Belfast Telegraph

Jersey abuse victims vindicated, insists Northern Ireland man Harper who headed probe

By Staff Reporter

A former detective from Northern Ireland has said an independent inquiry into child abuse represents a "vindication" for the survivors and victims.

Lenny Harper, former deputy chief officer, said there were not many encouraging remarks from the panel to indicate further abuse could not happen in Jersey's child care system.

The Londonderry man is the former senior investigating officer on Jersey police's inquiry into child abuse.

The former RUC detective hit the headlines in 2008 when he headed an inquiry into abuse at Haut de la Garenne children's home - dubbed the House of Horrors - and faced a series of criticisms from leading political figures and other police officers.

Despite the attacks, evidence of widespread abuse at the home was discovered and seven people were eventually convicted.

On Monday, a long-awaited report into historical abuse and mistreatment of youngsters in care on the island recommended the Haut de la Garenne children's home should be demolished. Hundreds of crimes were carried out against vulnerable children there over decades before it was shut in the 1980s.

The £23 million inquiry, chaired by Frances Oldham QC, found failings still existed in Jersey's child care systems and "lessons of the past have not been learned".

Mr Harper told the BBC: "It doesn't surprise me that the conclusion is that children in Jersey could still be at risk because there has been a complete and utter lack of willingness by the political establishment in Jersey to accept that this abuse was, in fact, their responsibility.

"The panel have highlighted how there was a total and utter lack of political will, and lack of political action - just a lack of appetite throughout to take any responsibility pertaining to the welfare of children.

"Children were abandoned within the system. I think the phrase was used at one stage, they were left as prisoners of the system and they were terrorised and abused."

Foster carers reported the service was failing, care orders were being used inappropriately and children in care reported no effective system to raise concerns.

The 832-page report detailed a catalogue of abuse from the mid-1940s onwards, and that persistent failures existed at all levels in the management, operation and governance of Jersey's children's homes for decades.

The inquiry heard evidence of a "Jersey Way" that involved the protection of powerful interests, and a culture of fear that deterred whistleblowers.

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