Page last updated at 09:52 GMT, Friday, 16 May 2008 10:52 UK

Children's home was 'like prison'

Haut de la Garenne
Police are investigating claims of child abuse at the former home

Haut de la Garenne, the former Jersey children's home where fragments of a skull have been found, was like a prison, one former resident has claimed.

Chris, whose name has been changed, went to Haut de la Garenne for two years during the 1960s.

He was eight-years-old and his parents' marriage had collapsed.

He said it was common for staff to randomly hit children as they were walking down corridors.

He also claims caning was commonplace and elder children could be put into isolation for up to 24-hours.

"It wasn't a children's home, it was a children's prison," he told BBC News.

Visits allowed

He said his father was allowed to visit him at weekends, but leaving the site without permission would lead to a caning.

Children were from different backgrounds, with offenders and non-offenders sharing the same accommodation.

Chris said: "If you were walking down a corridor and a member of staff was coming the other way you got a slap round the head, just for being there.

You saw them the next day, all black and blue...
Chris, not his real name
"I still flinch now when someone slaps me on the head, even in a friendly way."

The effect of the regime meant children looked after each other, he said.

"When I went there I was quite green, but one of the older children befriended me," he said.

That boy was found some years later hanging from a tree in the Trinity after apparently committing suicide, he said.

"That was the most harrowing experience for me at Haut de la Garenne.

"He was being abused at home and he couldn't take it any more.

Haut de la Garenne
Fragments of a child's skull were found inside the former children's home
"The authorities didn't look after him like they should have."

He added: "I came out unscathed, but I would like to see justice done for those that were really badly treated there.

"I heard about a lot of kids who got pretty good kickings.

"You saw them the next day, all black and blue."

There were some staff who tried to make life easier for the children and there were days out and trips to the seaside, he said.

'Taken aback'

"We had a housemistress who was really nice to the kids.

"She was only young, in her 20s.

"But I knew she was really upset with the way things were and she left after four months."

Nevertheless, the discovery of the skull fragments last weekend took him aback.

"When I heard I said it was not surprised, but inwardly I was quite shocked.

"I just hope they don't find any more," he said.

I hope justice is done for all the children who were at Haut de la Garenne
Former resident 'Chris'
He said that on two occasions children went missing and the other children were told they had "gone back home".

He said: "I don't really know what to make of it now.

"It makes you wonder if they knew more than that."

He said his experience had made him determined not to allow his own children, two boys aged 19 and 25, to go into care on the island when he got divorced 14 years ago.

"I fought for my kids," he said.

"There's no way I would let the authorities get their hands on my children, because of what I know."

He added: "I hope justice is done for all the children who were at Haut de la Garenne."

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A sniffer dog searching the grounds of the home

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