‘Horror’ of child sex going unchecked – social workers’ claims

Claire Gannon and Martin Warsama told of “the sheer horror” of finding widespread child abuse on St Helena, in sworn legal documents submitted to their employment tribunal pre-hearing.

And they spoke of the stress of trying to work in what Britain’s Foreign Secretary has called a “difficult” relationship with police.

Claire Gannon wrote in her evidence about returning from leave over Christmas 2013.

“The hostile working environment was as before,” she said. “The police still refused to work with us on safeguarding issues and sought to undermine and frustrate our work.”

Police have previously strenuously denied such claims.

But the same criticisms were levelled in the leaked first draft of the report the FCO commissioned from the “respected” Lucy Faithfull Foundation – which named police officer Jeromy Cairns-Wicks as a probable paedophile.

Only later was he prosecuted and jailed for 11 years for prolonged child sex abuse.

The social workers’ evidence may never be tested and challenged in open court, because of the judge’s ruling that the employment case cannot legally be heard in the UK.

The preliminary hearing was held simply to decide whether the law allowed the unfair dismissal claims to be heard in London, not St Helena. The broader evidence in the case was not considered.

Martin Warsama’s submission told how he asked for extended leave over Christmas 2013 to recuperate from the strain of the job.

He said: “I had been exhausted by the enormous workload, the harassment and the sheer horror of the widespread and un-addressed child abuse on the island.”

He said St Helena Government refused the leave request, but that the Department for International Development (DFID), which paid his salary, agreed to it.

Mr Warsama’s evidence told how the island’s Chief Secretary asked DFID to help after they first raised confidential concerns as whistle-blowers. He said they were given more leave and better pay to help them cope with the stress.

He said the chief secretary also agreed to implement the recommendations of the Lucy Faithfull report.

Mr Warsama’s salary rose from £42,000 to £47,000 and his job title was changed to become a social services manager.

But then concerns were raised in a court hearing on Ascension about the handling of an adoption case, completely unrelated to the sex abuse issues.

Claire Gannon was one of “a number of officials” suspended over the affair in May 2014, according to the UK Government statement announcing the Wass Inquiry.

Ms Gannon resigned, claiming constructive dismissal – meaning that she felt she had been forced out of her job.

Mr Warsama was dismissed outright for failing to complete his probation period satisfactorily – despite having been promoted part-way through it. He claimed unfair dismissal.

St Helena Government said on 5 February 2015 that investigations into the adoption case were continuing.

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