Thirty four separate reports had been written about child abuse on St Helena and Ascension Island before scandal erupted in the UK media – but their findings were “lost or forgotten”.
Governor Mark Capes is reported to have told investigators that he had not even been made aware of them before taking office in 2011.
He is quoted saying: “I can’t speak for why those reports were ignored… St Helena has been neglected for decades… by the UK government.”
The Wass Inquiry was asked to look into eight reports, including one from whistleblower Michael Anderson and the findings of resulting investigations, as well as the Lucy Faithfull Foundation report that was leaked to the Daily Mail.
Sasha Wass says: “The inquiry was surprised to discover that the eight reports… were merely the tip of an iceberg. There had been no fewer than 34 previous reports… into sexual abuse and child protection on St Helena made between 1998 and 2012.
“Many covered the same topics and made the same or similar recommendations.”
One consultant, Mike Evans, told the inquiry: “It became blatantly obvious that many of my recommendations, directions and advice, simply had not been acted upon.”
The report does not speculate on whether more children suffered abuse because of the repeated failings.
Ms Wass blames “systemic” failures, including:
- “Clearly inadequate” handovers between governors
- SHG failure to establish good procedures
- Lack of continuity when managers are replaced
- New recruits not being made aware of reports
The inquiry also found: “Some of those responsible for directorial oversight were found to be inexperienced and ignorant of best practice.
“This has resulted in their inability to question front-line professional staff and hold them to account.”
That was identified as one of the failures leading to the breakdown of trust with the social work manager Claire Gannon, whose actions triggered the Wass Inquiry.