Governor ‘failed to act on urgent warnings’

Governor Mark Capes was given urgent warnings of problems with social work and legal problems on St Helena and Ascension Island – and failed to act on them.

As a result, Claire Gannon arrived to take up her social services post and found “chaos”, says the Wass Report into the handling of child abuse on the islands.

Mr Capes had earlier been warned that the island was about to be left without a qualified social worker.

He also failed to act on a warning about the lack of a formal fostering system on St Helena.

That led to complications in a court case that resulted in Claire Gannon and the island’s then attorney general being suspended.

The social worker resigned in protests and went on to leak the damaging Lucy Faithfull Foundation report on abuse, resulting in global damage to the island’s reputation.

Mr Capes also failed to act after former PC Michael Anderson told how a sex offender convicted on Ascension council was then able to escape punishment for breaching his community order when on St Helena.

The Wass report says: “Governor Capes’ attention was specifically drawn to matters which required urgent consideration by an email from Viv Neary, the child protection coordinator for British Overseas Territories, in March 2012.

“These included the lack of a formal arrangement for fostering children on the island; and the fact that the only qualified social worker was due to leave in May 2012 with no replacement ready to take over.

Neither of those two matters was resolved by the governor, and his failure to heed the warnings given to him directly impacted on the complications that arose during the Child F adoption case in late 2013 and early 2014.

PC Anderson’s complaint also remained unresolved when the inquiry team arrived on St Helena in March 2015.

“Mr Anderson specifically complained about a case in which a sex offender had been convicted on Ascension Island and sentenced to a community order by the Ascension Island Magistrates’ Court.

“The man in question was deported to St Helena, where he breached the community order. He was brought before the same chief magistrate who had sentenced him and who was now presiding over the St Helena Magistrates’ Court.

“The St Helena Magistrates’ Court had no power to deal with the breach of a community order which had been imposed by the Ascension Island Magistrates’ Court.

“In giving his judgment in October 2012, the chief magistrate made it plain that this matter required urgent action and that the passing of an ordinance would resolve the matter quickly.

“The St Helena Government had failed to deal with it by March 2015, when the Inquiry Panel visited the island. We can find no excuse for this oversight.

“Governor Capes did act in respect of another of former Police Constable Anderson’s legitimate concerns, namely the lack of licensing laws on Ascension Island.”

Children were spending their evening in bars with their parents – leading to reports of social problems.

As a result, a new law was passed preventing children from entering bars.

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