Page last updated at 07:22 GMT, Sunday, 9 March 2008

Rally in Jersey over abuse claims

Jersey rally
People were asked to bring daffodils as a symbol of hope

A rally has taken place in Jersey to highlight concerns at the way authorities have handled claims of abuse at a former children's home.

Police say 100 people claim to have been abused at Haut de la Garenne, where a child's remains were found.

The States of Jersey's chief minister, Frank Walker, has denied any cover-up in tackling the allegations.

Meanwhile, police have released photographs of the examination of a cellar at the former home.

The rally, which was also billed as a vigil for the alleged victims, was organised by a group calling itself Time for Change.

It comes after revelations about historic child abuse at Haut de la Garenne and other care institutions in Jersey.

'Political class'

There have been allegations of a "cover-up" by the local authorities but police say there is no evidence to support them.

Rally organiser Nick le Cornu said the rally was being held to break the "culture of silence" and to urge political change.

He called for judges from the UK to conduct an independent inquiry into the handling of the abuse claims.

The culture of silence prevents people from actually speaking and telling the truth
Nick le Cornu,
Rally organiser

He told the BBC: "This crisis indicts the whole political class on this island.

"The culture of silence prevents people from actually speaking and telling the truth, and saying how they feel about their government and the kind of government we should have."

Mr Walker said that "whilst it is good for those deeply affected by recent events to have an opportunity to express their emotions, it is clear by the exceedingly low turnout in the Royal Square... that the Jersey public recognised that organisers were attempting to use this tragedy to their own political advantage.

"My hope is that the people of Jersey will now come together to fully support the police investigation and the victims.

"We need to bring the guilty to justice and to care for all those whose lives have been damaged by their treatment in the past."

Whiteboard at the rally
Boards were available for people to write views on

Up to 300 people gathered outside the States of Jersey building in the capital St Helier.

Many of the crowd were wearing daffodils in their lapels as a sign of hope, while being angry and shocked at alleged abuse at Haut de la Garenne.

White boards were positioned in the square for people to air their views on. Among many calls for resignations, there were expressions of shock at the alleged abuse.

Giffard Oubin, now 73, told the crowd how he was beaten and bullied by the older boys at the home during the 1940s.

He told BBC News the older boys were supposed to be looking after them in return for free board and lodging, and he was "one of the vulnerable ones they picked on".

"They used to wrap wires round our legs and attach them to a generator and give us electric shocks," he said.

"We were given numbers instead of names and if we got ill we were sent to the boot room and beaten."

He said the punishments were "for nothing at all" and "it was just to give them kicks".

Roy le Hérissier, a States of Jersey deputy, said of the rally: "I don't think it will change things immediately, but I think it will have an impact.

"Because I think what it shows is that the ordinary people of Jersey are pretty angry about what has gone on."

Examination of the cellar
A forensic specialist examined the cellar at Haut de la Garenne

The police search at Haut de la Garenne has entered its third week.

Officers have finished clearing rubble from the first cellar.

Sniffer dogs detected two spots of what is said to be human blood and police hope to extract a DNA profile.

The police investigation, which began covertly in 2006, led to the discovery of part of a child's skull last month in a stairwell at the back of the building.

The remains are thought to date from the early 1980s. Police have not said whether they are male or female.

Some 25 people are suspected of having taken part in sexual and physical assaults at the home dating back to the 1960s.

Investigators say there are more than 40 suspects in the inquiry overall and 262 more phone calls relating to allegations of abuse are still being processed.

The children's home closed in 1986 and was later converted into a youth hostel.

video and audio news
Footage of forensic teams inside the former care home

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