Children Still at Risk of Abuse in Jersey

 

Haut de la GarenneThe Independent Jersey Care Inquiry report, released yesterday, has recommended that Haut de la Garenne children’s home in Jersey be demolished. Many survivors reported decades of abuse there such as live electrical wires applied to children’s legs, children being beaten with nettles and having their heads dunked in cold water. The Inquiry confirmed that the States of Jersey had “proved to be an ineffectual and neglectful substitute parent”.

Whilst the focus of the Inquiry was the awful acts which took place at Haut de la Garenne, a number of other incidents also came to light. Findings of assault, bullying and slavery at the Sacré Coeur Orphanage also in Jersey led to a call for witnesses from the Inquiry panel.

The Inquiry report found that the welfare of vulnerable children had been “low on the list” of Jersey’s priorities and unsuitable people were appointed to management roles. The Inquiry found that many of Jersey’s leaders were more concerned about preserving the “Jersey way”, rather than upholding the standard of care provided to its most helpless children.

Survivors have described the abuse they were subjected to and how they were too scared to report the abuse to authorities at the time. Many were sexually, physically or psychologically abused and still struggle with the effects to this day.

What is most chilling is that the Inquiry has identified that children may still be still at risk in Jersey. The Inquiry found “Young people currently in the care system told us that they feel that they have no effective mechanism for making representations or raising concerns. They told us that they are not being listened to.”

Various recommendations have been made, including the appointment of a commissioner for children to safeguard independent oversight of the interests of children and young people in Jersey and the introduction of an effective complaints system overseen by a children’s rights officer. Jersey’s chief minister, Senator Ian Gorst, apologised to the victims. He said “I accept every recommendation and pledge to build a new culture: one which puts children first every time.”

The future must be for Jersey to embrace the Inquiry report, and for politicians to push through its recommendations. The measures described will go some way to ensuring that these serious failings of the past are not repeated.

Helen Horne is a member of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers and has considerable experience of representing survivors of abuse. If you or someone you know has been affected by childhood abuse, please contact Helen for advice on helen.horne@enablelaw.com or call her on 03303 116773.