Police have dug up the bones of at least five children buried under the home.
Jersey police chief’s fury as abuse suspects release ‘scares off’ witnesses
The investigation has looked at almost 100 allegations of abuse stretching back decades
By Dominic Kennedy, Investigations Editor
A furious memorandum from the senior detective in the Jersey child murder and abuse investigation claims that it has been hampered by prosecutors, destroying victims’ faith in the justice system.
Lenny Harper, who found the remains of five children in a former boys’ home, says that it is getting harder to persuade witnesses to come forward because of fears that alleged perpetrators will not be put on trial.
Mr Harper claims that the island’s Attorney-General and his office are held in “total contempt” by victims of child abuse after repeatedly failing to bring offenders to justice.
The memo is part of the evidence in an application to the High Court in London today by the Justice for Families group, co-founded by John Hemming, the Liberal Democrat MP, and Stuart Syvret, a Jersey senator and campaigner. The organisation is demanding that Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, take over the investigation. It claims the memo is further evidence that such a sensitive investigation should be taken out of the hands of the island’s tight-knit coterie of senior officials because of what it claims are their perceived conflicts of interest.
Esther Rantzen, founder of Childline, who has met the victims, urged the Jersey Government to ask London to intervene. “I am not impugning the integrity of individuals; I am just saying that in a society which is so interwoven and has such a small number of people in high office you have just got to ask for help from outside,” she said.
Mr Harper, an Ulsterman who retired as the island’s deputy police chief last weekend, has been looking into allegations of child abuse. The headlines have been grabbed by the discoveries at the Haut de la Garenne children’s home, but the investigation has looked at almost 100 allegations of abuse stretching back decades.
Mr Harper’s memo gives warning that potential witnesses are keeping silent because suspects are being freed without charge on apparently spurious grounds. “This is illustrated by a briefing I have had from the NSPCC counsellor working alongside us,” he states in the memo seen by The Times. “He has received a text message from a victim (which he has shown to me) to say ‘It is a joke. Another two walk away. No wonder no one will come forward’. ”
Philip Sinel, lawyer for the Jersey Care Leavers’ Association, told prosecutors that crucial evidence was being withheld because people who had been in care did not trust the authorities. “My clients and others know far more than has been given to the police already,” Mr Sinel said.
The police report was written after a couple were arrested then released in a fiasco that Senator Syvret said at the time amounted to the breakdown of the rule of law.
Mr Harper’s report discloses that William Bailhache, the Attorney-General, decided to appoint a prosecution barrister, Simon Thomas, to the police inquiry. Police claim that Mr Thomas advised them that a 70-year-old man and his wife, 69, believed to have been former foster parents, could be arrested and charged with grave and criminal assault. The report notes that Mr Thomas denied having given such advice. They were taken into custody on June 24 but at 5pm the barrister told detectives he had revised his view, citing as reasons that the wife was unwell, a witness had rung police to say they were holding the wrong people and the couple’s children said their parents were “good people”.
Mr Harper wrote: “I could not work out, and am still unable to work out, what really did prompt the change of heart and the revision of the advice.” Mr Thomas did not respond when asked by The Times about his alleged change of mind.
In another child abuse case, Mr Harper writes, the police experienced delays after sending a file this April to Mr Thomas about Jane and Alan Maguire, who had run a care home. A previous prosecution against the Maguires for assault was dropped for lack of evidence in 1998 by Michael Birt, QC, then the Attorney-General.
Mr Birt is now the second most powerful judge as Deputy Bailiff. “Naturally, as I was Attorney-General at the time, I would not sit judicially in any case which may be brought in the future involving the Maguires,” he said this week.
The Maguires retired to France and no extradition has yet been sought.
The Attorney-General told The Times: “I do not agree that there is any actual or perceived conflict of interest which prevents me from performing the functions I have, which I intend to perform to the best of my ability and with the integrity which the office requires. I am absolutely determined that cases of child abuse will be prosecuted where it is right to do so.”
A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice in London said: “This is an internal matter for Jersey’s government.”
Face of island justice
Sir Philip Bailhache, Bailiff
Head of the island’s judiciary. He made a speech saying that no bodies had been found and that the real scandal was the denigration of Jersey. As chairman of parliament he switched off a microphone when a senator tried to apologise for Jersey’s child abuse. He is the Attorney-General’s brother.
William Bailhache, QC, Attorney-General
He decides prosecutions and is legal adviser to the Jersey Government, in whose care the children had been placed. He liaises with government insurers, who face possible compensation claims if abuse is proved. He was a partner in the law firm that represented alleged victims of Jane and Alan Maguire, who ran a care home. None of the clients received compensation.
Michael Birt, QC, Deputy Bailiff
As the Attorney-General he discontinued prosecution against the Maguires because of insufficient evidence.