Care leavers from Jersey have called on the UK government to launch an independent inquiry into child abuse on the island.
The UK Care Leavers Association also supported the call by the care leavers for the government to ensure a “transparent and legally independent process” at a meeting in the House of Commons last night.
Austin Mitchell MP claimed at the meeting that abuse of children on Jersey had been concealed. “The real problem is the smallness of Jersey – in such an intimate community everything gets covered up as nobody wants to make trouble. “
Care leaver James Campbell told the meeting: “I believe that we need a through investigation of the govermental process of dealing with complaints against states department. It is time that the British government got involved in this sordid affair.”
Anna Reaney, another care leaver, said that there were five other children’s homes on the island in addition to Haut de la Garenne, which is at the centre of a police inquiry: “It is time they all were investigated to find out what happened to the children in these homes and to ensure that all those who were mistreated in Jersey get justice.”
Stuart Syvret, Jersey’s former health and social services minister, claimed there had been a “complete breakdown of checks and balances” on services. The senator – the island’s equivalent to an MP – called on the UK government to address the “profoundly unhealthy overlap” between the Jersey government and the island’s judiciary.
Mitchell added that justice secretary Jack Straw had declined recent requests to meet over the issue. “Jack Straw is responsible for good governance on Jersey but won’t touch it,” he added.
Mitchell has previously put forward a parliamentary motion calling for an independent inquiry into child abuse in Jersey.
Jersey police are currently investigating historic allegations of abuse at the former Haut de la Garenne children’s home and other institutions on the island dating back to the 1950s.
More recent concerns over children’s services on the island were sparked last year after UK social worker Simon Bellwood publicly criticised a system of locking children up in solitary confinement at a secure unit.
Following concerns raised by Simon Bellwood last year, the Jersey government commissioned UK social work expert Andrew Williamson to review children’s services on the island. The review, announced last August, was originally due to report within three months but is now expected to be published within the next few weeks.
The Howard League for Penal Reform also went to Jersey to review penal services, and their full report is due later in the year’ while the UK Care Leavers Association has set up a branch on the island.
A spokesperson for the Jersey government said there were no plans to issue a statement in response to the Jersey care leaver’s calls.
Three people have so far been charged in relation to the police investigation, and a further two people arrested yesterday have been released without charge.