Saints get free calls to UK helpline – thanks to SURE

A confidential telephone support line for people in distress on St Helena has been set up in partnership with the UK’s Samaritans charity.

The calls will go straight through to trained counsellors in Britain. SURE St Helena has agreed to cover all the costs of the calls, in a deal organised by St Helena Government (SHG).

The telephone number for this service is 20000. All calls are free. 

SHG’s Assistant Chief Secretary, Paul McGinnety, said: We understand the need for people on the island to be able to access confidential off-island support

“We are indebted to SURE who have agreed to cover the costs of all of the calls.

“Their team have provided us with a unique number which will not show up on individual bills.

“I would like to place on record our thanks to Samaritans and SURE.”

The Samaritans answer calls round-the-clock, every single day of the year to provide emotional support for people who are experiencing feelings of emotional distress.

Its volunteers are trained to listen without judging and to give people time to talk, to help them see a way through their troubles.

People wanting additional guidance on the new service can call the following:

Safeguarding Directorate: 00290 22713
Police Confidential Help Line: 00290 22888
Mental Health Services: 00290 22593
Human Rights Office: 00290 22133

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MP voices concerns as police investigate their accusers

A “proper review” should be held into the way St Helena Police were allowed to investigate two social workers who had made whistle-blowing claims against them, a UK Member of Parliament has said.

St Helena Government has denied that there was any possibility of “inappropriate influence”, even though officers would have appeared able to access emails containing corruption claims against the police service.

One of the social workers has also expressed anger about the way St Helena’s Attorney General, Nicola Moore, announced the outcome of the case without informing him.

Martin Warsama has also taken legal advice about critical comments she made that appeared to relate to all four of the former officials who were investigated over an adoption case.

All four were cleared – including her own predecessor, Frank Wastell.

Mr Warsama has also written to the Attorney General demanding to know the basis of criticisms made about them – and to ask why he was not told about them before they were made public.

None of the people investigated were named in the Attorney General’s statement, but three of those involved had been publicly identified elsewhere.

The statement attributed the criticisms to independent counsel who had reviewed evidence in the affair. But St Helena Government has refused to name the two lawyers who reviewed the files.

Mr Warsama said he did not even know about Nicola Moore’s statement until he was sent an internet link, two days after it was issued.

Chief Justice Charles Ekins had recommended that the case should be reviewed by an independent lawyer to see whether there might have been perjury or an attempt to pervert the course of justice – both serious crimes.

But Mr Warsama feared the police investigation would give officers the opportunity to seize emails that would reveal allegations he had made about the handling of sex abuse cases.

The British government has since commissioned an inquiry by Sasha Wass QC into alleged police corruption on the island. Mr Warsama was due to meet her in London on Friday, 27 February 2015.

The government dismissed any suggestion of a conflict of interest for police because of oversight by the unnamed independent counsel, and the involvement of Merseyside Police. Mr Warsama was not pacified.

Concerns about the investigation and the events that led to it were sent to the British MP John Hemming. In an email, he said: “This needs a proper review, but that may need to be after the elections [in May 2015].”

Asked for a comment, he said: “It worries me if whistle-blowers are investigated by those against whom they have blown the whistle.”

Mr Hemming has been praised by Britain’s Home Secretary for his campaigning on sex abuse. On 4 February 2015, he told the House of Commons he had documentary evidence that officials in London turned a blind eye to child abuse on St Helena.

Mr Warsama said Nicola Moore had breached his privacy by revealing that information had been passed to the professional bodies of the four people investigated in the adoption case.

He said such information should have been confidential. Ms Moore has pointed out that the Daily Telegraph had already reported than the social workers’ professional body had been investigating.

The Health and Care Professions Council, which regulates social workers, also said that complaints were kept private under its duty of confidentiality.

Questions put to St Helena Government:

On 27 February 2015, St Helena Government press office was asked: “Could you please tell me the names of the two independent Counsel who reviewed the judgment and addendum in the adoption case on Ascension? It should be a matter of public record and easy to establish.

“Although none of the investigated people were named, it is widely known that they included Claire Gannon and Martin Warsama (the latter has told me so) and that they had acted as whistle-blowers, making allegations against St Helena Police regarding sex abuse.

“Could you please give me a comment on the fact that the two social workers were being investigated by the very police force against which they had acted as whistle-blowers? There would appear to be a conflict of interest and I expect to write a story to this effect.

“Please say when Operation Ladder commenced, and when the investigation was complete. Please say whether anyone was arrested and bailed in the course of the investigation.”

Response from St Helena Government:

Received 27 February 2015: “No personal details will be provided as to the identity of any individuals concerned. The oversight by independent counsel, both at the instigation of the investigation and when deciding upon charges, plus the close involvement of Merseyside Police, removes the potential for any inappropriate influence by anyone including the St Helena Police Service. As was made clear in the Attorney General’s statement, the investigation flowed directly from a recommendation from the Chief Justice following concerns relating to the conduct of a family case in the Supreme Court. It is therefore quite evidently incorrect and misleading to link the investigation to the issues raised by those persons who assert that they are whistle blowers. Kind Regards….”

SEE ALSO:
Criminal investigation clears sex abuse whistle-blowers
New safeguarding boss promises action and support for victims
Ivy exposes years of inaction over St Helena sex abuse
Top barrister to investigate sex abuse ‘cover up’ claims

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After a ‘terrifying’ year, whistle-blower talks of retribution

Martin Warsama is angry and he’s talking revenge.

It was “terrifying”, he says, to find himself being investigated by the very police force he’d accused of corruption and covering up sex abuse on St Helena.

“It’s been absolutely horrible. It’s been frightening. How can it be right for a police force to investigate the very people who’ve whistle-blown against them? It’s madness.”

St Helena Government has insisted the “close involvement” of another police force meant there was no potential for “inappropriate influence” by police. Try telling that to Martin Warsama.

He and his fellow social worker, Claire Gannon, have now been cleared of any criminal wrong-doing in a family case that actually had nothing to do with the sex abuse scandal. They feared they might face trial on St Helena.

“I have had a year of being terrified, absolutely terrified,” he says.

“They took over my life and Claire Gannon’s life for nothing, for simply doing our jobs, trying to protect vulnerable adults and children.

“They have made our lives a misery for over a year and they’re not going to get away with it because now the boot’s on the other foot. They have to pay for what they have done.”

On the afternoon of Friday, 20 February 2015, he got a phone call from his solicitor saying that an investigation lasting nearly a year had failed to find evidence against them in the family case. They were not told why it took so long.

But in the evening, very briefly, the inner dread returned. “I had a panic attack. I had to tell myself it’s stopped… it’s all over. They can’t get me now.

“This is what all this threat of prosecution has been about – ‘scare them witless and keep their mouths shut.’ But it hasn’t worked, has it?

“This has cost thousands of pounds and the governor is trying to save face. And if the governor wants to have a go at me, let him try.”

Recent statements by Governor Mark Capes and Councillor Les Baldwin do appear to suggest – at the very least – a charm offensive. They assured people that sex abuse was now being taken very seriously. One statement was put out just before new evidence was revealed in an employment tribunal judgement, and the second just before it emerged there was no crime in the adoption case.

And in her own statement, the Attorney General did not merely state that the outcome of the investigation: it also cited criticisms made by the independent counsel.

He says he was not told about the statement before it was published. When he found out, he was outraged. He says he has never seen the counsel’s findings, and does not know the basis for the criticisms. He does not even know the name of his accuser.

(For the record, it should be stated that at no time has it been deliberately implied that there was any dishonesty on the part of the Attorney General in reporting these comments: but it is a matter of legitimate concern when highly critical statements cannot be tested by the public, the media or the people criticised, because the source is not open to scrutiny).

A week after learning they’d been cleared, the social workers handed bundles of written evidence to Sasha Wass, the Queen’s Counsel appointed by the British government to investigate their claims that police had allowed alleged sex abusers to go unpunished. Police officers have vehemently denied the claims, but there have since been successful prosecutions.

“We have the evidence, we are going to produce that to Sasha Wass, and we are going to take people down,” said Martin Warsama before the meeting on 27 February 2015.

“We challenged police practices and they didn’t like it.

“I want them to know we’re not victims any more. Now we are coming for them.”

What’s kept him going for the past year, he says, is “knowing that the truth will out. And it will come out.

“You question your sanity. But we have stood fast, because what we are telling is the truth.”

Warsama and Gannon both live only half an hour’s drive from Rotherham, the UK town where police and council officials were found to have allowed more than a thousand girls to be sexually assaulted and raped by organised gangs over many years. An inquiry found they silenced social workers who tried to raise the alarm.

What happened on St Helena was on nothing like the same scale, but comparisons are inevitable.

“Les Baldwin said it’s just like any other place in Britain. Yeah, it is – it’s like Rotherham. Where the councillors, the police and every bureaucrat was in complete denial and they bullied whistle-blowers.

“I don’t want it to go in the paper that we are completely wounded, that we are just relieved they have done away, that we’re victims. We are victims. But these victims have got up and we’re going to fight back.”

But Martin Warsama knows there is another kind of victim in the St Helena abuse scandal.

“This is what I want them to know,” he says. “Tell them this: we have been contacted by numerous Saints who live in this country who have been abused for years, who are now thanking us for being able to come forward.

“And they will come forward. And they are coming forward.”

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Criminal investigation clears sex abuse whistle-blowers

An eight-month criminal investigation has failed to find evidence to justify a prosecution of former St Helena Government staff, including the social workers who raised the alarm about sex abuse on the island.

Frank Wastell, who stood down as Attorney General in June 2014, was one of those suspended from duty when police inquiries began – although he had already announced he would be leaving the island.

The investigation cleared the social workers Martin Warsama and Claire Gannon, who brought employment tribunal claims over the affair. They alleged they were being victimised for whistle-blowing.

Their complaints later triggered the inquiry by Sasha Wass QC into the way into the way the island is governed, and the handling of sex abuse issues.

It is believed an unnamed St Helenian was also cleared of criminal wrongdoing.

St Helena Government suspended Frank Wastell and Claire Gannon over concerns about the conduct of an adoption case in March 2014 – unrelated to the abuse scandal. Mr Warsama was deemed to have failed his probationary period in the job and was dismissed – despite having been promoted a few weeks earlier.

A statement was released by St Helena Government late on Friday, 20 February 2015.

But it was released only to island-based media, hindering efforts by other reporters to cover the affair. A statement was published on the government website but it was not drawn to the attention of journalists.

Mr Warsama had been told by his criminal lawyer on the Friday afternoon that he and Claire Gannon would not be prosecuted – after a year of living in dread of extradition to an island where they had clashed with police over alleged failures to investigate suspected sex offenders.

On the Saturday evening, he went out to celebrate with his family.

But on the Sunday, his anger returned when he learned that the Attorney General had released a statement without his knowledge, saying evidence would be shared with professional bodies – meaning the nightmare was not over.

It also quoted new criticisms made by the independent counsel, but gave no information about the basis for the comments.

Martin Warsama – who claimed constructive dismissal from his job – says he did not learn of the statement until St Helena Online alerted him, two days after it was issued. He said he did not know the substance of the criticisms. It was not even clear whether they referred to everyone involved in the case.

The statement said: “The investigation was instigated by St Helena Police following a family case heard in the Supreme Court where the Chief Justice concluded:

‘So troubled am I by what has occurred that I shall direct that a copy of this judgment and addendum be sent to HE The Governor. I shall recommend that experienced independent counsel should urgently be engaged to review the papers in this case and 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.’

“HE The Governor followed the Chief Justice’s recommendation and appointed an independent Queen’s Counsel, experienced in family and international matters, to complete the review. It was as a direct result of that review that the St Helena Police Service was requested to undertake an investigation into allegations of criminal conduct. The investigation was led by St Helena Police and supported by Merseyside Police in the UK.

“The matters were rigorously and thoroughly investigated. The evidence from this investigation was reviewed by a second independent counsel, appointed as Public Prosecutor of St Helena specifically to undertake this task.”

The statement said there was “insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction” – in effect, finding the former SHG staff not guilty.

St Helena Online has interviewed Martin Warsama and will be publishing his reaction in the next few days. 

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At last, the truth about Attorney General being suspended. But you didn’t hear it from St Helena’s ‘open’ government

The people of St Helena were never told that the man who wrote their laws had been suspended while a criminal investigation took place.

They were told only that Frank Wastell was leaving the island “for personal reasons”.

Even when it was announced that the investigation had ended with no criminal charges, his name was not mentioned – despite the clear public interest.

The affair is likely to be seen by many as a cover-up by St Helena Government, albeit only a “passive” failure to release embarrassing information.

Few details have been disclosed about the investigation into the conduct of government staff, beyond the fact that it involved suggestions of lying to the island’s Supreme Court or attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Both are extremely serious matters that can result in a prison sentence.

No suggestion has been made that all those involved were suspected of crime – merely that people had been suspended while it was established whether any person was culpable.

Making the affair public might have undermined confidence in the justice system on St Helena, already damaged by allegations about failures to prosecute sex offenders.

The truth emerged in a court judgement given in an employment tribunal case brought by the two social workers caught up in the affair, Martin Warsama and Claire Gannon.

Judge Anthony Snelson’s ruling on 30 January 2015 revealed that Frank Wastell and Claire Gannon had been suspended from duty seven months earlier over the conduct of an adoption case.

The decision had been made by Acting Governor Sean Burns after consulting with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London.

On 5 February 2015, St Helena Online asked whether Mr Wastell had been “advised/encouraged to resign”. The government press office declined to comment, confirming that criminal investigations were still ongoing.

A decision was made not to run a story on St Helena Online at that late stage because of doubts about fair treatment of Mr Wastell and others involved. It appeared unlikely that a criminal case would arise.

It was also understood the roots of the affair lay in an act of kindness by Mr Wastell that later placed him in a compromising legal position.

Criticism had been levelled by the island’s Chief Justice, Charles Ekins, who heard the adoption case.

The government may have had little choice but to suspend Mr Wastell because of the impossibility of having an attorney general in post while a criminal inquiry was going on.

But it never admitted it had removed him from his duties.

At one stage his office was reported to have been sealed off by police.

Islanders were told only that Mr Wastell was “returning to the UK for personal reasons,”

A press release was issued on 2 June 2014, saying that Mr Wastell would be “returning to the UK for personal reasons” at the end of July. He was formally suspended two weeks later.

The statement said: “Frank has been an integral part of St Helena Government’s legal team since joining as Crown Counsel in 2006.

“He subsequently became Solicitor General and later Attorney General of St Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha in 2013, having served several years acting up in that role since 2006.”

In the same release, Mr Wastell said he and his wife Lorna would never forget the friendship of people on all three islands, and “the vast majority” of his colleagues.

“St Helena and her people will have about as special a place in our hearts as it is possible to have,” he said, “and although we have had to make this decision to leave now, I can say it is with the deepest sadness that we go.”

SEE ALSO: 
Attorney General to leave St Helena – press release

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Stunning island images – but not quite the whole picture

Some truly stunning pictures accompany a travel article urging tourists to seize a last chance to make the “iconic” voyage to Jamestown on the RMS St Helena.

As seen on Twitter: click to read

As seen on Twitter: click to read

One panorama, looking across Bamboo Hedge to Lot and Lot’s Wife, presents an image of an exotic paradise (except, perhaps, for the farm buildings).

The article is slightly geographically confused, putting the island 1,200 miles off Angola and 1,200 miles from the much-more-distant Cape Town.

But it does a good job of promoting a one-off holiday package:

“The 20-day tour offered by Discover the World also includes a unique hosted farm stay in a former East India Company plantation owner’s home and offers plenty of opportunity to enjoy the island’s scenery and historic sites by car.”

It also quotes managing director Clive Stacey, who says: “There are so few places left on the planet that enjoy the veneers of modern civilization but yet are so unaffected by the stresses these can produce.”

This being a promotional travel puff, no mention is made of the very dark stresses that have blighted island life for many, and brought unwelcome media coverage.

Some might find this slightly surprising, given that the article is published by The Daily Mail… the paper that first reported the contents of the leaked report on sex abuse on St Helena.

Read it here

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New home for ‘Tuna on Main’ restaurant – but where?

2onMain has been highly praised by online reviewers

2onMain has been highly praised by online reviewers

The widely-praised 2onMain restaurant in Jamestown is to move to a new home on St Helena – but its location has yet to be revealed.

The restaurant, set up to train Saints in hospitality skills, has to leave its premises in one of Main Street’s finest Georgian buildings to make way for a new hotel.

St Helena Government recently advertised for tenders to convert three buildings near St James’s Church in time for the opening of the island’s first airport, scheduled for early 2016.

The conversion of numbers 1-3 Main Street was decided upon after private schemes stalled, apparently because of uncertainties over whether there will be flights from Europe.

The restaurant – nicknamed “Tuna on Main” by one online reviewer – was opened just in time for Christmas 2013 by hospitality trainer Gillian Scott-Moore. She writes about the impending move on her personal website:

“It is with sadness and regret that the time is creeping towards 2onMain closing its doors.

“The buildings we are occupying are going to be made into a 30-bedroom hotel.  Work is likely to start in June so we are probably going to be out of here some time in May.

“That’s the bad news. The good news is that we will be moving to a great new location (yet to be confirmed), which will be a permanent home to all hospitality up-skilling on St Helena.

“Some of my time has been taken up with some of the planning on this project and looking at how to maximise on the space we will have in our new premises.  All exciting stuff.”

The restaurant has received high praise on the tripadvisor.co.uk website:

The professionalism with which this restaurant is run belies its status as a training establishment – Elisabeth R, Edinburgh, February 2015

My partner raved about the trio of vegetarian curry and the five mini desserts was excellent. Shame it didn’t promote the local St Helena coffee over the norm – Martin P, February 2015

Click the pic to see trip advisor.co.uk reviews

Click the pic to see trip advisor.co.uk reviews

Lovely staff in training with really good well presented meals… almost 5 star – Nanacharms, Johannesburg, October 2014

Very nice dining rooms in a modern style, oak tables and chairs. The serving staff is very pleasant and professional – Fredrick Henry, Sweden, October 2014

Lovely tuna surprise! Lovely ice cream surprise! – Michael T, Nice, France, December 2013

From Gillian Scott-Moore’s web journal: 
A new home for 2onMain; plus island photographs
2onMain opens for business – with pictures

Read tripadvisor.co.uk reviews here

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Infants and old at risk as virus spreads through island

Click the pic see see an info graphic on RSV

Click the pic see see an info graphic on RSV

Large numbers of sick children on St Helena are reported to have been infected with a virus that can be serious for infants and old people.

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 10.31.07Many of those turning up at the hospital in Jamestown with the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) have come from the same creches or other busy environments.

In the United States, the virus is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children under one year of age, and a significant cause of breathing problems in older people.

A leaflet issued by St Helena’s health department on 19 February 2015 says:

“RSV is a respiratory virus that infects the lungs and breathing passages.

“Healthy people usually experience mild, cold-like symptoms and recover in a week or two. But RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults.

“Infants under six months old in particular can get seriously ill.

“The virus produces a thick mucus, which is difficult for the child to cough up.

“It does NOT respond to antibiotics.”

The virus spreads when droplets from a cough or sneeze come into contact with eyes, or when someone touches an infected surfaces and then touches their eyes.

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 10.30.54Symptoms include prolonged coughing, wheezing, mucus, and severe tiredness.

Patients may not have strength to eat, drink or cough.

The most important advice is to wash hands before and after contact with children.

The leaflet also encourages people to:

  • make children sleep in a cool room, with head raised
  • encourage drinking
  • avoid contact with infants
  • avoid smoking near children
  • limit visitors

St Helena Government has not disclosed the number of patients known to have contracted the virus.

Read more here

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PICTURES: Airport control tower is kitted out

airport control tower 2015 02 SHGContractors have begun installing equipment in the air traffic control tower at St Helena’s first airport.

Officials and councillors were shown into the building as part of a tour on 13 February 2015, to view progress on the project. They also viewed the terminal building, including the first-floor restaurant area, and watched a paving machine in use on the runway.

They visited Bradleys to see the workers’ camp and the site of radio direction-finding equipment that will guide aircraft to the island, before being taken down the airport access road to see work in Rupert’s Valley, and watch the offloading of the supply vessel NP Glory 4.

Click on the thumbnails below to see larger images:

 

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Net saving? Ascension no-fishing zone could cost £3m – or not

Creating one of the world’s biggest marine protection zones around Ascension Island could cost the UK about £3 million a year – at a Conservative estimate.

The conservationist estimate, on the other hand, is only £400,000 a year.

12 The Great WetropolisClick the pic to see a gallery of Ascension marine life

Celebrities and academics have joined with conservation groups in calling on the British government to create three massive maritime “parks” in the Atlantic and South Pacific, with a complete ban on commercial fishing.

The Tory Foreign Minister Hugo Swire has said the likely cost of full enforcement could be judged from the £2.75m spent each year patrolling a reserve in the Indian Ocean.

Policing the seas was even more expensive around South Georgia, “where a patrol vessel alone costs approximately £3.2m per year,” he said in a Commons Written Answer on 9 February 2015.

But the environment writer Charles Clover has put the cost at a mere £400,000 a year, according to The Guardian website.

Thanks to satellite technology, it would not be necessary to have a patrol boat out searching vast areas of ocean for pirate fishing vessels, he told the site.

The Guardian also reported that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had begun discussions with people on Ascension about creating a reserve.

It understood that “indigenous” fishing would be allowed up to 18 miles offshore. That may not reassure keen sport fishermen on Ascension, which officially has no permanent or “indigenous” population.

The Blue Marine Foundation has spear-headed a campaign to have three marine reserves created around Ascension, the Southern Atlantic territory of South Georgia and the South Sandwich islands, and the Pitcairn Islands in the South Pacific.

It says they would protect 1.75 million square kilometres of ocean – expanding the total area of ocean reserves by 50 per cent.

The foundation describes Ascension’s warm waters as “a green turtle Mecca and one of the last remaining hotspots for Atlantic megafauna such as tuna, marlin and shark.”

A campaign letter has been signed by 42 conservation bodies, including Birdlife International, the RSPB, Greenpeace UK, the Zoological Society of London, and the less-well-known Fin Fighters UK and Fish Fight.

The actresses Greta Scacchi, Dame Helena Bonham Cater, Julie Christie and Zoe Wanamaker have added their names to those of leading scientists and environmental figures in the letter to the UK government.

The foundation said in a statement: “More than 94 per cent of the UK’s biodiversity is found in its overseas territories.

“Rare whales, turtles, fish, penguins, corals and albatrosses are among the wildlife that would benefit if the reserves were to be set up.”

SEE ALSO:
Ascension’s underwater wonders revealed
UK ‘doesn’t even know’ about eco threats, say MPs
St Helena tops the league table for unique species
Blue Marine Foundation – press release
Conservationists call for UK to create world’s largest marine reserve – The Guardian
Cost of patrolling Ascension reserve – Commons Written Answer

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