Monday, June 9, 2008

Haut de la Garenne Warden in Court and Lawyers Call for Special Board for Abuse Victims

~Gordon Wateridge

Gordon Wateridge, former warden at the Haut de la Garenne children's home on Jersey is due to appear in court today charged with indecently assaulting teenage girls during the 1960s and 1970s.

He is charged with three offenses of indecent assault on girls under the age of 16 between 1969 and 1979.


According to lawyers, the more than 100 victims of child abuse at Haut de la Garenne face overwhelming obstacles in seeking compensation under Jersey law.

The Jersey criminal injuries compensation board can make awards only for injuries sustained after May 1,1991. Claims for damages in the civil courts have to begin within three years of the victim's turning 18 – similar to our statute of limitations laws.

The Jersey legal system is ill equipped to deal with historic abuse, so lawyers are calling on the Jersey authorities to set up a redress board to ensure justice for victims.

Caroline Dorey, an advocate at Backhurst Dorey and Crane in St Helier, said: "Jersey is under scrutiny as never before. It's crucial that we are seen to be doing everything we can to get to the bottom of whatever happened at Haut de la Garenne, and to provide proper restitution for those affected.

"Although the island is justifiably proud of its legal system, the current situation poses new and extraordinary challenges. We owe it to the island in general, and of course those survivors of child abuse in particular, to ensure that we introduce whatever means are necessary to meet the current situation as openly as possible, and that justice is seen to be done.

"A redress board which is specifically set up to investigate and assess civil claims arising from this historic abuse would seem an appropriate way forward."

Lawyers are suggesting the residential institutions redress board set up in Ireland in 2002, which compensates victims of physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect as a suitable model.

Tracey Emmott, an English lawyer specializing in child abuse at the law firm Pictons in Luton, supports Dorey's call for a redress board.

Emmott said, “My own view is that a redress board would be the appropriate body for Jersey. It was welcomed by the Irish people because it was a recognition of how seriously the government took the complaints.”

"And I think similar sentiments would be echoed in Jersey. Especially given all the allegations of cover-ups, there is all the more reason to be seen to be doing something appropriate."