Ascension case led to whistle-blower’s abuse claims

Police and social workers were unable to work together properly in the wake of findings about child abuse on St Helena and Ascension, a new document reveals.

It also tells how a number of officials were suspended after St Helena’s Chief Justice raised concerns about an adoption case on Ascension in March 2014.

The islands’ senior social work manager resigned and made the allegations of a cover-up of the Lucy Faithfull Report findings. They reached the ears of ministers at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

The background to the affair is set out in the terms of reference for the inquiry to be conducted by Sasha Wass QC – published on 20 November 2014.

It says:

“In November 2012, the FCO received anonymous allegations in relation to St Helena and Ascension that sexual offenses against children were not being properly investigated or prosecuted and that the Saint Helena Police Service (SHPS) in particular was failing in its duty to children and vulnerable adults.

“A number of separate investigations were undertaken, including in response to further allegations. On the basis of recommendations made by the investigations, the St. Helena authorities responded with action plans to address the deficiencies identified.

“Relations between St Helena’s Social Services and the SHPS remained difficult however, leading to a breakdown in the professional relationship between the two organisations.

“In March 2014, St Helena’s Chief Justice expressed concern about the conduct of St Helena Government (SHG) officials during an adoption case in Ascension and recommended an independent barrister-led review into whether any wrong-doing had been committed.

“A number of officials were subsequently suspended pending a police investigation.

“In July, the FCO received a letter of resignation from the suspended senior social work manager alleging detriment for whistle-blowing.

“In a separate document prepared for an employment tribunal, the former employee made a substantial number of separate allegations relating to specific child safety incidents on St Helena and Ascension, the response of the local government authorities, and the role of the FCO and DFID.

“A separate but similar document from another former employee of Social Services echoed these allegations.

“In response, the then Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs agreed to establish an independent panel of experts to investigate these allegations and any related matters which the panel thought pertinent.”

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