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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Democracy on St Helena: councillors opposed prison move – so ‘Enforcer’ Capes sacked them

The man brought in to rule St Helena was known as “The Enforcer”, he told the Wass Inquiry. And when councillors opposed plans to move the island’s prison, Mark Capes lived up to his nickname: he removed the whole council.

Governor Capes took the “nuclear option” to shut down the legislative council for the maximum possible time so he could “work on” a new crop of councillors, the inquiry report reveals.

But Sasha Wass QC strongly criticises the moving of the prison to a residential area, because sex offenders would exercise outside the compound.

The public was never given a reason for Mr Capes dissolving LegCo at an hour’s notice, three months before setting an election date.

The governor also obstructed public debate by imposing three months’ “purdah”, meaning officials and former councillors could not discuss contentious issues. The government claimed this followed best practice, but the system only operates for about three weeks before UK national elections.

Deposed councillors sent a furious protest to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office – which backed the governor.

The Wass report does not disclose any other reasons the governor may have had for using his power to remove councillors. It says:

“The inquiry panel raised the point with Governor Mark Capes that there had been fierce opposition to the location of the new prison. He said this: ‘With the prison, I took steps to make sure that we were going to get it done…

“‘I could see we were going to get resistance from our councillors, our elected members who had an attitude that prison is meant to be uncomfortable and unpleasant and there are other things to spend money on.

“‘So one of the reasons I dissolved the Legislative Council in April 2013 was because I felt that the councillors that we had at the time didn’t have the stomach for this.’

“Governor Capes explained that if democratically elected members did not agree with his approach, he had the power to dispense with them. He continued: ‘It was a sort of nuclear option and I dissolved LegCo and I delayed the election for as long as possible under the constitution.

“‘That gave us time to work on plans and strategy and part of that strategy was to make sure that whatever happened with our new councillors, and I was optimistic we were going to get a fresh crop of more…

“‘I wanted to make sure I could work on the new councillors to persuade them that this was the right thing to do to move the prison.””

In their letter to the FCO, 11 of the 12 deposed councillors said the handling of the affair had done nothing to inspire public confidence.

“The process could have been conducted in a more courteous way…. it infers a lack of respect for politicians, the people’s representatives. During this extended purdah, democracy suffers.”

A succession of reports had condemned the Victorian prison in Jamestown, which failed to meet inmates’ basic human rights.

Two months after deposing the council, the governor also imposed a law banning children from bars on Ascension Island, against the advice of the island council – a safeguarding move that won the approval of Sasha Wass.

She says the governor should not simply override objections to projects, because this causes “disquiet and division”.

  • The Wass report says Governor Capes told the inquiry panel: “They asked me to come here to coincide with the airport project because they needed someone who knew about Overseas Territories and how to get things done. My nickname was The Enforcer.”

Governor ‘cocked up’ by dissolving LegCo, says professor
Sacked councillors round on His Absency the Governor
London dismisses election protest against Governor Capes

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How police chief Coll ‘failed to investigate’ abuser Cairns-Wicks – and made him a policeman instead

St Helena’s former police chief could have been disciplined for failing to act on allegations of child sex offences against Jeromy Cairns-Wicks, says the Wass report.

Instead of investigating him, it says, Peter Coll actually recruited him as a police officer- and later made him a sergeant.

New suspicions arose in 2013, leading to an 11-year jail term.

Investigators from Northumbria Police found “beyond reasonable doubt” that Mr Coll would have had a case to answer for neglect of duty.

But because he had since retired, no case could be brought under police regulations.

Sasha Wass QC looked into the case as part of her inquiry into police conduct.

She says the Northumbria Police report on the affair should have been published, to show transparency and prevent unfounded stories circulating.

She reports how Mr Coll justified employing  Cairns-Wicks in the police service by saying: “It’s better to have him where we can keep an eye on him. We will put him in a back room where he can do no harm.”

He had previously worked in the social services department.

Cairns-Wicks was eventually trapped when new allegations were made against him by an unnamed woman, and a covert investigation was set up.

Two detectives were given a base away from the police station to avoid rousing his suspicions.

An adult woman reluctantly admitted she had been abused by him over a long period but refused to say how. But when she said Cairns-Wicks had taken indecent photographs of children, the detectives were able to obtain a warrant to search his home.

When unlicenced firearms and ammunition were found, Cairns-Wicks resigned from the police. His computer was seized and taken to the UK, where pornographic images of children were found.

Once he had been convicted and imprisoned for those offences, his victim finally felt able to give evidence against him.

“On 19 November 2013, Jeromy Cairns Wicks was charged with 28 offences against Adult D which occurred between the ages of four and 19,” says the Wass report. “He pleaded guilty on 22 November and was sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment.”

The investigation led to a feud when social worker Claire Gannon learned about it, and was told she could not be involved because of its delicate nature.

The Wass report says her attempts to intervene – which included formal complaints – showed a lack of understanding of her role.

“When Detective Constable Veronica Judd gave evidence to the inquiry panel, she said that Claire Gannon was unable to distinguish between evidence and suspicion.

“Ms Judd told us: ‘There were so many times (well one in particular), when that could have absolutely destroyed any evidence that we could have gathered.'”

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Feud with police ‘affected help for people in need’

A feud blew up after social worker Claire Gannon was told she could not be part of an investigation into child abuse by police officer Jeromy Cairns-Wicks.

It was “in full swing” when a Lucy Faithfull Foundation team arrived to assess child safeguarding on St Helena, says the Wass Inquiry report.

It says Claire Gannon had an influence in the writing of the Lucy Faithfull report – which made “unfounded criticisms” of police.

The Wass team found the report’s “excoriating attack on named police officers amounted to little more than the repetition of spiteful gossip.”

Sasha Wass says Claire Gannon fell out with detectives within two months of arriving on the island in February 2013.

“Officers DS Pritchard and DC Judd were tasked to conduct a sensitive investigation into Jeromy Cairns Wicks, a serving police officer. The investigation needed to be conducted covertly.

“Claire Gannon refused to accept this operational decision and demanded to be told about the progress of the enquiries.

“When officers made it plain that she could not be part of the investigation team, she made a formal complaint about the investigating officers’ conduct.

“It is plain from emails that we have seen that DS Pritchard did not react well to the interference of Claire Gannon, and their working relationship never recovered.”

Cairns-Wicks was later sentenced to 11 years in prison.

When Trevor Botting replaced Peter Coll as chief of police, Claire Gannon still refused to work with officers, says Sasha Wass.

She was instrumental in the recruitment of her long-standing associate, Martin Warsama – acting as his referee even though she helped interview him.

His “abrasive” manner made the relationship with police deteriorate still further, says the Wass report.

“This would have undoubtedly had an adverse effect on those who looked to the social services department for assistance,” it says.

“It is plain from documents that we have considered that those who were responsible for managing Claire Gannon and Martin Warsama failed to do so.

“The St Helena Government’s overriding objective appeared to be to keep the two of them in post, knowing the difficulty of finding replacements.”

The Inquiry Panel found that their successor, Samantha Dunn, was “working closely and harmoniously with the police.”

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Island ‘still being run as a colony’, says Wass

The governor’s role as ‘head of state’ on an island of just 4,000 people is getting in the way of running the island properly, the Wass Inquiry has found.

“The picture that emerged to the inquiry panel was that St Helena was still being run as a colony,” its report says, “with the Governor acting as the Queen’s representative and delegating the day-to-day responsibility of managing the island to others.”

But with the population of a small English village, “there is no justification for a disconnect between the governor and the practical issues of day-to-day management.

His two roles mean he hands jobs to himself – and fails to carry them out.

“The Governor, as head of state, effectively delegates tasks to himself as head of government. It is essential that as head of government he follows up delegated tasks to ensure that they are fulfilled.”

He had ignored warnings about management of the island and “delegated certain tasks as if that were the end of his responsibility.”

“The august title belies the need for a shirt-sleeved manager,” says the report.

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Saints ‘going without care’ since clinics closed

A lack of equipment in St Helena’s hospital is exposed in the Wass Report.

“We found that the hospital lacked the rudimentary facilities required for the care of the sick,” it says.

“We were told by nurses that there was only enough running hot water for one bath; that the dishwasher and bedpan washer had been broken for three years; and that the hospital relied on the charitable donations of others for fundamental equipment.

“For example, the only operating table had been donated by the previous surgeon when he left his post.

“We were also told that regional health clinics had closed and not been replaced, meaning that sick and vulnerable St Helenians living in remote parts of the island were not receiving medical attention. The inquiry panel was disturbed to learn that the governor appeared to be unsure about when these clinics had actually closed.”

The inquiry team visited the hospital because it had an impact on child welfare.

St Helena Government has already announced an extensive upgrade of the hospital, and work is under way.

The Wass report says clinics should be opened to give people in remote parts of the island have easy access to medical care. This would help staff spot early signs of abuse and monitor very young families, it says.

At the press conference held in response to the report, chief secretary Roy Burke said the government would look into reopening local clinics.

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