Page last updated at 16:20 GMT, Thursday, 21 August 2008 17:20 UK

Jersey's legal system criticised

By Louise Hubball
News correspondent, BBC South West

Lenny Harper
Lenny Harper said the authorities had "moved the goalposts"

The detective who led the historic child abuse inquiry in Jersey has strongly attacked the way the island's legal system is handling the scandal.

In an exclusive interview with the BBC, Lenny Harper, who retired from the States of Jersey Police earlier this month, blamed "inexplicable delays and decisions" by the States of Jersey lawyers for some cases failing to reach court.

Mr Harper has now left the island, but before his retirement he led the major police investigation into child abuse within Jersey's care system from the early 1960s to 1986.

So far, three people have been charged in connection with the inquiry, focused on the Haut de la Garenne former children's home, and there are more than 80 other people being investigated by police.

Lenny Harper talking exclusively to Louise Hubball
Lenny Harper talking exclusively to Louise Hubball

Police have found 65 milk teeth and more than 100 bone fragments at the site.

Mr Harper said his officers had to wait "months and months" for decisions, and the decision making process for prosecutors in Jersey seemed to be, "whenever, wherever".

Describing repeated delays in the legal process, he said there were a number of occasion where officers felt "the goalposts were being moved".

"If it hadn't have been for what I would see as inexplicable delays and decisions, then yes more people would be before the courts at the moment I believe," he said.

Mr Harper also claimed the legal hierarchy in Jersey was "absolutely held in contempt by the vast majority of victims".

He paid tribute to the performance of the police team, but said the delays in dealing with prosecutions has resulted in victims not being given the service they deserved.

Haut de la Garenne
Bone and teeth fragments have been found at Haut de la Garenne

William Bailhache, Jersey's Attorney General, said that while he could not comment on individual cases, of the six files which had been sent to his office three had resulted in charges, two were under review and one was still the subject of police inquiries.

Mr Harper's criticisms follow a bid for a judicial review which was launched at the High Court last week.

A campaign group, set up by the UKs Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming and Senator Stuart Syvret from Jersey, says it does not have confidence in the way the island's authorities have handled the investigation.

It wants a judicial review of what it has called the "failure" of UK ministers to "enforce the rule of law".

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said it could not comment while legal proceedings were ongoing.

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