The UK whistleblower who raised concerns over child protection in Jersey fears the island’s government will try to silence him as a police investigation into child abuse widens.
Simon Bellwood told Community Care that officials could deliberately delay his forthcoming employment tribunal in the wake of the recent discovery of a child’s body in a former children’s home.
The social worker also predicted the publication of an independent review of child protection on Jersey by UK expert Andrew Williamson could be delayed as part of a “damage limitation exercise”.
The island came under a media storm this week after Jersey police found the remains of a child’s body in the former children’s home Haut De La Garenne. The discovery was part of an ongoing inquiry into historic institutional child abuse on the island going back to the 1960s. Police are investigating further sites and believe more bodies could be found.
The police investigation began last November, following a separate series of child protection claims by Bellwood and former health and social services minister Stuart Syvret.
Bellwood claims he was unfairly sacked after he blew the whistle on “abusive” child care practice in Jersey and his employment tribunal is scheduled next month.
He says he was unfairly dismissed from his job as centre manager at Greenfields secure unit on the island last year, after raising concerns over a system where children as young as 11 were routinely locked up in solitary confinement.
The case is not believed to be linked to the current police investigation, but helped to spark the Williamson review that is due to be published next month.
Bellwood (pictured right) predicted the Jersey establishment would delay his tribunal and the Williamson review’s publication “to avoid further public exposure”.
He told Community Care the police find was “horrifying and shocking” and said the island’s system still did not offer children protection.
“In the light of these events, the Jersey government needs to review the remit they gave Williamson and bring in another independent observer,” Bellwood said.
Stuart Syvret, Jersey’s former health and social services minister, who claims he was also sacked for raising child protection concerns including Bellwood’s case last year, said he was “not confident” children on the island were currently safe.
Syvret is due to publish evidence of abuse claims today.
In a statement yesterday, Jersey’s chief minister senator Frank Walker insisted protection of Jersey’s children was of the “highest priority” and said he believed vulnerable children were safe.
He said: “We are totally committed to supporting the police and criminal justice authorities in uncovering any historic abuse and bringing those responsible to justice.
“There will be no hiding place for anyone who abused children or in any way colluded with that abuse. We will commit whatever resources are necessary to the police investigation and to any subsequent criminal cases.
“When investigations are completed, if any cover-up is discovered, we will leave no stone unturned in prosecuting anyone suspected of being responsible: and that includes anyone, at whatever level.”
Last night, Community Care was interviewed for BBC Radio 4’s World Tonight on Jersey’s care services. If you have Real Player listen here.
Child remains found at former children’s home