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Page last updated at 14:53 GMT, Thursday, 13 November 2008

Jersey chief was 'under pressure'

Lenny Harper
Lenny Harper said his former boss was an 'outstanding' officer

Jersey's suspended police chief was under "day-to-day" political pressure, the former head of the investigation into child abuse allegations has said.

Lenny Harper said Jersey's Chief Officer Graham Power battled for three years against political interference.

The Jersey government suspended Mr Power after a new inquiry team said there was no evidence of murders at ex-children's home Haut de la Garenne.

Mr Harper, now retired, also defended his own handling of the investigation.

'Extensive coverage'

On Wednesday, the Jersey government suspended the island's Chief Officer Mr Power - formerly Mr Harper's boss.

Jersey's Deputy Chief Officer, David Warcup, expressed "much regret" at "misleading" information released by Mr Harper.

He said that there was no evidence that children had been murdered or bodies destroyed at the home.

Mr Harper, who led the two-year inquiry into Haut de la Garenne before retiring, said: "Graham Power has fought a three-year battle to stop the day-to-day interference in the running of the police service and has been under extreme pressure as a result of that.

"He's an outstanding Chief Officer who has been praised by a number of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Constabulary."

Abuse investigation

The investigation into child abuse allegations at Haut de la Garenne is still ongoing.

So far scores of people have come forward to say they were abused at the home between the early 1960s and 1986.

Two people have been arrested and face child abuse charges in relation to events at the home.

Mr Harper told BBC News that the conclusion there were no murders at the home would not damage the ongoing abuse investigation.

FROM THE TODAY PROGRAMME

"If the case papers for the cases, which are going through the courts, are looked at now there is not a mention of teeth, bones or anything that was found at Haut de la Garenne. We never made the link," he said.

"It never manages to damage investigations in the United Kingdom when there's extensive media coverage, and it was the same here."

Mr Harper said he simply did not know whether there were any children murdered at Haut de la Garenne.

"The short answer is we'll never know what the situation was in there. Undoubtedly we found children's teeth in there, and we found human remains in there," he said.

FROM THE TODAY PROGRAMME

Mr Harper added: "What I have said is that we didn't know if anyone was murdered at the home or not, and that is the subtle difference, and I don't think we still know."

Mr Harper denied that he had been too speculative in public, resulting in incorrect stories appearing in the media.

"It's very odd isn't it how being co-operative and open and transparent turns into being too gung-ho," he said.

"If you speak to the victims it was the publicity, it was the ongoing reassurance to the victims that we weren't going to go away, that we were going to see this through to an end, that led to many many traumatised people coming forward, and they're still saying that.

"If you go out and speak to these victims, they are still saying that the only reason that they came forward was because of the transparency of our investigation."

'Losing credibility'

Jersey Senator Stuart Syvret said many questions remain unanswered, and that those claiming they were abused found the latest developments hard to cope with.

"I have been growing increasingly concerned that the whole abuse inquiry process has been losing credibility," he said.

However, solicitor Alan Collins, who is acting for more than 25 of the alleged abuse victims, said the findings had done nothing to diminish his confidence in the cases he was preparing on behalf of his clients.

"None of my clients have ever suggested there was any murders there," he said.

Jersey Police launched an investigation into the Haut de la Garenne site, which was more recently a youth hostel, in 2006.

The inquiry became public in February 2008 when officers said they had found what was believed to be part of a child's skull. Following expert examination, police now say the item was a piece of Victorian coconut shell.



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