Page last updated at 08:06 GMT, Friday, 1 August 2008 09:06 UK

Jersey chief confident on inquiry

Police officer at former home Haut de la Garenne
A former care home has been at the centre of a major police investigation

Jersey's attorney general says he is confident the island's judicial system can deliver justice in alleged cases of historical child abuse.

Some critics have voiced concerns about whether the island can deal with the scale and nature of the inquiry.

But William Bailhache told the BBC that although the inquiry process could be a difficult and slow process, "it's more important that justice be done".

Police are investigating abuse claims dating from the early 1960s to 1986.

There are currently more than 80 suspects in the inquiry, focused on the Haut de la Garenne former children's home, but just three people have been charged so far.


Mr Bailhache told BBC Radio 4's Today that people on a small island were particularly aware of the need to investigate the claims properly.

Lenny Harper
The only intervention that most of them seemed to have made is to criticise the investigation
Lenny Harper, Deputy Chief Officer

"The delivery of justice is an objective process, and it's difficult sometimes for those who are caught up in the sort of process, to understand all the ramifications of how it works.

"One can feel sorry for that, but it's more important that justice should be done."

He added: "We've been delivering justice in this island for centuries and I don't see how this makes any difference."

Labour MP Austin Mitchell has called on the UK government to intervene and take over prosecutions, because of the scale of the inquiry and its long history.

Witnesses have also expressed concern about delays in the process.

Deputy Chief Officer Lenny Harper, who is leading the investigation, said he thought many on the island would support Mr Mitchell's proposal, but added that the island's parliament had not been supportive.

"What has made this significantly different, in my perception, from many similar inquiries of this nature I've been involved with before is the political hostility that it has engendered," he said.


"Politicians who one would normally think should be crawling over themselves to offer support to the inquiry and the victims - with a very few notable exceptions that hasn't happened here.

"The only intervention that most of them seemed to have made is to criticise the investigation," he added.

"They've made comments about us being out of control because we think we're a politically independent organisation - which always struck me as the very backbone of proper policing."

'Valuable evidence'

Mr Harper said on Thursday that a murder inquiry might never take place, despite the discovery of the remains of at least five children at Haut de la Garenne .

Mr Harper said the possibility of an inquiry had been hampered because an exact date could not be put on the remains.

However, he said a number of valuable pieces of evidence had been found which "substantially corroborate" accounts of abuse at the home and he also stressed no final decisions on the inquiry had been made.

Jersey Police started an exploratory search of the home and made their first significant discovery on 23 February, finding what they believed to be a skull fragment.

It came two years after the start of a covert investigation into abuse following allegations by former residents.

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