St Helena gets its first female governor

Lisa Phillips has been appointed Governor of St Helena and non-resident governor of Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha in succession to Mark Capes, who will be transferring to another Diplomatic Service appointment. Lisa will take up her appointment in St Helena during April 2016 (Statement from Foreign and Commonwealth Office, London). 

Read the full story here

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Pioneer runners get St Helena on the move

On The Move run 01 2500

The things people will do to get a free T-shirt – like run 15 or more kilometres around Jamestown, for instance (not all at once). Or maybe they were running because actually, it’s healthy and quite fun and afterwards, you feel somehow better.

Thirty eight people lined up on the wharf, all smiling for the camera, at the start of the first of a series of three-kilometre runs under the banner, St Helena On The Move.

On The Move poster 400A little over half an hour later – 31 minutes and 46 seconds, to be exact – the last of them crossed the line. The fastest was back in a mere 14:25, as timed by the team from New Horizons.

Anyone completing at least five of the initial seven runs gets the free shirt, as a badge of honour.

The weekly runs, scheduled for seven Thursday afternoons from 12 January 2016, have been initiated by Dr Niall O’Keeffe, head of Enterprise St Helena, who brought the idea from his home in Ireland.

“I’ve been participating in and when possible helping to organise events like this for over 30 years,” he said.

“My home village of Ballycotton in Ireland is known by runners around the world for its events. We have regular 3km, 5km, 5-mile series and a 10-mile race in March capped at 3,300 entrants. I was also a member of East Cork AC and we had 3km winter series since the late 80s.

“The events have a very positive impact in the local community for participants, organiser, and supporters. The 10-mile event in March in particular draws competitors from around the world and has a significant tourism benefits.

“St Helena does have a running festival and I’d like to see more people having the confidence to participate by building up distance and frequency of running and walking.

“There are many people already walking and running the roads in St Helena on their own so it’s nice sometimes to participate with others.”

Enterprise St Helena is associated with economic development but Niall said the agency can also take a wider, “holistic” approach to helping people embark on new lives.

“At this time of the year many people’s thoughts turn to resolutions relating to health, career, education, business start-ups etc. ESH can provide support in most of these areas.”

He also said that St Helena On The Move could touch on all three of the National Goals – including strong community and family life.

  • The island runs bear some similarity with the parkrun movement that started in a park in London and has spread to 11 countries worldwide, with well over a million people signed up (including the owner of St Helena Online – 88 runs and counting). The parkrun phenomenon sees people of all abilities turn up in parks on Saturday mornings to take part in free, 5km runs. To get a free shirt, though, adults have to complete 50 runs (children get one after 10). A 92-year-old man in Australia has earned his 100-run shirt and features in an inspirational film, here. Councillor Gavin Ellick made a fact-finding visit to Leamington parkrun in the UK, and there has been talk of trying to establish a parkrun on St Helena.



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It’s all light on the night as Christmas comes to Jamestown

St Helena Festival of Lights 2015 - What The Saints Did Next

St Helena Festival of Lights 2015

The Festival of Lights in Jamestown gets brighter every year. A replica RMS St Helena rolled down Main Street and in the bay, the real ship was lit up for her final Christmas. A large aircraft and even an air traffic control tower rumbled down through town as well, along with cheerleaders from Pilling School and lots and lots of Santas (most of them female).

Darrin and Sharon Henry launched their What The Saints Did Next blog a year ago with pictures of the 2014 festival, and they’ve produced some great shots again in 2015 – including the one above. Find more here.

Festival of Lights Paul Tyson

Check Paul Tyson’s Two Years In The Atlantic blog to see whether he’s posted his own images there yet; if not, you can see a first selection on his Facebook page, here.

Paul’s verdict: “Another fantastic show for Christmas 2015. Well done to Pilling Primary School and to all the Saint community who are the best when it comes to making the spectacular out of nothing. What a wonderful night.”

Ed Thorpe also has some excellent pictures (see below) in the St Helena Independent and on Facebook, here.

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 22.57.31.png


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Airport road name honours Sharon’s memory

The memory of Sharon Wainwright, who led the push for air travel to St Helena, is to be honoured in the naming of a section of the airport access road.

Wainwright Way was one of seven winning entries in a competition to find names for sections of the road, originally built to carry construction traffic up from Rupert’s Valley.

Sharon was in London in her role as St Helena Government’s airport project manager when she died suddenly on 15 August 2011, only weeks before it was announced that construction would go ahead.

Governor Andrew Gurr said at the time that people who benefited from the airport would owe gratitude to her memory for decades to come.

A competition was held in July to choose a name for the haul road, once it is opened to the public. In the end, seven names were chosen for different sections.

Councillor Pamela Ward Pearce said: “We liked African Slave Road as this shows the area where the recent excavations uncovered the slave graves. Airbay Road was felt to encompass the flow of the road from the airport to Rupert’s Bay.

“Boer Road and Pipe Ridge Pass were sections near the old roads of those names, while Flagstaff View and Wirebird Way are sections where you have a view of Flagstaff and the wirebird nesting area respectively.

“Finally Wainwright Way was chosen to honour our own Sharon Wainwright, who worked so hard to make the airport a reality but sadly did not live to see it to fruition.”

Wainwright Way was suggested by Jean-Claude George, Keegan Yon and Jacob Williams. Other winning names were put forward by Alexandra Benjamin (Wirebird Way), Keegan Yon, Pascal Walters (Pipe Ridge Pass), Charlize Crowie (Flagstaff View), Victoria Mastna, Joshua O’Bey and Renee Youde (Boer Road), Tyran Henry (Airbay Road), and Colby Richards (African Slave Road).

Click the thumbnails to see larger pictures:

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Rape victim left with HIV

A woman was found to have been infected with HIV – the virus linked to AIDS – after being raped by an overseas worker on St Helena, according to the Wass Inquiry report.

It says the worker was temporarily employed on the island’s airport project.

The report says HIV/AIDS was recorded on the island for the first time in 2014 – four cases – though the government statistician confirmed in 2013 that there had been one AIDS death on the island and some Saints were living with the virus.

The Wass Inquiry also reported that it had examined files relating to the rape and abuse of a small number of vulnerable adults with learning difficulties.

They included an adult who was raped at the Challenging Behaviour Unit.

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Alleged illegal sterilisation of mother shocks inquiry team

A mother is alleged to have been illegally sterilised while giving birth at Jamestown Hospital, the Wass Inquiry reveals.

It says she was delivering her child by Caesarean section when she was sterilised “without her prior knowledge or consent” by the doctor looking after her.

“This is a shocking allegation which, if true, would constitute a serious criminal offence,” says Sasha Wass QC in her report.

The public solicitor told the inquiry said that the mother had been promised that the matter was being investigated.

But the panel was “disturbed” that many months had passed since the birth with no outcome.

It recommended that police and the attorney general should review the case.

St Helena Government noted the report but said it could comment for privacy reasons.

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Charity chief rejects criticism of report that sparked scandal

Experts at the Lucy Faithfull Foundation have expressed surprise at the Wass Inquiry’s finding that sex abuse on St Helena is very limited.

“It is typically the case that… reported cases are but the tip of the iceberg,” says the abuse charity’s director of research, Donald Findlater. “The inquiry panel appears not to even acknowledge this possibility.”

The charity admits its researcher behaved unprofessionally by sharing its confidential 2013 report with social worker Claire Gannon, who leaked it to the Daily Mail.

But it rejects criticism that the document was “deeply flawed” because it relied heavily on unsupported evidence from Claire Gannon herself.

“The report’s authors saw 57 individuals on St Helena, whose testimony was crucial to the report’s findings. And evidence concerning the police was largely drawn from police colleagues, not Gannon.

“Whilst the Lucy Faithfull Foundation acknowledges the professional shortcomings of the author of its 2013 report, it does not accept many of the criticisms made in [the] Wass Inquiry report.

“Specifically, [it] is surprised to hear the Wass Inquiry considers that sexual abuse on St Helena is “confined to isolated pockets of the population and involved in a limited number of problem families.”

Mr Findlater suggests people giving evidence to the Wass Inquiry might have been much more guarded in the wake of the Lucy Faithfull leak and the “unfounded” scandal stories it provoked.

“Evidence provided to the Inquiry might understandably differ from that provided earlier.”

He also accuses Sasha Wass QC of failing to credit the foundation with positive outcomes from the 37 recommendations in its report.

“The majority of these recommendations have now been implemented.”

Sasha Wass does acknowledge that significant improvements began to be made to social services and child safeguarding on St Helena in the wake of the Lucy Faithfull visit – and before Claire Gannon made her allegations of corruption and cover-ups.

The charity also rejects criticism for including allegations not backed up by solid evidence – because its report was never meant to be made public. Any allegations “were passed on for investigation”.

Mike Sheath, the researcher who shared the report with Claire Gannon, was formally reprimanded when his actions came to light, and removed from further work on St Helena and Ascension Island.

“He is very regretful of the upset and distress that has been caused and has offered an unreserved apology. Lucy Faithfull Foundation also regrets the upset resulting from the public sharing of its confidential report by Claire Gannon.”

  • Chief of Police Trevor Botting told the Wass Inquiry that some of the Lucy Faithfull recommendations led to spending on low-priority projects. He bought body-worn cameras for officers to use on domestic violence call-outs, but said they “had not been necessary and were rarely used.”
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Island’s accuser ‘should never have been given job’

Claire Gannon should never have been employed to run St Helena’s badly neglected social services department, the Wass Inquiry has found.

When the job went badly wrong she went to the media with allegations of corruption and widespread abuse.

The Wass report says she had not been involved in front-line social work “for some considerable time” and lacked the skills needed to rescue a service in disarray.

“Claire Gannon’s past history at Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council had not been properly investigated and she was not suited to the post to which she was appointed,” says the report.

“The responsibility for the failings in her recruitment lies with the St Helena Government. However, her subsequent conduct could not have been predicted.”

That included leaking a confidential copy of the Lucy Faithfull Foundation report into sex abuse – from which it was possible to identify a rape victim.

The woman involved is said to have been distressed that the report appeared on the internet, meaning her identity could be discovered.

The Wass report also says she breached client confidentiality by supplying the name of an abuse victim to a Channel 4 reporter in the UK, as part of her media campaign against St Helena Government.

Sasha Wass says the inquiry panel saw no evidence of written strategies or plans for her department, and the only document she presented to the government was produced solely to support a pay demand.

The report says she:

  • “obstructed and misled the supreme court” in an adoption case
  • “almost jeopardised an important criminal investigation” into abuser Jeromy Cairns-Wicks
  • let her bad relationship with police “eclipse her professional duty to those in her care”.
  • failed to help a critically disabled young woman at Barn View residential unit
  • made false or misleading allegations in her employment tribunal claim
  • fed false or misleading information to the Daily Mail “in order to support a claim for unfair dismissal”.

St Helena Government paid for Claire Gannon to undertake teacher training in social work at Sheffield Hallam University, but the inquiry found she then “did nothing” for unqualified social care officers who needed tuition.

When interviewed by the inquiry panel, Claire Gannon admitted instructing her lawyer to post the Lucy Faithfull Foundation report on the internet.

She halted a second interview, and failed to return the next day. Three weeks later, she attended with her solicitor but halted the interview again.

In September 2015, her solicitor submitted a 61-page witness statement.

In it, she said: “I have become increasingly concerned that the Wass Inquiry is biased and seeking to negatively investigate the whistle blowers and their character/credibility, rather than the actual unlawful activities by the FCO, DFID, the governor, the deputy governor, the chiefs of police, and others.”

The inquiry found no illegality.

Sasha Wass says the inquiry panel “has tried to understand” how Claire Gannon and fellow social worker Martin Warsama were allowed to operate on St Helena, “given their obvious lack of ability and industry”.

She says: “The answer may be that neither of the directors of health and social welfare during the relevant period had any social work qualifications. They would not have been aware of the required standards of social work practice and consequently were unable to monitor Claire Gannon’s performance.

“…it was clear that they put their trust in Claire Gannon and what they saw as her gilt- edged credentials.” They were “ill-equipped to call her to account”.

Her successor, Samantha Dunn, “was able to rationalise the files, identify the problems and get to grips with her job within weeks of her arrival on St Helena.”

St Helena Government now makes much more robust checks on job candidates.

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How a ‘lazy, horrible’ man got glowing reference for post

Martin Warsama came highly praised when he applied for a social work job on St Helena, even though the Wass corruption inquiry later found him to be “incompetent, lazy and divisive”.

And it was no wonder that his future boss saw nothing wrong with his job reference – because she wrote it herself.

Claire Gannon was also on his interview panel.

Her involvement in appointing him revealed a flaw in SHG employment practices – since tightened up. She had “a clear conflict of interest” because they had worked closely together in the UK, says Sasha Wass QC.

The inquiry panel heard that colleagues found Martin Warsama extremely difficult to work with.

The public solicitor of the time called him “a chippy bloke who hated everyone.”

Detective Constable Veronica Judd said he was “one of the most aggressive, rude men I’ve ever had the misfortune to meet. He was extremely intimidating.”

The director of health and social services told the inquiry that Mr Warsama was employed as a social work trainer “but never did any training”.

A colleague described how he and Claire Gannon would take several smoking breaks a day – lasting up to an hour.

The policy development officer for safeguarding said: “We immediately discovered that Martin was one of the most horrid people I’ve ever met… He was lazy, incompetent, and horrible.”

But Ms Gannon’s reference for him said than during ten years working with him, she found him “confident and competent” in all his roles.

“Martin has always presented as a helpful, considerate person who strives to achieve the best outcome for service users,” she wrote. “He works well as part of a team… he has a balanced approach… excellent communication skills and able to be assertive without being officious.”

The inquiry report also says he claimed a cost of living allowance for his partner and two children, but they never came to the island. A dispute arose when SHG tried to reclaim the money, the report says.

Mr Warsama’s job included training police. But the Wass report makes it clear he had a difficult relationship with officers.

In his evidence to the inquiry in February 2015, he said: “There weren’t any systems… Someone might not get a service or told go somewhere else. If I knew them I would talk to them. There didn’t seem to be a recording system. There were lots of files but no system. Just a jamboree of information.”

The report says: “Mr Warsama did nothing to rectify this situation, despite being employed to do so …it was difficult to ascertain exactly what Martin Warsama did whilst in post.”

Claire Gannon and Martin Warsama were severely criticised by the island’s Chief Justice, Charles Ekins, for the state of the evidence they supplied at an adoption hearing. It led to them being investigated to see whether they had committed perjury. A police inquiry did not find enough evidence for a prosecution.

A subsequent complaint to their professional body found no evidence of wrongdoing or of being unfit to practise.

It was Ms Gannon who leaked the confidential Lucy Faithfull Foundation report to the Daily Mail and had it published on the internet, but Mr Warsama supported allegations she made against authorities on the island – later dismissed by the Wass Inquiry.

Mr Warsama says he strongly refuted criticisms made of himself and Claire Gannon in the inquiry report, but says his lawyers have advised him not to comment until after Christmas.

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Capes blamed for failures to heed warnings that led to scandal

Governor Mark Capes failed to act on warnings of serious problems that led to St Helena being unfairly mired in scandal, according to the Wass Inquiry report.

It says he “must be held responsible” for the island being left without any social workers for nine months, and for the lack of a foster care system that resulted in a bitter court case.

Both were factors that led to shock headlines in the Daily Mail, and the launching of the Wass investigation into allegations of corruption and cover-ups of child abuse.

They also left vulnerable people with inadequate support.

Sasha Wass QC says the corruption allegations were unfounded. But she says the island “suffers from bad management” under the governor – partly because of conflict between his twin roles as head of government and head of state.

She also suggests that island’s airport project diverted him from his “primary duty… to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the people of St Helena.” He did not act properly on warnings that had been given “loudly and repeatedly”.

She adds: “…the St Helena Government has repeatedly and inexcusably failed to address issues relating to child welfare which were drawn to its attention on numerous occasions.”

She also says social work manager Claire Gannon, who made the media allegations, found chaos in the social services department when she finally arrived – unbriefed – on St Helena.

Mr Capes had failed to act on a consultant’s strong warning in 2012 that the only social worker was about to depart and needed replacing urgently.

The lack of a fostering system meant a baby had to be informally fostered by ex-pat workers on the island, prompting in a court battle that ended with criticisms of the social services.

Two investigations cleared Claire Gannon of wrongdoing but she left her job, began legal proceedings and took her allegations to a publicist, triggering the Wass Inquiry.

The report also questions Mr Capes’s performance in seven areas:

  • Failure to act on concerns raised in child welfare reports
  • The dilapidated state of Jamestown Hospital
  • Closure of local clinics that served vulnerable people
  • “Appalling neglect” of a severely disabled teenager at Barn View
  • Failure to act quickly to secure new medical partnerships when flights were arranged with Johannesburg, not Cape Town
  • Failure to act quickly to ensure families on Ascension would have direct access to St Helena when the RMS St Helena is retired
  • Safeguarding problems caused by moving the prison.

The Wass Report says: “St Helena suffers from bad management and a lack of strategic organisation. This is not a new finding. In a DFID Social Development Advisor’s report in 2000, he observed: ‘There is little evidence of joined up thinking in SHG policy-making.’

“Governor Capes told the Inquiry Panel that the current and immediate problems in social welfare were explained to him very soon after he arrived on St Helena by social worker Viv Neary.

“From that point onwards, Governor Capes must be held responsible for the failure to act.

“There were no qualified social workers on St Helena from May 2012; efforts to find a replacement did not begin until June 2012, and it was not until February 2013 that a qualified social worker took up her post on St Helena.

“Whilst we accept that the office of governor allows for delegation of responsibility to the chief secretary and the directors of the various departments, the overall responsibility for the management of the island lies with the governor himself.”

He still had responsibility to ensure that work he passed to others was completed.

“St Helena has a population of approximately 4,000. There can be no excuse for failing to appreciate what is happening on an island with the same population as a medium-sized English village.

“The burden of making arrangements for the forthcoming airport has been substantial… whatever the reason, [Mr Capes] did not give sufficient attention to the more mundane aspects of managing St Helena.”

34 reports on abuse in 14 years. ‘UK neglected St Helena’ says Capes
Governor failed to use powers to give investigators access to vital files, report reveals
Island ‘still being run as a colony’, says Wass
Lasting shame of disabled girl ‘left to waste away’


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