Notice how since Lenny Harper departed Jersey, there is no news about the investigation or the status of the suspects in the scandal?
Retired, lead investigator in the Jersey abuse scandal, Lenny Harper, and Jersey’s chief minister, Frank Walker have been sparring in the paper of another Channel Island!
Interestingly, the JEP occasionally prints its usual drivel – which they don’t allow readers to comment on. The Guernsey Press has stepped up to the plate and is doing an admirable job in providing information that the spineless JEP isn’t willing to tell the residents of Jersey.
No doubt, the Island of Guernsey does not want to be lumped in with the shady doings of the government of Jersey. They have almost identical systems of governing, yet Guernsey it appears, is far more open and honest with its citizens.
On September 1, The Guernsey Press (GP) ran an Op-Ed piece, “Protecting the Integrity of Justice”: A number of readers have contacted this newspaper following last week’s Comment item suggesting that Jersey should announce an independent inquiry into what has now become a most unsatisfactory investigation into allegations of child abuse at Haut de la Garenne.
They wanted to make substantially the same point: how could things have gone so badly wrong?
If Jersey’s system - a virtual mirror image of our own - can falter over something so serious and so important to the victims, what does it say about the integrity of justice here?
The first point to make is that there is no evidence locally to suggest that police inquiries are hampered by the prosecution service, although HM Procureur has - and will no doubt continue to do so - declined to prosecute on the grounds of insufficient evidence or where it is deemed not to be in the public interest.
The second is that the island’s police force is independent and chief officers have over the years robustly asserted that independence.
That began a flurry of accusations and responses.
Walker: I must correct a number of the assertions in your inaccurate and ill-informed editorial comment on Jersey’s historic child abuse enquiry.
As Guernsey’s only newspaper, you have a responsibility to ensure your readers are accurately informed on major issues. In this instance at least you have sadly let them down.
In the first instance you said: ‘Before any harm is done to both islands, Jersey’s chief minister should urgently announce an independent enquiry into the abuse investigation – or risk having it forced upon him.’
Had you undertaken even a modicum of research, you would have known that I announced to the States of Jersey on 31 March – more than five months ago – a full independent enquiry into all aspects of the child abuse investigation to be chaired by an eminent UK lawyer.
GP: We are happy to run the comments from Jersey’s chief minister and regret that the sense and urgency of the inquiry we were calling for – in the light of Justice for Families’ legal moves to force UK intervention in the abuse investigation – was not sufficiently clear.
The concerns about the impartiality and progress of the Haut de la Garenne inquiry need addressing now – not at the end of the process, whenever that may be.
The inquiry announced by the chief minister will be at some unspecified time in the future, possibly not until 2010, and the States of Jersey does not know what its terms of reference will be.
Walker: From the beginning of this investigation, everyone involved had had three priorities.
The first is to ensure the most thorough police investigation possible and that the police have all the resources they need both from within the Island and from further afield.
The second is to ensure that the judicial process is robust and impartial, and that all guilty parties are brought to justice.
The third is to do all in our power to protect and to support all identified victims. Those priorities have not, and will not change.
I feel saddened to have to make this response but your ill-informed and misleading comment has given me no alternative.
Harper: Firstly, I would challenge his view on the priorities of all those involved.
Although the two Home Affairs ministers in Jersey were unstinting in their support for the enquiry, the minister and his assistant who had responsibility for child welfare spent all of their time sniping at the enquiry from the sidelines and engaging in petty insults to officers involved by sending childish emails to States colleagues.
According to the journalist, David Rose, one of them leaked an official States email to him and one of them or the small band of politicians sympathetic to them, called the victims ‘people with criminal records and disturbed minds’.
This is also in an environment where, in the presence of the Home Affairs minister, a senior politician tried to instruct me to remove the word, ‘victims’, from a press release as ‘nothing has been proved yet’.
The chief minister made whatever resources were needed available and stated so publicly early on. A number of politicians approached me privately and expressed support and thanks but for whatever reason did not feel they could do so publicly.
A small number could not disguise their hatred of what was being uncovered and did all they could to discredit us, even joining forces with a number of corrupt ex-cops and their associates.
Walker: Prosecution lawyers, including experts in such cases from the UK, are continuing to examine the evidence and arrange a charge in those cases where there is, on assessment of all of the available evidence, a realistic prospect of conviction.
It is not unusual for lawyers to join police investigating teams. On the contrary, it has been done frequently in Jersey in the past and is accepted practice throughout the UK in major investigations.
Harper: Lawyers and police work together as investigators in serious fraud cases in both jurisdictions, such as the Serious Fraud Office. Police investigators work closely with CPS lawyers in the UK, but the lawyers are not investigators and only have a role in police stations in charge rooms.
However, that is not what was being asked by the Attorney General in Jersey. What he wanted was a blurring of the role between investigator and prosecutor. He wanted a lawyer sitting in the incident room where raw data in the form of intelligence and information was coming in.
This was nowhere near the stage where a file was being drawn up for submission for possible prosecution. This was a live police investigation where sensitive intelligence was being provided by victims highly suspicious of the legal establishment in Jersey.
Some of the intelligence provided contained allegations against members of the legal establishment. To have allowed one of the AG’s lawyers in the incident room would have totally destroyed the hard-earned confidence that the police had gained from the victims. If you are in any doubt about this ask some of the victims or their representatives.
Furthermore, as much of the material did not relate to pending prosecutions, it is debatable whether or not the AG and his staff had a right to even see it.
If the chief minister thinks that state of affairs shows a relationship based on trust and mutual aims to help victims, then he is looking at it from a different perspective from me and, I suspect, many others.
GP: Perhaps more revealing, when the rift between police and prosecution became evident in an earlier memo leaked to The Times, Jersey Police responded by releasing a statement that said:
‘The States of Jersey Police would emphasise that they have total confidence in the professionalism, independence and integrity of the current police investigation.’
What provoked the subsequent memo that we highlighted was the blocking of a prosecution that officers considered an open-and-shut case against a couple who had allegedly disciplined children with a baseball bat.
In Jersey, charges have to be brought by the honorary police, who come under the umbrella of the Attorney General. According to the memo, the centenier involved took the file of evidence to consider. As the memo states: ‘He did so for well over an hour and then declared that, although there was [our emphasis] enough evidence to charge, he was not going to.’
Walker: I would remind you that speculation or unwise comment by anyone could jeopardise the judicial process, seriously let down the alleged victims or prejudice the fair trial of those against whom complaint has been made.
The truth will eventually emerge and it will be very different from the picture you have sought to present to your readers.
I believe you owe the States and the people of Jersey an apology.
GP: If, as Jersey’s chief minister suggests, an apology is required, perhaps it should, to paraphrase Mr. Harper, be extended to the 160 individuals who came forward to assist the historic abuse investigation, many of whom are now wondering why they bothered to relive the horror and trauma in their past.
Kudos to Lenny and The Guernsey Press!
Frank Walker just needs to shut-up.
Frank Walker's response to the editorial.
Lenny Harper's rebuttal of Frank Walker's response.
The GP's editor's response to Frank Walker's criticism.
Senator Stuart Syvret Blog