Problems with sex abuse and domestic violence on St Helena were acknowledged in print by a former governor more than a decade before the issue became an international scandal.
David Smallman’s brief mention of the issue shows action was being taken against at least some offenders – but it does not undermine allegations made in a Daily Telegraph investigation.
The newspaper said the UK was warned in 2002 that the island did not have the resources to protect children, but took too little action. Ivy Ellick OBE told journalist Tom Rowley that when cases were taken to court, they were often dismissed because they had not been handled properly.
Mr Smallman referred to the problem in the introduction to his 2003 book, Quincentenary, marking 500 years since the island’s discovery.
He said strong family values and sense of community had grown up, creating “a society in which there is no overt racism, there are no muggings, or murders, no hard drugs or organised crime, and where it is still the rule rather than the exception to leave one’s house and car unlocked.
“Nonetheless,” he continued, “drink-related crimes, battered wives and domestic violence, even incest, are not uncommon.
“The local jail customarily has a majority of its inmates (an average of between four and six convicted prisoners) serving sentences for sex offences…”
The passage confirms that action was taken against sex offenders, despite an alleged culture of acceptance of sexual abuses.
But the Telegraph, like the Lucy Faithfull Foundation before it, was concerned with allegations that “establishment” figures went unpunished and that UK officials failed to deal with the issue adequately.
St Helena Government has made child safeguarding a high priority in response to the Lucy Faithfull report, launching a number of initiatives to support victims and prevent offending. Frequent action in cases of domestic violence has been reported by police.
David Smallman was governor of St Helena from 1995 to 1999. The fly leaf of his book says he was not always popular in London because of the way he championed the island’s cause.
The book says his legacy includes a strengthening of the island’s legal and judicial system, which included bringing independent legal representation to Jamestown through the creation of the public solicitor’s office.