Experts at the Lucy Faithfull Foundation have expressed surprise at the Wass Inquiry’s finding that sex abuse on St Helena is very limited.
“It is typically the case that… reported cases are but the tip of the iceberg,” says the abuse charity’s director of research, Donald Findlater. “The inquiry panel appears not to even acknowledge this possibility.”
The charity admits its researcher behaved unprofessionally by sharing its confidential 2013 report with social worker Claire Gannon, who leaked it to the Daily Mail.
But it rejects criticism that the document was “deeply flawed” because it relied heavily on unsupported evidence from Claire Gannon herself.
“The report’s authors saw 57 individuals on St Helena, whose testimony was crucial to the report’s findings. And evidence concerning the police was largely drawn from police colleagues, not Gannon.
“Whilst the Lucy Faithfull Foundation acknowledges the professional shortcomings of the author of its 2013 report, it does not accept many of the criticisms made in [the] Wass Inquiry report.
“Specifically, [it] is surprised to hear the Wass Inquiry considers that sexual abuse on St Helena is “confined to isolated pockets of the population and involved in a limited number of problem families.”
Mr Findlater suggests people giving evidence to the Wass Inquiry might have been much more guarded in the wake of the Lucy Faithfull leak and the “unfounded” scandal stories it provoked.
“Evidence provided to the Inquiry might understandably differ from that provided earlier.”
He also accuses Sasha Wass QC of failing to credit the foundation with positive outcomes from the 37 recommendations in its report.
“The majority of these recommendations have now been implemented.”
Sasha Wass does acknowledge that significant improvements began to be made to social services and child safeguarding on St Helena in the wake of the Lucy Faithfull visit – and before Claire Gannon made her allegations of corruption and cover-ups.
The charity also rejects criticism for including allegations not backed up by solid evidence – because its report was never meant to be made public. Any allegations “were passed on for investigation”.
Mike Sheath, the researcher who shared the report with Claire Gannon, was formally reprimanded when his actions came to light, and removed from further work on St Helena and Ascension Island.
“He is very regretful of the upset and distress that has been caused and has offered an unreserved apology. Lucy Faithfull Foundation also regrets the upset resulting from the public sharing of its confidential report by Claire Gannon.”
- Chief of Police Trevor Botting told the Wass Inquiry that some of the Lucy Faithfull recommendations led to spending on low-priority projects. He bought body-worn cameras for officers to use on domestic violence call-outs, but said they “had not been necessary and were rarely used.”