The wife of St Helena’s governor was rebuked for spreading “tittle tattle” in the adoption battle that led to a criminal investigation, a court judgement has revealed.
Tamara Capes passed on gossip that a Saint who wanted to adopt his baby neice was already the father of a teenager on the island, it said.
But she shared the revelation in an email to a friend, known in court as Mrs Y, who was hoping to adopt the baby herself. It was then passed to others and hastily investigated.
It led to a suggestion of a conspiracy by “the establishment” on the island to try to make sure the woman and her husband were chosen to adopt the baby girl, the court document said.
The incidents took place early in 2014 but have only now been made public by Judge Charles Ekins.
He dismissed suggestions of “unwarranted interference” in proceedings to decide on the care of the baby, whose mother could not look after her.
The judgement reveals that Mrs Capes had apparently learned of the “secret” teenage daughter while talking to her domestic staff at Plantation House.
“It seems Mrs Capes then thought it appropriate to e-mail Mr and Mrs Y with that information,” said the judge.
Attorney General Frank Wastell told the court that Mrs Y had then phoned his wife about it.
The next day, he contacted the Registrar of Births to check the birth certificate of the alleged secret daughter.
“His evidence was that no father was recited on the birth certificate but that the Registrar of Births told him that she had heard that [the baby’s uncle] was the father.”
Social worker Martin Warsama made a sworn statement saying he had spoken to the mother of the teenage girl.
“She had confirmed to him, his affadavit said, that [the uncle] was indeed the father of this child and that at one time she had consulted the public solicitor to seek financial support for the child.”
The case was then adjourned so that the teenager’s mother – known as Ms Z – could be found.
It turned out that she had been taken to the police station by the sister of the alleged father of her child, apparently to make a statement denying he was the father after all.
At the judge’s request she was given a medical check and then gave a statement to Mr Gardner, the trainee public solicitor.
“In that statement she made clear that whilst she did not know who the father of the child was.” Nor had she ever sought financial help from the alleged father, her statement said.
“It soon became apparent that the information in fact amounted to no more than gossip and tittle-tattle, none of which could conceivably have been put before the Court as evidence,” said the judge.
He added: “It appeared to me that the information amounted to no more than hearsay on gossip on hearsay.”
The uncle’s lawyer, Mr Littlewood, also voiced concern that Mr Wastell had become involved, even though he and his wife had cared for the baby in the case.
And he reported alarm that Mrs Wastell had visited the baby’s foster carers in England. Judge Ekins accepted this was inadvisable but understandable because she had cared for the baby in her first weeks of life.
But he said the events triggered by Mrs Capes were more concerning.
“It was certainly unwise of Mrs Capes to e-mail Mr and Mrs Y,” he said.
“Mrs Y should not have felt able to call Mrs Wastell about the case; and Mrs Wastell should flatly have declined to speak about the case with her.
“Having ensured that he had had nothing to do with this case, the Attorney General should not have taken it upon himself to involve himself, even to the limited extent that he did.
“It ought to have been appreciated that in acting as they did they were capable of giving the impression that the establishment of St Helena were firmly lined up behind Mr and Mrs Y.”
But the incidents raised did not come near to “suggesting an attempt by the Executive to interfere in the judicial process,” said the judge.
“Taken individually the actions were unwise but no more… It is also an object lesson in the danger of listening to or acting upon island gossip and tittle-tattle.”
Mr Warsama told St Helena Online he stood by his evidence. He voiced concern about the way in which the teenager’s mother had been taken to the police station to change her statement, and pointed out that the alleged father was not challenged in court.