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Jersey: the floodgates open

Maria Ahmedby Maria AhmedCARESPACE%20icon.jpg

People in Jersey are finally speaking out in the wake of child abuse allegations on the island. Earlier this month, there was a public rally in support of victims. People used the meeting to criticise the way in which the Jersey authorities have handled the current investigation into abuse at the Haut de la Garenne children’s home. Many of the messages scrawled on a board that day called for the resignation of the island’s chief minister Frank Walker.
Walking round St Helier last week, I was told dismissively by one islander that the rally had been “political.” He practically spat the word out, as though it left a bad taste in his mouth. “There were more media than people from Jersey there,” he said. Some of the ‘victims’ of abuse that have spoken to the media were also “political”, this same islander informed me. They were therefore to be avoided, he implied.

While these were the words of just one person on the island, I could not help recalling them when I read an article in The Economist on the Jersey child abuse investigation that said: “At the root of many of the island’s problems is its halting democracy”.

Jersey’s “oligarchy”

Many of Jersey’s establishment, protective of their long tradition of self-rule, would undoubtedly baulk at this criticism. But Stuart Syvret, the island’s former health and social services minister, would agree. He frequently uses the word ‘oligarchy’- or government by the few, to characterise what he calls Jersey’s “one party state.”

Syvret is also critical of the island’s only newspaper, the Jersey Evening Post, which was formerly owned by Frank Walker. Its coverage of the child abuse investigation has been restrained compared to the UK press.

This combination of certain attitudes to “politics” and the lack of any media platforms beyond one newspaper means islanders are seeking other routes of expression.

External scrutiny

News of child protection concerns on the island surfaced first in the UK in Community Care last August. UK social worker Simon Bellwood chose to go on record with us because we were his “professional magazine” and he hoped we would help bring external scrutiny on to Jersey. Stuart Syvret joined with Bellwood in using Community Care as a platform for his views.

Since then, the police investigation into child abuse at institutions including the Haut de la Garenne children’s home has attracted widespread media coverage across the world. The police have been open with the media about their findings, and seem determined to keep it that way despite opposition in the Jersey establishment recently suggested in a News of the World article. The island’s chief minister has denied the claims in the report.

Online protest

In tandem with the ongoing media spotlight on Jersey, more critical voices are being heard from Jersey online. News of the rally in support of victims was carried on isthisjersey.com, which has an alternative slant on stories on the official thisisjersey.com that holds Jersey Evening Post articles. isthisjersey.com carries links to other sites including Stuart Syvret’s blog which was created recently.

Political protest has gone online too, with several Facebook sites including Frank Walker resignation protest, Vote Frank Walker Out Of The States! and Reinstate Senator Stuart Syvret.

A blogger called Tony, whose profile describes him only as Tony the Prof, aged 50, from Jersey examines topics including the child abuse allegations and Jersey politics. It’s a sharp, critical take on island life that you are not likely to find in the Jersey Evening Post.

A number of groups also have posted on to You Tube TV coverage of the child abuse investigation, most notably the Newsnight interview with the island’s chief minister, Frank Walker.

Abuse victims

Other voices being heard – perhaps for the first time in decades – are of people who claim to have been abused as children on the island. These been widely reported in the media including the Daily Telegraph , ITN , The Mirror , BBC News website , and the Daily Mail.

With the floodgates in Jersey now open, it is only a matter of time before the truth about child abuse on the island will emerge.

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3 Responses to Jersey: the floodgates open

  1. Graham Wilmer 11 April , 2013 at 11:21 pm #

    The JEP are helping us offer support to the victims of Haut de la Garenne. The following article appears in the JEP today Wed 19th March.

    VICTIMS of child abuse at Haut de la Garenne are being offered help by a support group based in the north-west of England .

    That offer of support has come from Graham Wilmer who founded the registered charity The Lantern Project, based in the Wirral, which has set up a dedicated section on their website for anyone affected by abuse at the former care home in the Island .

    Mr Wilmer, a former victim of abuse, told the JEP he believed that it was vital people who had been locked for many years in their own secret world of the abuse that had happened to them sought support in dealing with the issue.

    ‘Often those who have been abused as a child are terrified, as the years pass, to mention what happened to them. Then, when publicity about a case explodes like it did about Haut de la Garenne, victims suddenly realise that they could talk to someone about it,’ he said.

    Many of the members of the group are survivors of child abuse in care homes investigated in Operation Care by the Merseyside police over a seven year period.

    ‘The survivors’ experiences of Operation Care are still very much part of our work and it is this experience that I am sure would be of real help to survivors of abuse at Haut de la Garenne.

    It is likely that many of them have still to come forward and seek help – a process that will take years and last long after the current investigation has concluded,’ he said.

    The Lantern Project, which is also a member of the Survivors’ Trust which lobbies government on child protection issues, supports male and female survivors of child, domestic or racial abuse or bullying.

    Mr Wilmer said that anyone affected by the ongoing investigation in the Island could contact the Lantern Project through the website.

    ‘We will send them a copy of our award-winning survival guide Proud To Be Me for their benefit as well as those who support them in picking up the pieces including families, friends, doctors, psychologists and care workers,’ he said.

    The book was written by Mr Wilmer as well as a woman counsellor who had suffered abuse and who interviewed other survivors in a women’s prison.

    Mr Wilmer said that the group was complementary to professional counselling and other services which might be needed by an abuse survivor.

    He said that if any victims of abuse at Haut de la Garenne were now living in the UK the L ant ern Project could put them in touch with their nearest support group.

    The group provides ongoing support to male and female victims of abuse who have contacted their website or as referrals from NHS doctors’ practices, social services, the prison service and rape crisis centres.

    The team also deliver training and presentations on abuse-related issues to those groups as well as to Merseyside police.

    The Lantern Project can be contacted on 07866 508094, by e-mail on lanternproject@yahoo.co.uk or website: http://www.lanternproject.org.uk

  2. Rory Connor 11 April , 2013 at 11:21 pm #

    In ireland between 1999 and 2004 we had a large number of allegations that children had been killed in industrial schools run by the Christian Brothers. These included accusations in a major Sunday Newspaper of mass killing (“a Holocaust”) at Letterfrack in Co. Galway. Not a single claim has proved to be correct. This is not surprising as several relate to periods when no child died of ANY cause. (I call these “Murder of the Undead” allegations).

    One body was exhumed and proved to be a death from natural causes but the resulting publicity resulted in dozens of child abuse claims within a couple of weeks against the institution.

    The child killing allegations were not made by isolated nutcases but by major newspapers and by leading members of “victims” organisations. They have now ceased but the people responsible have not been called to account.

    What is happening in Jersey looks like a repeat of our Irish witch-hunt.

    Rory Connor,
    11 Lohunda Grove
    Dublin 15,
    Ireland

  3. Teresa Cooper 11 April , 2013 at 11:21 pm #

    Why is Kendall House not highlighted and Jersey is? both identical apart from the fact kendall house went much further and used drugs in such extremes and the long term damage was beyond comprehension and yet it is ignored.

    I get tired of people telling me its not news worthy, its not anything the public want to know about, it doesnt matter if it was covered up as uk and jersey are different,how is it different? How can anyone evaluate when they dont know? how can anyone make one situation more worthy of exposure than another? it doesnt matter that kent police refuse to investigate what happened at kendall house for serious crimes against children and yet other homes have had investigations and been exposed but kendall house.

    I am tired after 16 years of fighting to get kendall house exposed and its like banging my head against a brick wall because i try and speak up which is the whole point of abuse in care being highlighted except kendall house seems to be the exception to the rule

    I am tired of everyone telling me that oh you didnt experience any different and all have had investigations except kendall house, all have been recognised except kendall house and all have had a say except kendall house and yet kendall house was a combination of every crime to children in care plus the added drugs in such extremes that its implications far exceed the imaginable

    why?