Top cop Lenny Harper hits out at legal failings in Jersey abuse probe
'My frustration at treatment of Jersey abuse case victims'
Published 27/08/2008 | 09:21
The top police officer who headed up the Jersey child murder and abuse investigation has spoken of his anger and frustration at not being able to get justice for the victims before he retired.
Ulsterman Lenny Harper, who found the remains of five children in a former care home on the island, said he had hoped the investigation would have been almost complete by the time of his retirement earlier this month.
But he has admitted that it could possibly take years for it to reach any sort of satisfactory conclusion.
The Londonderry man also hit out at the channel island’s Attorney General and his office saying they are held in “total contempt” by victims of child abuse after repeatedly failing to bring offenders to justice.
“I am very frustrated the investigation is not as advanced as I had hoped but I am extremely frustrated at the way the victims are being treated by the Attorney General,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.
“He (the Attorney General) tried to reprimand me for speaking out when two suspects were released without charge.
“The victims were ringing up and giving the victims’ liaison people a very hard time.
“I put a press release out to show it was not our position and try to recover some of the creditability I felt we had lost with the victims.
“The Attorney General took exception to that and tried to reprimand me. I was so angry,” he said.
Mr Harper added: “The Attorney General and his office are scaring off witnesses. The Attorney General can be in no doubt that the victims in this case hold him in contempt. I am not saying I do, but the victims do.”
The former Jersey Deputy Police Chief, who hit the international headlines in February when he launched one of Britain's biggest child abuse inquiries in recent years, said he has mixed feelings about leaving Jersey while the investigation is still ongoing.
More than 100 former residents at the former care home Haut de la Garenne — which has been dubbed the ‘house of horrors’ — have alleged that they were physically and sexually abused.
Forensic teams uncovered secret underground chambers which some victims referred to as "punishment rooms" where they were kept in solitary confinement, drugged, beaten and raped.
They found the partial remains of five children as well as a bloodstained bath and shackles.
“The job is not completely over. It could finish in six months or it could take another two years but the investigation being carried out by Jersey and UK police officers is first class and they will continue fighting for justice for the victims. I am glad to be retired, it has been difficult at times in Jersey, but I am also very sad at leaving behind the people I was working with,” said the 56 year-old.
As well as the pressure of dealing with the harrowing child abuse investigation Mr Harper, who has now moved to Ayrshire in Scotland with his wife, also had to deal with “corrupt former cops” who he claimed tried to discredit him and the investigation.
He was also forced to step up security at his home on the island for a time following threats that his house would be burned down if he launched an investigation into corruption in the police force.
But he said that overwhelming support from the public helped drive him on.
“In the days before my retirement I was getting a huge number of messages from victims and members of the public.
“Throughout this investigation I have had people pleading with me to keep on talking out and telling the truth.
“In fact, I got a letter this morning from a man who lived on the island all his life and he said what a pleasure it was to see a truly professional police officer not being influenced by politicians in Jersey like so many had before,” Mr Harper said.
He added: “I have had dozens of people approach me in the street as well.
“I recently went to a game at Old Trafford and outside at the turnstile someone tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘You don’t know me but I am from Jersey’, and he shook my hand and wished me a long and healthy life.
“This sort of thing makes all the hassle and grief worthwhile.”