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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 February 2008, 21:17 GMT
Jersey 'abuse cover-up' is denied
Police searches at Haut de la Garenne
Beneath special tents, police are trying to access a bricked-up cellar

Jersey's chief minister has pledged "there is no hiding place" for child abusers on the island.

Frank Walker has denied a cover-up and told island senators that anyone who abused children or colluded with abuse would be pursued.

Ex-minister, Senator Stuart Syvret, has claimed previous abuses were mishandled and urged the UK government to use independent judges for any court case.

A search of the grounds of a former children's home has been suspended.

In a statement made to the States of Jersey - the equivalent of the UK's parliament - Mr Walker spoke of a "dark cloud" hanging over the island, following news that police were investigating 27 cases of child-abuse.

'Shock and horror'

He promised "all necessary resources" would be made available to the investigation, and anyone found to have abused children were "identified and prosecuted".

Mr Walker said: "None of us imagined that children in Jersey could be abused and mistreated in the way that is being suggested.

"I express my shock and horror that these things have apparently happened within our island."

The overriding concern of the establishment is the image of Jersey
Senator Stuart Syvret

Mr Walker and other leading members of the Jersey government have been criticised by former island Health Minister, Senator Stuart Syvret, who accused them of mishandling previous instances of child abuse.

At a press conference, Senator Syvret brandished a report commissioned by Jersey's Education Committee into an incident of child abuse at an island school in the 1990s.

He said: "This shows we can't rely on prosecutions to happen when necessary

"The overriding concern of the establishment is the image of Jersey - to prosecute people would be apocalyptically bad for the Jersey establishment."

He has urged the UK Justice Minister, Jack Straw, to appoint independent British judges and prosecutors for any civil or criminal cases which arise from the investigation.

Senator Syvret said he had send documents to Mr Straw to ask him to ensure that the traditional dual roles of law-maker and judge to be separate in Jersey.

Senator Syvret's previous allegations that island authorities ignored evidence of abuse of children in its care have been vehemently denied by the Jersey government.

A spokesman said a formal response Senator Syvret's latest charges would be made later.

Special helpline

Meanwhile police investigators at the Haut de la Garenne home in St Martin have temporarily suspended their operation to seek advice from a structural engineer about gaining access to a section of the home.

"The States of Jersey Police would like to emphasise that all that has been recovered so far from the site are the partial remains of what is believed to have been a child," said a spokesman.

A special service of prayers has been held for the victims of Haut de la Garenne.

The service was lead by the Dean of Jersey, the Very Reverend Bob Key, at Gouray Church, in Gouray.

He said: "The service is to pray for the peace of all those who are scarred by the tragic events of the past."

Officers have been focusing their attention on a bricked-up cellar of the building, which now serves as a Youth Hostel, after the remains of a child were discovered at the weekend.

Six more "sites of interest" have been identified nearby.

Police were alerted to the site during their investigation into child abuse allegations stemming from the time when the building was a home for children with behaviour problems.

A special helpline set up by the NSPCC at the request of the police has received 63 calls from adults claiming to have been abused as children on the island.

Stuart Syvret
Stuart Syvret says abuse allegations have been ignored on Jersey

So far, 27 of those cases have been referred to the authorities for investigation.

Jersey's deputy police chief, Lenny Harper, has said officers are investigating why so many complaints were not dealt with in the past.

Mr Harper said: "Part of the inquiry will be the fact that a lot of the victims tried to report their assaults but for some reason or another they were not dealt with as they should be.

"We are looking at allegations that a number of agencies didn't deal with things as perhaps they should."

He said that so far his officers had uncovered "no evidence of a cover-up of any Jersey government".

In 2006, Jersey Police began investigating allegations of abuse in the 1960s, 70s and 80s of boys and girls aged between 11 and 15.

Police say it is vital that any alleged victims still unidentified contact the incident room as soon as possible, on 0800 735 7777.

There is also an NSPCC helpline on 0800 169 1173 within Jersey, or + 44 (0)20 7825 7489 from outside.

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