Page last updated at 14:25 GMT, Monday, 19 May 2008 15:25 UK

Jersey probe criticism dismissed

Jersey home search
Police teams excavated cellar rooms in Haut de la Garenne

The senior officer in an inquiry into allegations of child abuse at a former Jersey children's home has defended his decision to withhold information.

The discovery of what was thought to be part of a child's skull at Haut de la Garenne sparked a huge police search.

Deputy Chief Officer Lenny Harper said he thought disclosing later suspicion that the fragment was not bone would "distract from the inquiry".

Meanwhile, police confirmed some bone fragments found at the home were human.

'Distract attention'

So far, six milk teeth and 20 bone fragments have been found at the former children's home - some of which are human. These are currently being DNA tested and carbon dated.

Jersey police also said attempts may have been made to burn the bones.

The findings are a breakthrough for police but come amid criticism from parts of the media.

The Mail on Sunday, which claimed tests showed the bone thought to be part of a skull was not human, accused the police of deliberately hiding the information to avoid a "media row".

But in an interview with the BBC, Mr Harper insisted the police had always been transparent.

He said he had been told at the end of April that the fragment could still be "poorly preserved human bone".

I made the decision in good faith and our priority is for the victims in these cases
Lenny Harper, deputy chief police officer

"Over the next few days we had a number of communications saying 'We do not think it's bone, but if it is, it is very old bone,' but at that time we had ruled the bone out of the inquiry," he said.

He said it had been his decision "rightly or wrongly" not to release the information because he did not want to distract attention from the inquiry.

"We did not want to get pulled into a debate between experts about whether this item had anything to do with the inquiry," he added.

"We have always been transparent with the information we have.

"I just did not think that the information was relevant to the inquiry and thought it would distract from it.

"The irony is that it is distracting from it now and that's something I have got to accept.

"I made the decision in good faith and our priority is for the victims in these cases and that's the basis on which the decision was made."

More than 160 people who spent time at the home have come forward with claims of abuse between the early 1960s and 1986 when the home closed.

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