‘No credible evidence’ as whistle-blowers are cleared again

warsama letterhead 640Experts have dismissed serious criticisms of the whistle-blowers who triggered investigations into sex abuse on St Helena.

Their professional body in London has declared there was “no credible evidence” that the two social workers were unfit to practise.

The finding renews questions about the way Claire Gannon and Martin Warsama had been publicly denounced in documents published by St Helena Government.

Attorney general Nicola Moore had issued a statement saying they had acted unprofessionally in an adoption case, without providing evidence for the claim. Later, SHG published a judge’s damning suspicions about their conduct – but two months after a criminal investigation cleared them.

Ms Moore also announced that evidence was being passed to their professional body – a matter that would normally be confidential.

The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) has now found they had acted in the best interests of a child in the adoption case, and followed recognised good practice.

warsama letter no evidence 640
Mr Warsama said: “It was clearly rubbish and our governing body have reviewed all the information, and believe me these people are not biased toward practitioners.”

He has repeatedly stated his belief that he and Ms Gannon were being “punished” for alleging the St Helena authorities had failed to investigate sex abuse cases – some involving child victims.

“Basically we whistle-blew and the whole establishment tried to destroy us,” said Mr Warsama.

He said he and Ms Gannon had been unable to take up secure jobs in UK social work while threats of criminal prosecution and a professional fitness hearing hung over them.

They told the UK’s Daily Telegraph of living under enormous strain.

In November 2014, the UK Foreign Secretary announced an independent inquiry into their allegations of cover-ups of abuse cases, and into the governance of the island. Sasha Wass QC was expected to publish her findings before the end of 2015.

The complaint to the HCPC was made after an eight-month investigation failed to secure clear evidence of criminal conduct by the two UK social workers in the adoption case, which was not related to the alleged sex abuse issues.

It was launched after Judge Charles Ekins said he suspected they had withheld case files. He urged a review of the papers by an independent lawyer to see whether anyone had committed perjury – a serious crime that can carry a long prison term.

The attorney general’s statement in February 2015 said evidence from a later police investigation was reviewed “by a second independent counsel, appointed as Public Prosecutor of St Helena specifically to undertake this task.

“Counsel concluded that some of the actions of the suspected persons were ill-advised, unprofessional and showed poor judgment but that there was insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction.”

But the HCPC’s letter to Mr Warsama says there is “no credible evidence to suggest your fitness to practise is impaired.

“We received no evidence to substantiate the allegations against you, and the criminal investigation concluded with no evidence being taken against you.

“On this basis, we will not be pursuing the concern further, and the case is closed.”

Claire Gannon has been advised not to share information with the media until the findings of the Wass inquiry are published. It is understood the HCPC’s letter to her went into more detail, because she had closer involvement in the adoption case.

St Helena Government has refused to reveal the name of the public prosecutor cited by Ms Moore, on the grounds that it would prejudice the administration of justice on the island – though it is not clear how.

Ms Moore offered no evidence to justify her criticism of the social workers – who were not named in her statement – but Judge Ekins later made the extraordinary move of publishing his ruling in the adoption case, even though family matters are normally kept confidential.

No reason was given for publishing the ruling, which voiced strong suspicions of wrongdoing by the social workers. Crucially, it was made public two months after they had been cleared.

The findings of the professional body directly contradicted criticisms made by Judge Ekins.

Ms Gannon and Mr Warsama are continuing to try to bring a case for unfair dismissal over the saga.

Ms Gannon resigned after being suspended from her post as St Helena’s senior social worker. Mr Warsama was told he had failed to pass his period of probation in his job, only weeks after being promoted.

Mr Warsama asked: “Will SHG now apologise, given everything thrown at us?”

St Helena Government said it had no comment to make.

SEE ALSO:
Criminal investigation clears sex abuse whistle-blowers
MP voices concerns as police investigate their accusers

After a ‘terrifying’ year, whistle-blower talks of retribution
Top barrister to investigate sex abuse ‘cover up’ claims
Judge goes public on adoption case accusations that led to investigation of social workers

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St Helena Online… merely sleeping

St Helena Online has been gently dozing for a while now while I work on more pressing matters, such as trying to progress my career and secure a qualification (with mixed results). I hope to wake it up properly in October, though it is likely to continue in fits and starts. You may start to see short pieces linking to material elsewhere… I’m hoping to train someone up. Mixed results would be good.

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IN PICTURES: The big switch-on at St Helena’s airport

They travelled across St Helena, in poor weather, to witness the first switching-on of the many runway lights at the island’s first airport: another landmark in the progress towards its scheduled completion in February 2016. BRUCE SALT was there and has kindly sent the pictures below. He writes: 

“The event was announced on Saint FM and the planned illumination was to be for half an hour, but the station could not have imagined just how many islanders would have manned the high ground at Bradleys and Levelwood to see the inaugural illumination of the island’s airstrip.

“Basil Read bosses were taken back by the public’s curiosity when they witnessed more than 200 vehicles rolling through Longwood through fog and rain to catch a glimpse of
lights, so much so that they extended the illumination time by an hour.”

St Helena Online thanks Bruce, as ever. Click on any other thumbnails to see a gallery of larger images.

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Mother dreams of island escape for abducted Plato children

Lacey Plato longs to take her children to the safety of St Helena. But she cannot: they were abducted by their father in 2012 and she has seen them only twice since then, each time for less than an hour.

Her sister on St Helena has launched an online petition, calling for help to get them home from the Gulf state of Oman.

The father of Aishah and Faris is now in prison in the UK. He has been told he could be freed if the children are returned to their mother in Portsmouth – but he has chosen to stay in prison indefinitely.

Earlier this month a family court judge said his behaviour was disgraceful – “and continues to be disgraceful.”

Lacey is the granddaughter of Teddy Plato, who left St Helena for a new life in the UK. Although she was not born on the island she has visited three times, always staying in Jamestown.

Her mother, Denise, and sister, Lucia, have both settled on St Helena.

Aishah, ten, and brother Faris, seven, have yet to visit the island. But Lacey says she dearly wants to bring them to visit their many Saint relatives – among them Charlie and Greta Plato.

“To us it’s always been the other half of what we are,” she said. “We’ve always been there, we’ve always loved it.”

Lacey told St Helena Online that Usama Al Barwani was very westernised when she first met him in Portsmouth in 2003. But after she graduated from university, they went to stay in Dubai. Under the influence of relatives, he became more strictly religious.

“We split up mainly because of his change in the way he expected to be, under cultural influences. It was controlling.

“He completely agreed the children should stay with me. He gave me a letter giving permission for them to travel back to the UK for good and it was quite amicable, on the basis that he would have access to the children. Maybe he would move back here.”

In 2012, he made a second visit to see them.

“I dropped the kids over to him so they could spend some time with him. We arranged for me to go and get them the following day.

“My daughter had a mobile phone I had given her. I am calling that all day long. No answers. Then at about six in the evening, he sent me a text message saying that the kids were fine and they’re on vacation. It was from an Oman number.

“It was just sheer panic and fear.”

Three days after that text message was sent, Lacey and her father, Steve Grant, flew into Oman to try to visit the children.

She said a sympathetic policeman persuaded Al Barwani’s family to let the children see their mother.

“I got to see them for 45 minutes,” said Lacey. “It was horrific.

“They thought they were there on holiday and they didn’t understand why I was there with my dad and why I was upset and why the entire family were there in the house to stop me leaving with them. It was a nightmare.

“I saw them once after that, for about 15 minutes.

“I was banging on their door, calling for the children, so they had to open the door. I was allowed in the house. Then I was asked to leave. If I didn’t leave the police would be called.

“Shortly after that I was phoned by the police and was told a harassment case would be taken against me. Now, if I was to go to Oman I would be arrested at the airport.”

She said the Omani authorities were unsympathetic towards her. An international warrant has been issued for the return of the children, but it has no legal standing in Oman.

“I was pretty much told by a lawyer I employed over there that the chances of me even getting access to the children are quite low.”

Lacey’s ex-partner allowed her to speak to the children on Skype quite regularly, she said. During calls, he would talk of them becoming a family again, in the UK.

“He came back on the pretence we would all be one family and live together and be happy; me thinking he would come back with the kids, but he didn’t. He came on his own.

“He was arrested on the aeroplane.”

Al Barwani was jailed in the criminal court for taking the children. But the family court has also ruled that he cannot be freed until the children are returned to their mother.

He has not yielded.

“As long as I don’t have the children he is happy to stay there,” said Lacey. “If I’m not in a relationship with him I have no right to have the children: that’s what he’s saying, pretty much.”

She still holds out hope of the return of Aishah and Faris – but it is Jamestown, not Portsmouth, that she wants to be their home.

“Were we hoping to take the children to St Helena? Yes, absolutely. Obviously with the court’s permission.

“If anything, that would be the place I would go to if and when we can get them back – completely away from any kind of stress and worry about their safety.

“Yes, my children will definitely know St Helena and they will know it as that’s where they’re from – part of them is from there.”

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Saints raise a red cap to man who started the Sports

Owen George: capped for St Helena

Owen George: capped for St Helena

Owen George has celebrated more than half a century of service to Saints with a new red cap, to replace the one he always wore at the St Helena Sports Day.

The cap was among gifts he received to mark his retirement as president of the St Helena Association (UK), 55 years after he became one of its founder members.

He and wife Barbara were also presented with a clock, a bouquet and a card signed by 100-or-so people at a St Helena Day dance held at Tilehurst Royal British Legion club in Berkshire.

100 dance-goers signed a card for Owen and Barbara

100 dance-goers signed a card for Owen and Barbara

The cap was the idea of Vilma Toms, one of the organisers. She said: “When I told my son Michael I was joining the association and helping to run the sports, he said, ‘Oh, I’ve got such good memories from that – is the man with the red hat still about?’

“Because Owen always wore a red cap at the sports and everybody knew the man with the red hat. I said the man is still there but I haven’t seen the red hat for a while.

“We have our own printing business, so I took a hat off the shelf and had printed on it the St Helena flag and St Helena Mini Sports 1979 – 2015 and still going strong, and presented him with that. He was really touched.

“He did phone me later and say, ‘You know that old red hat, I’ve still got it – I can’t throw it away.’ It’s all tattered and torn, but he’s got a new one now.”

… and there was a bouquet, too

… and there was a bouquet, too

His daughters Debbie and Karen, were there with their families to see him honoured.

Owen joined the committee of the St Helena Association at its inaugural meeting in 1960, becoming chairman and then president.

In an article for St Helena Online, he tells how he had to plead for volunteers to stop the organisation from folding in the 1980s.

The association raised money for island causes by holding dances. Owen decided to launch the Saints’ Mini Sports Day to cater for children. The event grew into the annual St Helena Sports Day, now the major annual August gathering of Saints in the UK.

Owen was awarded an MBE by the Queen in 1996, for services to Saints in the UK and on St Helena.

After 55 years, Owen's clocking off

After 55 years, Owen’s clocking off

“I think his contribution is enormous,” said Vilma. “He has done all this selflessly. Not many people really knew he had the MBE: I put it on the paperwork when I found out. He’s such a modest man, not taking any glory.

“He actually brought the Saints together. In the 50s and 60s they didn’t have the internet and that sort of thing and they only met once or twice a year at the dances. And there was nothing for the children: that’s why he set up the mini sports. The kids could have a bit of fun and it was a good day out for everybody.

“The money raised was buying things like wheelchairs. If he heard of somebody needing something back home he would raise the money and send it. He was getting it done but not shouting about it.

“He’s got a wicked sense of humour. He always makes me laugh and he’s always smiling himself. I’ve known when he’s been in a lot of pain and feeling unwell, but his sense of humour never left him. He would always help anybody.”

Vilma’s husband, Trevor, said: “He has dedicated most of his life to St Helena Association. He is just a great guy – an inspirational guy – with a lot of wit, a lot of wisdom.”

The St Helena Day dance raised ten pence short of £250 for island causes. Another £139 from the raffle goes to St Helena Arts and Crafts, which provided the prizes.

Philip Thompson was DJ and Paul George played keyboards for the dancing.

The Brooks Brothers retired after the 2014 Sports Day after many years of entertaining at Saint events in the UK.

Vilma Toms said: “They were the band for whatever function was going. They always played at the Reading Sports. One of them has retired and gone home and I think they just felt it was time to pack it in. Their contribution was enormous. They were islanders and they were family so they played well together and they knew what the St Helenians like. You only had to put them on as a band and people would come for the music.”

SEE ALSO: 
55 years of the St Helena Association (UK) – by Owen George MBE
St Helena Association (UK) – website
Reading Sports – picture galleries and stories
Radio on St Helena – sainthelenaisland.info

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Rebecca’s First Class (especially for llama farmers)

Rebecca Lawrence is standing by to look after St Helena's llamas

Rebecca Lawrence is standing by to look after St Helena’s llamas

Saint student Rebecca Lawrence has gained a First Class degree in Veterinary Medical Sciences – along with experience looking after llamas.

And she achieved the highest mark in her year group at The University of Nottingham for her dissertation, on the effects of essential oils on flu infections.

She now has another two years’ work ahead of her to qualify as a veterinary surgeon.

Rebecca – who, aptly, hails from Cowpath – spent a year working with livestock on St Helena before going to England to study in 2012.

Rebecca worked with livestock on St Helena

Rebecca worked with livestock on St Helena

Her course included working on several farms with sheep, cattle, pigs and horses.

She also spent three weeks in France studying animal behaviour with llamas.

Joe Hollins, the senior vet on St Helena, said: “Rebecca has done well.

“She worked with us in the veterinary section for a year before going to the UK, and I was impressed by her dedication, intelligence and understanding, with a very quick grasp of the science and practicality of veterinary work.”

But he said she will have to gain wide experience once she graduates, “which can only be gained with the passage of time.”

He said people should not assume she would return to practise on St Helena as soon as she has qualified.

“The role here is that of a generalist, ranging through a plethora of issues such as clinical and surgical work, public health, conservation, pest control, legislation, animal welfare, fisheries, biosecurity, outbreak control… and the list goes on.”

St Helena’s chief secretary, Roy Burke, said: “Rebecca has achieved something truly outstanding in a very demanding subject.”

Rebecca thanked her friends and family in the UK, “especially my sister Laura who has been invaluable during the last three years”, and also Kedell Worboys, St Helena’s representative in London.

Her course is fully funded by the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission – which normally only pays for three-year degree courses.

SEE ALSO: Vet student Rebecca sails to fulfil her dream

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Judge goes public on adoption case accusations that led to investigation of social workers

An investigation into social workers on St Helena was triggered when their own lawyer found damaging emails that had not been disclosed in a court case, it has emerged.

But the background to the police inquiry has been revealed only AFTER it was announced that no criminal case would be brought against them, because of lack of evidence.

Judge Charles Ekins also revealed how the intervention of the governor’s wife, Tamara Capes, could have created an impression of an establishment conspiracy against a Saint who wanted to adopt a baby on the island.

In the fall-out from the affair, the island lost two senior social workers and its attorney general, Frank Wastell, was suspended – although he had already decided to leave his job.

The chain of events has come to light after Judge Ekins, St Helena’s Chief Justice, decided to publish an edited version of his judgement in a hearing about the care of a baby – 13 months after it ended.

In it he revealed that the lawyers in the case asked him to convene the court on a Sunday to hear about the discovery of emails that they said should have been offered as evidence.

They asked the judge to make an order prohibiting the senior social worker Claire  Gannon from communicating with anyone within St Helena Government, or with a couple who were looking after the baby in England.

He was also asked to make an order “preserving the integrity of all e-mail accounts” held by Ms Gannon and her colleagues Martin Warsama and Claire Yon.

It is understood that island police seized their computers shortly afterwards.

The reason for Mr Wastell’s suspension remains a mystery: the judge clearly said his brief involvement in the case was “unwise, but no more”.

The case involved an application by St Helena Government – “the Applicant” – for a care order on a baby known as R, whose mother could not care for her.

Normally the details of an family hearing would remain secret. No reason has been given for going public – a highly unusual step on St Helena.

But the case became controversial after the island’s new Attorney General, Nicola Moore, issued a statement about the investigation. It contained criticisms of the people investigated, without giving the evidence to justify them.

One of the social workers, Martin Warsama, then alleged that he and a colleague, Claire Gannon, were being “punished” for making complaints about police and government handling of sex abuse on St Helena, leading to a separate investigation by Sasha Wass QC.

He also told St Helena Online it was “frightening” to have his computer seized by the police after he had made allegations against them, because they would have access to his emails.

He and Ms Gannon were told by a judge that they could not bring a claim of constructive dismissal in London, but they have since been given leave to appeal.

The hearings on St Helena and Ascension involved a mother who was deemed to be unable to look after her new baby, partly because of the bullying and mistreatment she had suffered during a “miserable” childhood in England.

Three other children had been taken away from her.

She and their father, a Saint, moved to St Helena, where they married but later split up – by which time, she was pregnant with R.

Judge Ekins said Claire Gannon rightly decided the baby should be placed with foster carers. None could be found, so Frank Wastell and his wife agreed to take her in when she was ten days old. The mother was allowed to visit and care for her daughter.

Because of his personal involvement, Mr Wastell took no legal part in the case. He was the island’s Solicitor General at that point.

Another couple agreed to look after the baby, but made it clear they would want her to become part of their family when they returned to England.

Members of the child’s own wider family did not want to take her in. The father agreed he could not look after her.

Preparations to make a care order for the girl’s protection were well advanced when a relative arrived on St Helena and learned of his neice’s birth; after a few weeks, he offered to take care of her with his partner on the Falklands.

But the court heard social workers felt it was too late: an interim care order was already in place and the girl had already bonded with “Mr and Mrs Y”. In fact, the judge later ruled that “his potential suitability was dismissed in an overly peremptory fashion”.

At a hearing on St Helena in October 2013, Judge Ekins agreed to consider the uncle’s request to become R’s special guardian as part of the proceedings.

When the hearings resumed on Ascension Island in March 2014, the judge heard that the uncle and his partner were considered suitable carers for the baby, had prepared their home for her arrival, and understood her needs. A social worker had flown from the UK to the Falklands to assess them.

He ruled in their favour, despite the risk that the child would suffer as a result of being taken away from Mr and Mrs Y.

He cited strong guidance that children should be kept within their family and their culture, and adoption outside the family should be a last resort.

“There can be nothing but sympathy for Mr and Mrs Y who are the real victims of this whole proceeding,” the judge said.

They had hoped to offer the child an open adoption, meaning she would maintain contact with her family and culture.

But the judge said emails sent to Claire Gannon by the couple in England showed hostility  to members of the baby’s family – suggesting contact would be limited.

SHG’s lawyer, Ms Cheetham, had the emails in her possession but believed they could not be presented in court because they were “privileged”. When she realised she was mistaken, she shared them with other lawyers in the case and they all asked the judge to convene the Sunday hearing.

The judge said the emails should have been presented as part of the case by the government’s social care department.

He said: “Regrettably I am driven to the conclusion that the Applicant has obstructed and misled the Court in its judicial process of determining the best interests of R.

“I am not prepared to say unequivocally that the obstruction has been wilful… but it is unparalleled in my experience that all advocates in this case, including the Applicant’s own Counsel, felt it necessary to invite me to issue an injunction against the senior social worker with responsibility for this case.”

He said he suspected some case files had been withheld.

He also accused the government’s social care team of deliberate lack of objectivity. “They felt duty bound to do all they could to ensure that R remained with Mr and Mrs Y irrespective of R’s best interest.”

He concluded by recommending that an experienced, independent lawyer should review the papers in the case “to advise on whether the evidence is such as to disclose reasonable grounds for suspecting the commission by any member of the Applicant’s staff of any criminal offence pertinent to attempting to pervert the course of justice or perjury.”

Claire Gannon has chosen not to speak to island media about the affair. But Mr Warsama strongly pointed out that the subsequent investigation by Merseyside Police found there was no case for a criminal prosecution.

He would be raising the matter with Sasha Wass QC, the counsel investigating the unrelated allegations about sex abuse.

He said: “We’ve had an investigation and it proved we had done nothing wrong. What needs to be in there is our response. But I’m not responding until I have seen Sasha Wass. We will be vindicated.

“All is not what it seems.”

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Governor’s wife and the ‘secret daughter’ in adoption battle

The wife of St Helena’s governor was rebuked for spreading “tittle tattle” in the adoption battle that led to a criminal investigation, a court judgement has revealed.

Tamara Capes passed on gossip that a Saint who wanted to adopt his baby neice was already the father of a teenager on the island, it said.

But she passed on the revelation in an email to a friend, known in court as Mrs Y, who was hoping to adopt the baby herself. It was then passed to others and hastily investigated.

It led to a suggestion of a conspiracy by “the establishment” on the island to try to make sure the woman and her husband were chosen to adopt the baby girl, the court document said.

The incidents took place early in 2014 but have only now been made public by Judge Charles Ekins.

He dismissed suggestions of “unwarranted interference” in proceedings to decide on the care of the baby, whose mother could not look after her.

The judgement reveals that Mrs Capes had apparently learned of the “secret” teenage daughter while talking to her domestic staff at Plantation House.

“It seems Mrs Capes then thought it appropriate to e-mail Mr and Mrs Y with that information,” said the judge.

Attorney General Frank Wastell told the court that Mrs Y had then phoned his wife about it.

The next day, he contacted the Registrar of Births to check the birth certificate of the alleged secret daughter.

“His evidence was that no father was recited on the birth certificate but that the Registrar of Births told him that she had heard that [the baby’s uncle] was the father.”

Social worker Martin Warsama made a sworn statement saying he had spoken to the mother of the teenage girl.

“She had confirmed to him, his affadavit said, that [the uncle] was indeed the father of this child and that at one time she had consulted the public solicitor to seek financial support for the child.”

The case was then adjourned so that the teenager’s mother – known as Ms Z – could be found.

It turned out that she had been taken to the police station by the sister of the alleged father of her child, apparently to make a statement denying he was the father after all.

At the judge’s request she was given a medical check and then gave a statement to Mr Gardner, the trainee public solicitor.

“In that statement she made clear that whilst she did not know who the father of the child was.” Nor had she ever sought financial help from the alleged father, her statement said.

“It soon became apparent that the information in fact amounted to no more than gossip and tittle-tattle, none of which could conceivably have been put before the Court as evidence,” said the judge.

He added: “It appeared to me that the information amounted to no more than hearsay on gossip on hearsay.”

The uncle’s lawyer, Mr Littlewood, also voiced concern that Mr Wastell had become involved, even though he and his wife had cared for the baby in the case.

And he reported alarm that Mrs Wastell had visited the baby’s foster carers in England. Judge Ekins accepted this was inadvisable but understandable because she had cared for the baby in her first weeks of life.

But he said the events triggered by Mrs Capes were more concerning.

“It was certainly unwise of Mrs Capes to e-mail Mr and Mrs Y,” he said.

“Mrs Y should not have felt able to call Mrs Wastell about the case; and Mrs Wastell should flatly have declined to speak about the case with her.

“Having ensured that he had had nothing to do with this case, the Attorney General should not have taken it upon himself to involve himself, even to the limited extent that he did.

“It ought to have been appreciated that in acting as they did they were capable of giving the impression that the establishment of St Helena were firmly lined up behind Mr and Mrs Y.”

But the incidents raised did not come near to “suggesting an attempt by the Executive to interfere in the judicial process,” said the judge.

“Taken individually the actions were unwise but no more… It is also an object lesson in the danger of listening to or acting upon island gossip and tittle-tattle.”

Mr Warsama told St Helena Online he stood by his evidence. He voiced concern about the way in which the teenager’s mother had been taken to the police station to change her statement, and pointed out that the alleged father was not challenged in court.

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UK hospital agrees to operate on severely disabled Saint girl – but only after judge denounces three others that refused

Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre, by Steve Daniels. Published under Creative Commons licence - click the pic to learn more

Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre, by Steve Daniels. Used under Creative Commons licence: click the pic to learn more

A Saint teenager with “catastrophic” disabilities is to be given a desperately-needed operation in the UK – but only after three National Health Service trusts REFUSED to treat her.

St Helena’s chief justice, Judge Charles Ekins, said it was “shameful” that three hospitals apparently could not afford to take her, even though she was entitled to NHS treatment.

The 19-year-old girl, who can be referred to only as K, has severe deformities in her arms, “useless” lower limbs, and severe spasticity – among other conditions. Her profound learning difficulties mean she can barely communicate.

She was due to sail for Ascension Island on 21 April 2015 to meet a dedicated medical flight, but the judge said it would too dangerous to send her with no hospital prepared to receive her.

Only after she had missed the boat was a place found for her at the world-leading Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre, part of the Oxford University Hospitals Trust. The centre has a reputation for taking difficult and expensive cases from outside its own area.

She must now wait until 11 May 2015 to leave the island – where she could not safely have the operation she needs to amputate parts of her legs and ease her enduring pain.

K was discovered by Paul Bridgewater, a newly-arrived social worker, living in Barn View in Longwood, a “care home” used mainly for elderly people.

Mr Bridgewater had her moved to hospital but she was moved back to Barn View, only to be re-admitted – malnourished and suffering a serious ring worm infection.

Her condition is so severe she has to be kept lying down.

The island’s Supreme Court has been given responsibility for taking decisions about K’s care now that her mother is ageing.

A solicitor in England, Michael Trueman, has been appointed to act on her behalf. It was through his efforts, and the commitment of a consultant surgeon at the hospital, Mr Tim Theologis, that a solution was found.

K’s operation was recumbent by a visiting surgeon on St Helena, Sergio Villatoro Bran. He advised removing both her legs from above the knees – bilateral supracondylar amputation.

The hope is that it will make her more comfortable and reduce the risk of a fatal infection.

Judge Ekins pointed out that a protocol with Britain allows four St Helenians to be treated by the NHS each year. He made a point of saying that K is a British citizen – interpreted by some as a way to interest UK media in her case.

In a judgement issued on 23 April, he said: “Three NHS consultants had been approached by the date of the RMS St Helena’s departure.

“None would undertake to admit K. A response is still awaited from the last enquiries made.

“The risk to K of embarking up upon a passage to the UK without a hospital to receive her is unacceptable.

“I cannot think that the decision to refuse to admit K to the trusts approach is a clinical one… it seems to me to be likely therefore that the decision in each case is resource based.

“If that is indeed the case then the situation is a shameful one.”

He said the urgency of the case meant he would have to send her to South Africa if treatment is available there – “a much less preferable option in terms of K’s welfare.”

The High Court in England would take over responsibility for her in the UK. It is not clear what legal arrangements could be made in a foreign country.

K’s mother has been praised by the judge for trying to ease her daughter’s suffering, but he said she was “getting on in years” and there were concerns about her ability to take decisions about her daughter’s needs.

Judge Ekins said she had “been active over the years in doing her best to provide K with such suplementary comfort as she has been capable of.”

In 2012, Barn View, conditions at Barn View were severely criticised in a report by the Lucy Faithfull Foundation. Most of the report – on alleged abuse on the island – was kept secret, but a draft version was leaked.

It said a 16-year-old girl – thought to be K – was sharing a room with a dying elderly woman at the home.

Allegations of a cover-up of abuse, and the governance of the island, are now being investigated by Sasha Wass QC. She is understood to have asked for information about Barn View.

Judge Ekins included politicians in his criticism of K’s rejection by the NHS.

He said: “For some time now it has been claimed that the UK’s economy ranks amongst the wealthiest in the world. It is boasted that the UK’s economy ranks comfortably amongst the largest ten economies in the world.

“Political parties of every hue claim that the UK NHS is or will be safe in their hands.

“The two former make it even more shameful that it is apparently difficult, if not impossible, to afford treatment to a young British citizen with such catastrophic disabilities who is entitled to be treated by the NHS in the UK.

“The latter of the claims referred to frankly rings entirely hollow.”

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Historic first test flight delayed

The date of the proposed first test flight to St Helena has been put back from July to “in or around September 2015”, it has been announced.

The calibration flight is needed to test the various navigation systems to guide aircraft towards touchdown on the island’s first airport.

Work on the airport is understood to have been progressing well and no reason has been given for the decision to put back the flight, which is needed for the airport to be certified for civilian use.

Basil Read, the company building the airport, said: “The revised date will comfortably meet the schedules of all involved organisations and has no effect on the certification process in November, nor on the contract completion date of February 2016.”

SEE ALSO: 
St Helena Airport: first aircraft to land in July 2015
Saturday flights in BA livery confirmed for St Helena

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