed that the partial remains of a child were buried there.
Over the following months, £7.5m would be spent sifting 100 tonnes of earth. By the time DI Fossey returned, there were 65 milk teeth, 165 bone fragments and two lime-lined pits dominating the inquiry.
Meanwhile the child abuse investigation, which had already identified 160 alleged victims, was, Harper claimed, taking flak. Harper was called to the attorney general's office after his team charged a former Haut warder with indecently assaulting underage girls at the home from 1969 to 1973. William Bailhache demanded that a lawyer appointed by his office be inserted into the inquiry to assess the evidence before any arrest or charges could be preferred - common practice on the mainland, he says.
The police sent the lawyer details of a further five suspects, including a former police officer and two couples. Hearing nothing for two months, Harper went ahead and arrested the 50-year-old former police officer on 12 June last year. The attorney general's lawyer had the man released the next day, citing a lack of evidence. Likewise he vetoed charges being laid against one of the two couples. That left only Jane and Alan Maguire, a couple now living in France, and their case, too, went nowhere.
Bailhache told us: "It would no doubt have been much easier for me personally if I had simply waved prosecutions through. However, had I done so I would have been failing in my duty... Actions on my part which Mr Harper no doubt interpreted as frustrating a prosecution were rather directed at ensuring that any prosecution which was properly brought had the best chance of succeeding."
In the end, Harper charged only two other individuals, both peripheral, one of whom, in a terrible irony, also claims to have been a child victim of abuse at Haut de la Garenne in the 70s.
Once Lenny Harper retired in August 2008, and the murder inquiry was discredited, some island officials were concerned that the investigation into the abuse allegations might collapse, too.
The alarm had been raised in 1979, following the death of a two-year-old at the hands of a foster parent. Two years later, visiting social workers David Lambert and Elizabeth Wilkinson, concerned that none of the proposed improvements had been put in place, launched a full-blown inspection. Their confidential report, taking a broader look at Jersey society, concluded that while the island was reinventing itself as a haunt for jetsetters, there was a neglected group afflicted by a "high incidence of marital breakdown, heavy drinking, alcoholism and psychiatric illness". These problems were exacerbated by a small island mentality that demanded everyone "conform to acceptable public standards".
Children rebelled in small ways: dropping litter, swearing, facing down the police, having parties on the beach. On Jersey, all of these "offences" were, according to Lambert and Wilkinson, often sufficient to get a child into serious trouble. And once children had come to the attention of the police, it was almost inevitable that they would enter Jersey's care home system. Without any provision for children to be bailed, most were incarcerated on remand, placed alongside children taken from their families, often for such reasons as "giving the mother a break". In this rural backwater, one in 10 children had been in care, a ratio far higher than on the mainland.
Once in care, the real problems began, with predatory residents, some with criminal records, bunked with the vulnerable. Cases were almost never reviewed; Lambert and Wilkinson found in one group of 65 children, 36 had remained invisible inside the system for more than 10 years. This was the more likely if parents made little fuss, or even, in some cases, left the island. One of the invisible told us how he had been incarcerated at Haut de la Garenne for being repeatedly sarcastic to the hobby bobbies; he stayed in care for eight years, he says, without ever seeing a trained social worker, during which time he claimed to have been raped by adults and fellow inmates alike.
At the time of Lambert and Wilkinson's visit, Haut was run by superintendent Jim Thomson. Like many then working in the Jersey care system, he had no professional qualifications. Thomson, who would be accused of sexual and physical abuse in Harper's 2008 inquiry, was found by Lambert and Wilkinson to have created a "highly unsatisfactory" environment that focused on corporal punishment for "boys aged 10 to 15", some of them locked in remand cells for days at a time. It was an institution ripe for abusers, especially at night when only one staff member was on duty for 45 children sleeping in four distant wings. Haut was "not suitable for any of the tasks in which it is currently engaged".
Nick (not his real name) was resident at the time. He told us he had been taken, aged 11, to Haut de la Garenne in "a large white van with bars on its windows" after his mother abandoned him in 1975. He said: "The dorm was at the end of a rabbit warren of corridors and consisted of eight hospital-style beds lined up against opposite walls. Most of the boys were in their teens and had been in the home for years." No sooner had he arrived than he was beaten up and his possessions stolen. "At night they would never come to check up on you. The younger boys would be tied down on their beds and raped by the older lads." He survived only because he was a boxer and he was allowed to stay with foster parents at weekends, a time when adults were said to come and prey on the children left behind.
According to the 1981 report, other homes caused concern, too, for their punitive regimes; chief among them was Blanche Pierre with its new house parents, Jane and "Big Al" Maguire. But the extent of the allegations against the Maguires would not be properly investigated for another 18 years. One of their former charges was Dannie Jarman, now 28, who moved into Blanche Pierre when her mother was diagnosed with cancer in 1985, ending up in a hospice. "I wasn't allowed to visit her," Dannie told us. "Two weeks after her funeral, I was told she was dead. I was repeatedly told that our mum hadn't brought us up right and had never wanted me." Other children later levelled accusations about the extremely harsh conditions.
No one would have known about it had Dannie Jarman not got drunk one night in 1998 and thrown a brick through the Maguires' bedroom window. When the Maguires called the police, former residents, including Dannie, were brought in for questioning. After they repeated their allegations of abuse, the police turned around their inquiry and charged the Maguires instead.
The then attorney general, Michael Birt, today the island's deputy bailiff, sought advice from counsel who suggested that while this home "might possibly have been one that was run on a somewhat Dickensian basis, the strict regime applied by the Maguires would have not been regarded as unusual in pre-politically correct times. Indeed it is quite likely members of the jury would have some sympathy for people who in order to instil a sense of discipline in their charges threaten to wash a child's mouth out with soap and water." The counsel suggested: "The evidence is extremely weak." Birt, who declined to comment when we approached him, dropped the charges. Following an internal inquiry, Jane Maguire was subsequently sacked by Jersey social services.
Another inquiry focused on Jersey's elite Victoria College after the head of maths was jailed for four years in April 1999 for indecently assaulting a pupil. In his report, Stephen Sharp, a former chief education officer for Buckinghamshire, criticised senior staff and school governors, who included bailiff Sir Philip Bailhache, for failing to act speedily or adequately. It had taken 15 years for the teacher to be caught and Sharp concluded: "The handling of the complaint was more consistent with protecting a member of staff and the college's reputation than safeguarding the best interests of pupils."
Haut de la Garenne eventually closed in 1986, Blanche Pierre in 2001, but when Kathie Bull, a British child behaviour expert, was called in the following year to inspect the island's children's services, she found the situation had worsened. So many children were now being locked up that the island's institutions operated a "hot-bedding" system to cater for them, which in the case of Les Chenes included children sleeping on a pool table. Discipline was meted out in The Pits, a punishment block consisting of four bare concrete cells. The island's youth justice system was backwards and brutal, Bull concluded, and she made 50 recommendations, including the establishment of a Children's Executive.
Four years later, when Simon Bellwood, a British social worker, was employed to close Les Chenes and move the secure unit to a new, purpose-built site, he was startled to find the old regime still in force: "I met children who spent months at a time, near naked, in bare, concrete punishment blocks." When he made public his concerns in 2007 - following a long-running dispute with some of the old regime who were still in positions of authority - he was sacked; the then health minister, senator Stuart Syvret, who had vocally championed those who alleged they had been abused, was voted out of office for his "intemperate and ill-considered statements in the assembly".
Two years on, Mick Gradwell's team is trying to pick up the pieces of the abuse inquiry. The attorney general has been handed evidential files against key suspects by the police, and says he expects to make his decisions in the next few weeks. Bellwood, Syvret and others are keeping up the pressure on Jersey's States Assembly, and lobbying UK justice minister Jack Straw to call a full, independent inquiry (the subject of a court hearing to be held in London next Tuesday). But, many of the victims of the care homes of Jersey are convinced that nothing can outflank an island establishment that often saw little wrong in what had gone before and is reluctant to embrace the future prescribed by the social work experts.
The guardians of the Jersey Way continue to thrive, such as the sprightly Iris Le Feuvre, elected to the States Assembly for almost 20 years, who as president of the education committee oversaw Haut de la Garenne, Les Chenes and Blanche Pierre during some of their most troubled times. Now retired, the 80-year-old, whose husband Eric was for years a hobby bobby, lives in St Lawrence parish. "Granny's coming," she shouts as an over-excitable Tibetan spaniel barks at the gate, and ushers us into her front room. Le Feuvre, who collected an MBE from Buckingham Palace in 2002, says of Haut de la Garenne: "It's been a terrible business. But mostly I feel for William and Sir Philip Bailhache. They've been through so much."
But what of the victims? She smiles: "Oh, such a fuss has been made. My father always used a belt on me. It did me the world of good."
Wednesday, 25 February 2009
THE SEVEN PRINCIPLES OF PUBLIC LIFE
Holders of public office should take decisions solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends.
Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties.
In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.
Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.
Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.
Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.
Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example.
These principles apply to all aspects of public life. The Committee has set them out here for the benefit of all who serve the public in any way.
Did they miss anything? Well, possibly. If these principles seem worthy, but perhaps a little dry, the concise inscription on the mace in the Scottish Parliament offers more in the way of humanity: Compassion, Wisdom, Justice, Integrity. Here I take `integrity' to be a kind of meta-principle that encapsulates all of the first six Nolan principles.
It is just possible that `principles' could be followed perfectly adequately but in a formulaic fashion, i.e. lacking the underlying values that would tend to make the practice of the principles spontaneous and natural. A key value surely has to be trust. A very clear description of trust is found in Mike Bottery's "Education, Policy and Ethics". He starts by outlining how trust can be a merely pragmatic value. Then he continues:
"Yet it is also something much deeper. It implies an attitude towards people and the world in general: a belief that things in the end turn out for good, that people are at bottom basically good as well. Some might see this as simple optimism, but however one views it, it has effects because of its spontaneity. It has the ability to create a similar trust in others, to foster friendship and love, simply to make life worth living. It cannot be artificially produced."
Friday, 13 February 2009
- the appalling true story of brothers cruelly abused in a Jersey care home -
by Robbie Garner with Toni Maguire.
Robbie Garner was taken into care in Jersey at the age of five following the catastrophic breakdown of his mother's dysfunctional relationship with her partner, his short life already blighted by callous maternal neglect. This would have been around 1960. Dates, like some other details, are not spelled out - the book is concerned with the emotional landscape its author endured, rather than attempting a documentary account.
With him to the Sacre Coeur orphanage went his three year old brother, Davie, while older brother John was dispatched to the Haut de la Garenne children's home, where Robbie was later to follow.
`Nobody Came' is the story of the horrific emotional, physical and sexual abuse Robbie experienced and witnessed in these two `care' establishments. He finally decided to tell the story he had kept buried for so many years when Haut de la Garenne hit the headlines in 2007 with allegations of decades of abuse. A disclaimer states that "in order to protect privacy, some names, identifying characteristics, dialogue and details have been changed . . . and the staff mentioned in this book are composite characters, drawn from the experiences of those whom the author remembers." No doubt this has also been necessary because of the ongoing investigation of historical abuse claims surrounding Haut de la Garenne, and the hope that perpetrators will eventually be brought to court.
Toni Maguire is herself an abuse victim whose bestselling works draw on her own tragic childhood. She is now helping other people to tell their stories and the chemistry here has worked to very good effect. The writing is a model of clarity. The story told in a direct and straightforward way is highly readable, moving - and deeply shocking.
Were the nuns of Sacre Coeur misguided religious zealots or manipulative abusers hiding behind the cloak of religion? The book simply tells the story of their barbaric cruelty and leaves the reader to wonder. But the sense of authenticity is enhanced by the young Robbie's sensitivity, even at such a tender age, to the occasional nun who appears troubled by the nature of the regime in which she too is trapped. One such is`Sister Claire', who to her eternal credit (composite character or not) finds ways to practise subversive acts of kindness.
On graduating to Haut de la Garenne, Robbie finds himself in a nightmarish world of casual brutality, where physical and sexual bullying is commonplace and where the depraved lusts of certain members of staff are given free rein in ritualistic orgies of abuse. Whether this extends to murder it is not possible to say, but there are unexplained disappearances, and one of Robbie's friends is driven to suicide. Robbie is acutely aware of the suffering of other boys (and in due course girls) and counts himself lucky that he is not pretty enough to become a `favourite'.
If Haut de la Garenne has a saving grace it is the quality of the food, so someone at least is doing the job they are paid for.
The sense of authenticity that pervades `Nobody Came', notwithstanding the disclaimer, is in stark contrast to the increasingly convoluted efforts of the Jersey establishment to sweep the whole Haut de la Garenne tragedy conveniently under the carpet. Their confident assertion that `there were no murders at Haut de la Garenne' would be laughable if it wasn't so serious. There may not be compelling evidence of such crimes, but that is very far from proof that no murder happened, especially when complete records of the children taken into care appear not to have been kept.
Happily, Robbie Garner has proved to be a survivor. His book too will survive. And it will continue to have a powerful and compelling voice for as long as justice for the victims of the Jersey care system remains elusive.
Wednesday, 28 January 2009
As for their feeble second excuse - that there were doubts about whether donated aid would get to where it was intended, that's like refusing to show the Greens party political broadcast on the grounds that they might not get many MPs!
Sunday, 18 January 2009
The thread is about child abuse. It includes contributions from a number of survivors of abuse in Jersey and elsewhere. It highlights the terrible dilemma of abuse victims in trying to decide whether to come forward with accounts of the horrific experiences they have buried for decades as a mechanism for survival. And it is marked by the collective and individual compassion of the contributors.
It starts with a desperately sad account from someone living in France.
"If I had not realized it before, I certainly do now. That is, through the kindness and fellowship that you all have shown to me, the world could be such a very different world if we just held out our hands to someone in need."
This sums up very well, I think, the power for good that this kind of online fellowship can be. My thought go out to `My Life in France' and I very much hope he is beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel, through the support that has been forthcoming as a result of his contact with the blog.