Thursday, August 14, 2008

Haut de la Garenne DCO Furious and Senator Syvret Initiates Court Action Against the UK

~Lenny Harper

Today, papers are being registered with the High Court of London against Jack Straw. Straw has the power to order the UK to intervene in the child abuse scandal and even though he has been publicly and privately asked to intervene, he has remained mute on the subject.

From Stuart Syvret: Jersey’s Attorney General, William Bailhache – brother of Bailiff, Philip Bailhache, has pro-actively obstructed and delayed the charging and extradition of suspects against whom there are well-evidenced cases.

…under the banner of Families for Justice – John Hemming MP and I initiate our court action against the UK government for its failure to ensure the rule of law and the good administration of justice in Jersey.

And such is the strength and clarity of the case – I’m very confident we will, ultimately, win.

In a memorandum supporting the court action, retired DCO Lenny Harper had much to say about politics and justice in Jersey.

From the Times Online: 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 organization 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.

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 counselor 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’. ”

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.”

The arrogance of the Bailhache’s, Birt, and others is appalling. I fully understand the anger and frustration of Lenny Harper, Stuart Syvret, and most importantly, the victims.

I applaud and support Stuart’s persistence and confidence, yet I fear the UK is intrinsically tied to this scandal and will do nothing.