Island’s accuser ‘should never have been given job’

Claire Gannon should never have been employed to run St Helena’s badly neglected social services department, the Wass Inquiry has found.

When the job went badly wrong she went to the media with allegations of corruption and widespread abuse.

The Wass report says she had not been involved in front-line social work “for some considerable time” and lacked the skills needed to rescue a service in disarray.

“Claire Gannon’s past history at Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council had not been properly investigated and she was not suited to the post to which she was appointed,” says the report.

“The responsibility for the failings in her recruitment lies with the St Helena Government. However, her subsequent conduct could not have been predicted.”

That included leaking a confidential copy of the Lucy Faithfull Foundation report into sex abuse – from which it was possible to identify a rape victim.

The woman involved is said to have been distressed that the report appeared on the internet, meaning her identity could be discovered.

The Wass report also says she breached client confidentiality by supplying the name of an abuse victim to a Channel 4 reporter in the UK, as part of her media campaign against St Helena Government.

Sasha Wass says the inquiry panel saw no evidence of written strategies or plans for her department, and the only document she presented to the government was produced solely to support a pay demand.

The report says she:

  • “obstructed and misled the supreme court” in an adoption case
  • “almost jeopardised an important criminal investigation” into abuser Jeromy Cairns-Wicks
  • let her bad relationship with police “eclipse her professional duty to those in her care”.
  • failed to help a critically disabled young woman at Barn View residential unit
  • made false or misleading allegations in her employment tribunal claim
  • fed false or misleading information to the Daily Mail “in order to support a claim for unfair dismissal”.

St Helena Government paid for Claire Gannon to undertake teacher training in social work at Sheffield Hallam University, but the inquiry found she then “did nothing” for unqualified social care officers who needed tuition.

When interviewed by the inquiry panel, Claire Gannon admitted instructing her lawyer to post the Lucy Faithfull Foundation report on the internet.

She halted a second interview, and failed to return the next day. Three weeks later, she attended with her solicitor but halted the interview again.

In September 2015, her solicitor submitted a 61-page witness statement.

In it, she said: “I have become increasingly concerned that the Wass Inquiry is biased and seeking to negatively investigate the whistle blowers and their character/credibility, rather than the actual unlawful activities by the FCO, DFID, the governor, the deputy governor, the chiefs of police, and others.”

The inquiry found no illegality.

Sasha Wass says the inquiry panel “has tried to understand” how Claire Gannon and fellow social worker Martin Warsama were allowed to operate on St Helena, “given their obvious lack of ability and industry”.

She says: “The answer may be that neither of the directors of health and social welfare during the relevant period had any social work qualifications. They would not have been aware of the required standards of social work practice and consequently were unable to monitor Claire Gannon’s performance.

“…it was clear that they put their trust in Claire Gannon and what they saw as her gilt- edged credentials.” They were “ill-equipped to call her to account”.

Her successor, Samantha Dunn, “was able to rationalise the files, identify the problems and get to grips with her job within weeks of her arrival on St Helena.”

St Helena Government now makes much more robust checks on job candidates.

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