Allegations of corruption and of child abuse being covered up on St Helena and Ascension Island have been searingly dismissed at the end of a 13-month inquiry.
Sasha Wass QC and her inquiry team found no justification for “lurid” headlines in the Daily Mail.
“St Helena and its people have been grossly and unfairly tarnished by the allegations which the inquiry was asked to investigate”, she says.
A report leaked to the paper by social worker Claire Gannon was found to have been “compromised” by her own unfounded evidence to the Lucy Faithfull Foundation.
Evidence given to the Wass Inquiry by her fellow social worker Martin Warsama was also dismissed.
Its report – published by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office yesterday (10 December 2015) – says:
“The Inquiry Panel found no evidence that child abuse was either endemic or routine.
“The allegations made by Claire Gannon and Martin Warsama were taken extremely seriously by the inquiry and much of the inquiry’s time was spent investigating what they said in order to establish whether it had any foundation.
“Having conducted this detailed exercise, the inquiry panel was able to demonstrate that there was no truth in the sweeping assertion made by Claire Gannon and Martin Warsama that St Helena was a ‘paedophiles’ paradise’ or that the police and government were corrupt.
“Inevitably, we examined the conduct of Claire Gannon and Martin Warsama themselves.
“The panel was left in no doubt that each of them was professionally incompetent and unable to fulfil the terms of their employment.
“We have considered in detail the cases cited by Ms Gannon and Mr Warsama in which they have alleged corruption in others and have been able to dismiss their claims.”
But Claire Gannon and Martin Warsama may nonetheless have been responsible for spurring officials in London and Jamestown to take proper steps to protect children.
The Wass Report says:
“Following the sensational allegations made in the Daily Mail in July 2014, the St Helena Government has made a concerted effort to address safeguarding.
“One witness told the inquiry panel: ‘It took two of the most incompetent people that I have ever met to go to the papers and exaggerate, for St Helena to give social services the resources it needed.'”