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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 December 2007, 18:01 GMT
Investigating Jersey's 'abuse' history

By Robert Hall
BBC News

Children in silhouette
Police have asked any other alleged victims to contact them

A police investigation in Jersey has highlighted alleged physical and sexual abuse against children dating back to the 1960s.

The current focus is a children's care home where attacks may have taken place over three decades.

On a hilltop near Jersey's east coast, the buildings are familiar as a setting for the BBC's Bergerac series.

But, after 12 months of covert investigation, detectives believe the former Haut de la Garenne care home may have had a more sinister past.

Built at the turn of the 20th Century, Haut de La Garenne served as a school and as an orphanage, before becoming part of Jersey's childcare provision.

Until its closure in the 1980s, it housed up to 60 young people with special needs.

Jersey Police, following up a series of convictions for sexual offences involving officers from the island's Sea Cadet Corps, say they began to notice links between victims in those cases, and a number of island institutions, including Haut de la Garenne.

Deputy Chief Officer Lenny Harper told me that since deciding to reveal the operation, his officers have received over 100 calls and e-mails.

From those contacts they have identified more than 70 alleged victims, and at least 20 suspects.

Faced with such a major inquiry, Jersey has requested specialist help from the UK.

In the Incident Room, one local officer, Rachel Hart told me that many callers were distraught, others angry that complaints at the time had not been heeded.

'Not dealt with'

"They find it difficult to trust us," she said, "but I make it clear to them that this time we are taking any allegations very seriously."

Lenny Harper, who recalls similar inquiries in both the UK and Northern Ireland, says he believes these alleged offences span at least three decades.

The allegations range "from pretty severe physical and mental abuse right through to the most serious sexual crimes that you can imagine", he said.

"We will of course be looking to see if there are any criminal implications into why these matters weren't dealt with, and why they weren't brought before the courts."

Police say it is vital that any alleged victims still unidentified contact the Incident Room as soon as possible, on 0800 7357777.

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Jersey police on the allegations



SEE ALSO
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28 Nov 07 |  Jersey

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