‘No credible evidence’ as whistle-blowers are cleared again
Experts have dismissed serious criticisms of the whistle-blowers who triggered investigations into sex abuse on St Helena.
Their professional body in London has declared there was “no credible evidence” that the two social workers were unfit to practise.
The finding renews questions about the way Claire Gannon and Martin Warsama had been publicly denounced in documents published by St Helena Government.
Attorney general Nicola Moore had issued a statement saying they had acted unprofessionally in an adoption case, without providing evidence for the claim. Later, SHG published a judge’s damning suspicions about their conduct – but two months after a criminal investigation cleared them.
Ms Moore also announced that evidence was being passed to their professional body – a matter that would normally be confidential.
The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) has now found they had acted in the best interests of a child in the adoption case, and followed recognised good practice.
Mr Warsama said: “It was clearly rubbish and our governing body have reviewed all the information, and believe me these people are not biased toward practitioners.”
He has repeatedly stated his belief that he and Ms Gannon were being “punished” for alleging the St Helena authorities had failed to investigate sex abuse cases – some involving child victims.
“Basically we whistle-blew and the whole establishment tried to destroy us,” said Mr Warsama.
He said he and Ms Gannon had been unable to take up secure jobs in UK social work while threats of criminal prosecution and a professional fitness hearing hung over them.
They told the UK’s Daily Telegraph of living under enormous strain.
In November 2014, the UK Foreign Secretary announced an independent inquiry into their allegations of cover-ups of abuse cases, and into the governance of the island. Sasha Wass QC was expected to publish her findings before the end of 2015.
The complaint to the HCPC was made after an eight-month investigation failed to secure clear evidence of criminal conduct by the two UK social workers in the adoption case, which was not related to the alleged sex abuse issues.
It was launched after Judge Charles Ekins said he suspected they had withheld case files. He urged a review of the papers by an independent lawyer to see whether anyone had committed perjury – a serious crime that can carry a long prison term.
The attorney general’s statement in February 2015 said evidence from a later police investigation was reviewed “by a second independent counsel, appointed as Public Prosecutor of St Helena specifically to undertake this task.
“Counsel concluded that some of the actions of the suspected persons were ill-advised, unprofessional and showed poor judgment but that there was insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction.”
But the HCPC’s letter to Mr Warsama says there is “no credible evidence to suggest your fitness to practise is impaired.
“We received no evidence to substantiate the allegations against you, and the criminal investigation concluded with no evidence being taken against you.
“On this basis, we will not be pursuing the concern further, and the case is closed.”
Claire Gannon has been advised not to share information with the media until the findings of the Wass inquiry are published. It is understood the HCPC’s letter to her went into more detail, because she had closer involvement in the adoption case.
St Helena Government has refused to reveal the name of the public prosecutor cited by Ms Moore, on the grounds that it would prejudice the administration of justice on the island – though it is not clear how.
Ms Moore offered no evidence to justify her criticism of the social workers – who were not named in her statement – but Judge Ekins later made the extraordinary move of publishing his ruling in the adoption case, even though family matters are normally kept confidential.
No reason was given for publishing the ruling, which voiced strong suspicions of wrongdoing by the social workers. Crucially, it was made public two months after they had been cleared.
The findings of the professional body directly contradicted criticisms made by Judge Ekins.
Ms Gannon and Mr Warsama are continuing to try to bring a case for unfair dismissal over the saga.
Ms Gannon resigned after being suspended from her post as St Helena’s senior social worker. Mr Warsama was told he had failed to pass his period of probation in his job, only weeks after being promoted.
Mr Warsama asked: “Will SHG now apologise, given everything thrown at us?”
St Helena Government said it had no comment to make.
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