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Page last updated at 09:48 GMT, Friday, 1 August 2008 10:48 UK
Hopes of justice on Jersey

By Sanchia Berg
Today programme

"It's the Jersey way," says one man.

"One big cover up 'cos everyone knows everyone. To them, that kind of thing - rape and so-on - doesn't happen in Jersey. Well, it does."

This man I spoke to - who wanted to remain anonymous - had lived in Haut de la Garenne as a boy.
Police picture of teams working in cellars
Police have been investigating abuse at Haut de la Garenne

As the investigations at the old children's home on Jersey wind down, police hope the mass of grisly evidence they have amassed will lead to prosecutions.

Others are not so confident. One Jersey senator and a British MP have begun legal action against Justice Secretary Jack Straw over the prosecution of historic child abuse cases on the island.

Stuart Syvret and MP John Hemming want the UK government to intervene, and ensure any cases are tried outside Jersey. They claim that the scale of the inquiry is such that the legal system cannot guarantee a fair trial free of conflicts of interest.

This follows a Commons motion tabled by the MP Austin Mitchell, calling on the British government to step in.

It's difficult for people outside sometimes to understand. In a small place you are particularly aware of the need to behave properly
Attorney General William Bailhache

Jersey police currently have over 80 suspects: 18 cases are well advanced. In the Jersey system, the police investigating the case do not have the right to charge and prosecute. The responsibility lies with the attorney general and the honorary police who answer to him. They have charged three people.

Jersey's Attorney General William Bailhache told me that the Jersey system had been delivering justice for centuries and he was confident it would do so in these cases - and that while he empathised with the victims and understood they would be anxious over the question of delay, it was more important cases were properly assessed.

Independent appointment

So far 10 UK MPs have signed Austin Mitchell's motion calling on the British government to intervene, because they doubt the islands judicial system can deal with the inquiry.

Mr Bailhache said: "It's difficult for people outside sometimes to understand. In a small place you are particularly aware of the need to behave properly.

"To behave appropriately to have the integrity to take decisions that need to be taken. It's no good trying to drawn up a code of practice for everything because the circumstances are too wide.

"But one does have to be aware of these positions and as far as I'm concerned personally it is sometimes the case that I have had to consider the prosecution of politicians, of ministers, and I've done that.

"And as attorney general I have an independent appointment which certainly gives me the comfort of knowing I can take those decisions fearlessly and to the extent that they come to be taken in this case I intend to do that."

He said he would be happy to answer questions from MPs who were concerned.

"The truth of the matter is that we've delivering justice on this island for centuries and I don't see that this is going to make any difference to it," he said.

A statement from the Jersey government insisted it had given full support and unlimited resources to the police inquiry and would continue to do so until processes are completed.

Lenny Haper
What has made this one significantly different from my perception and from any similar enquiries of this nature that I've been involved in before is the political hostility that it has engendered from amongst politicians who one would normally think would be crawling over themselves to offer support to the inquiry and the victims
Lenny Harper

But many of the witnesses say they have personal confidence in Lenny Harper, the police chief who's been leading the inquiry, rather than the Jersey state. He will be retiring in a matter of days.

Danni Jarman, who as a young girl was abused in the care system, has been helping organise a new association for Jersey care leavers.

"I know, on behalf of the careleavers, they would like Lenny to stay on. But as far we we know he hasn't even been asked if he'd like to stay on.

"When he goes we think it will all be swept under the carpet basically."

Few notable exceptions

Lenny Harper told me he sympathised - and that police officers everywhere complained of lawyers taking a long time to assess cases.

But recently, his officers had arrested two people after taking advice from a lawyer appointed by the attorney general - then had to release them after that lawyer revised his advice.

That was according to a press statement the police released that night.

The next day the attorney general issued his own press statement saying that he had taken no part in the decision, and, while appointed by him, the lawyer was independent. Lenny Harper said that incident had unsettled witnesses and declined to comment further.

But he did criticise the politicians in Jersey - saying it was their attitude which had made this inquiry so difficult.

"What has made this one significantly different from my perception and from any similar enquiries of this nature that I've been involved in before is the political hostility that it has engendered from amongst politicians who one would normally think would be crawling over themselves to offer support to the inquiry and the victims.

"And with a very few notable exceptions, that hasn't happened here.

"On the contrary the only interventions most of them seem to have made is to criticise the investigation, to make comments about us being out of control - because we're acting as if we think we're a politically independent organisation, which always struck me as the very backbone of proper policing."


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