Feud with police ‘affected help for people in need’

A feud blew up after social worker Claire Gannon was told she could not be part of an investigation into child abuse by police officer Jeromy Cairns-Wicks.

It was “in full swing” when a Lucy Faithfull Foundation team arrived to assess child safeguarding on St Helena, says the Wass Inquiry report.

It says Claire Gannon had an influence in the writing of the Lucy Faithfull report – which made “unfounded criticisms” of police.

The Wass team found the report’s “excoriating attack on named police officers amounted to little more than the repetition of spiteful gossip.”

Sasha Wass says Claire Gannon fell out with detectives within two months of arriving on the island in February 2013.

“Officers DS Pritchard and DC Judd were tasked to conduct a sensitive investigation into Jeromy Cairns Wicks, a serving police officer. The investigation needed to be conducted covertly.

“Claire Gannon refused to accept this operational decision and demanded to be told about the progress of the enquiries.

“When officers made it plain that she could not be part of the investigation team, she made a formal complaint about the investigating officers’ conduct.

“It is plain from emails that we have seen that DS Pritchard did not react well to the interference of Claire Gannon, and their working relationship never recovered.”

Cairns-Wicks was later sentenced to 11 years in prison.

When Trevor Botting replaced Peter Coll as chief of police, Claire Gannon still refused to work with officers, says Sasha Wass.

She was instrumental in the recruitment of her long-standing associate, Martin Warsama – acting as his referee even though she helped interview him.

His “abrasive” manner made the relationship with police deteriorate still further, says the Wass report.

“This would have undoubtedly had an adverse effect on those who looked to the social services department for assistance,” it says.

“It is plain from documents that we have considered that those who were responsible for managing Claire Gannon and Martin Warsama failed to do so.

“The St Helena Government’s overriding objective appeared to be to keep the two of them in post, knowing the difficulty of finding replacements.”

The Inquiry Panel found that their successor, Samantha Dunn, was “working closely and harmoniously with the police.”

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