NEWS
03/07/2017 18:23 BST | Updated 03/07/2017 21:01 BST

Jersey's 'House Of Horrors' Children's Home Should Be Demolished, Inquiry Says

The Haut de la Garenne children's home in Jersey should be demolished, a long-awaited report into historical abuse and mistreatment of youngsters in care on the island has recommended.

The home, dubbed "the house of horrors", was where hundreds of crimes were carried out against vulnerable children over decades before it was shut in the 1980s.

As a three-year, £23 million inquiry reported its findings, its recommendations included the demolition of the buildings, which represented a "symbol of the turmoil and trauma" suffered by victims.

The inquiry, chaired by Frances Oldham QC, found failings still existed in Jersey's child care systems and "lessons of the past have not been learned".

Foster carers reported the service was failing, care orders were being used inappropriately and children in care still reported no effective system to raise concerns.

The 832-page report detailed a catalogue of abuse from the mid-1940s onwards, and that persistent failures existed at all levels in the management, operation and governance of Jersey's children's homes for decades.

The inquiry heard evidence of a "Jersey Way" that involved the protection of powerful interests, and a culture of fear that deterred whistleblowers.

At a news conference, Jersey's chief minister, Senator Ian Gorst, said the report delivered "cold, hard, brutal truths" as he apologised for the failings in the island's institutions.

Mr Gorst told reporters: "We failed children who needed our care, who needed to be protected and listened to. Too often children were not believed. Unpalatable truths were swept under the carpet because it was the easiest thing to do."

Lawyers for abuse survivors said the report highlighted serious issues on child protection that still need to be addressed by the States of Jersey, lawmakers and politicians.

Alan Collins, of Hugh James solicitors, which represents survivors from the Jersey Care Leavers' Association, said: "The report comprehensively addresses a series of issues that were a concern, and in many cases remain to be so."

The report said the States of Jersey was an "ineffectual and neglectful substitute parent" for children already at a disadvantage in life.

The inquiry also found that some children were put into care without a lawful basis, including for petty theft and for being rude.

It found that children, some of whom suffered physical and sexual abuse, were "effectively abandoned in the care system" and "left powerless for decades".

The report said there was a long absence of political and professional will in Jersey to monitor care standards, and that until the 1990s there was no system to report abuse.

The report also detailed how:

:: Secure rooms were used routinely and excessively against children

:: Many victims felt unable to speak out through fear of not being believed

:: There was a failure to value, listen to and nurture children in the care system

In one residential home, La Preference, which was originally run by the Vegetarian Society from 1951 to 1984, children taken in during that period had to adopt a vegetarian diet. Only one inspection took place there, in 1981.

At Haut de la Garenne, the mix of ill-equipped staff and lack of training was compounded by a "toxic mix" of personalities who meted out or tolerated harsh treatment of children.

Paedophile Jimmy Savile was implicated in the home's past, with an allegation received by police in 2008 that an indecent assault occurred there in the 1970s. It was decided there was insufficient evidence to proceed.

The report said: "In summary, we have found a worrying history of both inappropriate and ineffectual state intervention and state indifference.

"Children have, at times, been removed from families without a statutory basis or for seemingly inconsequential reasons."

The inquiry found that at least up to the late 1980s and early 1990s, some children were "effectively abandoned in the care system".

"When a child left the care system in their mid-teens, they were often again abandoned without adequate aftercare to make their own way in the world," it went on.

Three phases of hearings were held in public between 2014 and 2016, with more than 200 witnesses giving evidence directly and the evidence of a further 450 ex-residents and others linked to the care system also considered.

In December 2010 the island's then chief minister Terry Le Sueur issued a formal apology to all victims.

The apology followed the end of an investigation by the States of Jersey Police, codenamed Operation Rectangle, into historical child sexual, emotional and physical abuse in institutions.

The probe reported 553 alleged offences between September 2007 and December 2010 and most, 315, were reported to have been committed at Haut de la Garenne.

Police identified 151 named offenders and 192 victims but just eight people were prosecuted for 145 offences, with seven convictions.

Four of them related to Haut de la Garenne.

The probe left the reputation of the island's police tarnished, with claims of murders at Haut de la Garenne made in 2008 later discredited after a piece of "skull" was found to be coconut, and as what had been called "punishment rooms" where children were tortured were found to be too small for an adult to stand up in.