St Helena Online

Tag: child abuse

DFID sets aside £19.4 million – including child abuse cash

The UK’s Department for International Development is giving St Helena £1.2m of new money for safeguarding of children and adults.

The announcement came as a team from the UK neared the end of two weeks on the island, investigating alleged failures to deal with widespread child abuse.

The safeguarding money will be used for training, and raising awareness in the community. ​

DFID has set aside a total of £19.43m for St Helena in the coming year. The core budget aid settlement is to be maintained at the same level as last year, at £13.55m.

The planned running deficit of the RMS St Helena is £2.68m. Use of the ship has increased but fuel costs have fallen.

DFID has further confirmed a contingency fund of £1.2m to cover unexpected costs, from legal cases, fuel price rises, and unplanned airport spending.

Abuse: don’t drag down the good with the bad, says blogger

A robust defence of St Helena has been posted by ex-pat blogger Paul Tyson in response to a Daily Telegraph investigation into alleged mishandling of child abuse.

In a piece titled Angry and Saddened, he says the good people in island society are being dragged down with the bad ones.

“My great sadness is the overall picture that has been painted of the island and its people,” he says: “one of sexual predation and of a dirty seedy place of the night, all of which could not be further from the truth.

“Now I am not trying to deny that wrongs were done in the past, and neither do I know whether wrongs continue now, but I do know that this article does not reflect St Helena and its people today, in 2015 at the start of a hopefully bright new era.”

Paul has attracted 1,300 online followers with his striking photographs and descriptions of local life since arriving on the island in 2014 with his teacher wife and two young children. He has enthusiastically taken on volunteer work as well as writing his blog, Two Years in the Atlantic.

He admits he has limited knowledge of the abuse crisis and cannot dispute the facts in the Telegraph’s story. But he challenges the paper’s interpretation of the facts.

He quotes one line that says: “In HM Prison Jamestown, seven out of 11 prisoners are paedophiles.”

And he comments: “To me, this could just as easily read, the authorities are now doing their best to correct this situation.”

He also writes: “A fortnight is such little time on St Helena, but clearly not enough to cast a picture of a place and its people.”

That is a familiar complaint – but two weeks is actually an unusually long time for a writer to spend on a single story, and it is rare for a journalist to spend more than a few days on the island – or to interview so many people.

Paul picks out the reporter’s descriptions of drinkers playing suggestive games at Donny’s Bar on the seafront, early on a Friday evening.

“What Tom neglects to tell anyone is that the night in question was ladies’ night, a special one off where ladies were invited to let their hair down and be a little naughty.

“Show me a hen do or ladies’ night in the UK that does not get a little saucy.”

Paul also criticises the reporter’s descriptions of weekend drinkers going from bar to bar. “Jamestown at the weekend is one of the most relaxed, enjoyable friendly nights out I have had,” he says.

“I do not contest the facts within this article, the cases that have been brought, the apparent cover-ups, the whistle-blowing stories and subsequent job losses make for very difficult reading.

“But let’s be clear, St Helena is one of the safest places I have ever visited. Its people are lovely and friendly; my children can play outdoors without fear of cars, kidnapping or indeed abuse.”

Read Paul’s blog post in full here

Top barrister to investigate sex abuse ‘cover up’ claims

An alleged conspiracy to cover up a report on child abuse on St Helena and Ascension Island is to be investigated by the barrister who prosecuted the TV entertainer Rolf Harris.

Sasha Wass QC is expected to travel to the South Atlantic territories once she has made initial inquiries.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the investigation must protect victims but be “as transparent as possible”.

St Helena Government released only a three-page summary of the Lucy Faithfull Foundation’s 2013 report, claiming most of it could not be made public because of the need to protect victims.

Leaked extracts published by the St Helena Independent showed that much of the content did not present any such risk. Its coverage also showed that criticism of the police had been toned down to the point of misrepresentation.

By comparison, a similar report on organised abuse of teenage girls in Rotherham, in the UK, was published almost in its entirety – in the public interest.

Both reports made it clear that child abuse had been allowed to continue because police and officials were unwilling to acknowledge the issue. The Times exposed earlier efforts to cover up what was happening in Rotherham.

Several councillors on St Helena pressed for the Lucy Faithfull Report to be published in full once a first-draft had been posted on the internet.

Governor Mark Capes said it was “reprehensible” and “callous” for people to call for the full version to be made public – without acknowledging this could be done without identifying victims.

In a statement issued on 20 August 2014, he said:

The work of Police and Social Service Officers can be seriously damaged and undermined by breaches of trust and confidentiality, even more so in such a small community as ours. One might think this should be glaringly obvious to most people.

“To support publication of a confidential report about child protection, knowing that it would be likely to damage efforts to improve performance in that area and cause grief to victims and families that have had to deal with abuse, is reprehensible.”

He did not explain how full publication would damage work to deal with abuse. The leaked first draft of the report suggested that problems had become widespread because of a culture of silence.

The investigation will look into the conduct of the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development, as well as the island government.

In a Written Ministerial Statement, Philip Hammond said serious allegations had been made by former employees of “the authorities” on St Helena:

“These allegations involve claims relating to child abuse in the territory, police corruption and incompetence, and a conspiracy by the St Helena Government (SHG), the FCO and DFID to cover these up.

“We are bound to take such allegations extremely seriously. Former FCO Minister for Overseas Territories [Mark Simmonds] announced to the House of Commons on 21 July the establishment of an independent inquiry to establish the truth of these allegations and make recommendations as appropriate.

“I am pleased to inform the House that I have agreed that Ms. Sasha Wass QC should lead this inquiry. Ms Wass is a very accomplished barrister with substantial professional experience of dealing with these kinds of issues. I am confident that she will lead this inquiry with great rigour, fairness and sensitivity.

“Matters of child safety require discretion and confidentiality. The issues self-evidently involve vulnerable people, whose privacy must be protected and confidences respected. I am certain this inquiry will do that. But it is also important that this process is as transparent as possible.”

The barrister – who secured the conviction and imprisonment of the entertainer Rolf Harris on sex charges – will assemble a team of independent experts to help her. She is due to report by the UK summer of 2015.

Mr Hammond said: “Since allegations relating to child safety were first raised in late 2012, the British government has been swift to ensure that they were investigated appropriately.

“We commissioned the respected Lucy Faithfull Foundation to conduct an initial review, which was then followed by an investigation by Northumbria Police. The reports made important recommendations, which the authorities on St Helena are working to implement with support from the UK.

“A number of arrests and convictions for child sex offences have also occurred.

“More, however, needs to be done. This new inquiry will not be quick. But it will be thorough. And I am confident that the facts will be established.”

Read more: 
St Helena child abuse inquiry launched – BBC
Written Ministerial Statement on St Helena child abuse inquiry
(includes link to the Terms of Reference)

 

 

 

Ascension case led to whistle-blower’s abuse claims

Police and social workers were unable to work together properly in the wake of findings about child abuse on St Helena and Ascension, a new document reveals.

It also tells how a number of officials were suspended after St Helena’s Chief Justice raised concerns about an adoption case on Ascension in March 2014.

The islands’ senior social work manager resigned and made the allegations of a cover-up of the Lucy Faithfull Report findings. They reached the ears of ministers at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

The background to the affair is set out in the terms of reference for the inquiry to be conducted by Sasha Wass QC – published on 20 November 2014.

It says:

“In November 2012, the FCO received anonymous allegations in relation to St Helena and Ascension that sexual offenses against children were not being properly investigated or prosecuted and that the Saint Helena Police Service (SHPS) in particular was failing in its duty to children and vulnerable adults.

“A number of separate investigations were undertaken, including in response to further allegations. On the basis of recommendations made by the investigations, the St. Helena authorities responded with action plans to address the deficiencies identified.

“Relations between St Helena’s Social Services and the SHPS remained difficult however, leading to a breakdown in the professional relationship between the two organisations.

“In March 2014, St Helena’s Chief Justice expressed concern about the conduct of St Helena Government (SHG) officials during an adoption case in Ascension and recommended an independent barrister-led review into whether any wrong-doing had been committed.

“A number of officials were subsequently suspended pending a police investigation.

“In July, the FCO received a letter of resignation from the suspended senior social work manager alleging detriment for whistle-blowing.

“In a separate document prepared for an employment tribunal, the former employee made a substantial number of separate allegations relating to specific child safety incidents on St Helena and Ascension, the response of the local government authorities, and the role of the FCO and DFID.

“A separate but similar document from another former employee of Social Services echoed these allegations.

“In response, the then Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs agreed to establish an independent panel of experts to investigate these allegations and any related matters which the panel thought pertinent.”

April’s degree will help solve island’s social ills

April Lawrence BSc
April Lawrence BSc

University graduate April Lawrence will be returning to Half Tree Hollow in October 2013 with skills that could be used to tackle social problems on St Helena.

She has been awarded a strong 2:1 degree in Sociology and Psychology by the University of Portsmouth.

Her studies included modules on childhood, youth and social problems, crime and social control, risk and society, neighbourhoods and communities, and violence.

St Helena Online has been told there is disturbing anecdotal evidence of domestic violence on the island, and a campaign has been running alongside an initiative by police that has led to a number of arrests.

Prison sentences have been passed for child sex offences on a number of occasions.

St Helena Government has confirmed that April’s skills will be of special value in tackling social issues on the island.

Alongside her studies, April worked as a volunteer, supervising contact between parents and children who rarely saw each other.

The was also a trained mentor for Motiv8, an organisation that helps young people make better life choices.

Kedell Worboys, the island’s UK representative, said: “April has been a hard-working and dedicated student and thoroughly deserves her award.

“She will make a positive contribution to the social services on St Helena and is a shining example to other young people on the Island.” 

April will graduate from the University of Portsmouth on 23 July 2013, then return to St Helena in October.

SEE ALSO: 
Domestic violence story archive
UK offers to help reduce offenders’ risk to society

Money on offer to tackle sex crimes against children

Growing concern about sex offending on St Helena – especially against children – could lead to the island being given extra money to confront the issue.

And a coded warning of a possible increase in attacks appears to be given in the report on the latest aid mission to St Helena.

It says: “Despite some improvement in this area in recent years, the increase in development activity may provide further challenges about which St Helena Government will need to be vigilant.”

The wording reflects concerns that have been voiced as the airport construction project brings overseas workers and returning Saints to the island.

Reports have been received in London and Jamestown of a deep-rooted culture of child abuse – though they did not say whether it was widespread.

On 28 January 2013, a woman was arrested on suspicion of child abuse in the St Paul’s area. She was charged, and released on conditional bail with help of a  Bondsman at a special court hearing.

In July 2012, St Helena Government revealed that it was considering setting up a sex offenders’ register as part of its efforts to crack down on sex crimes, alongside counselling to help offenders avoid committing further crimes.

The disclosure came after the UK Government’s White Paper on overseas territories offered to help provide specialist treatment for sex criminals.

It said small territories often lacked facilities to treat people who needed such help.

The island’s human rights plan also called for more action.

At the time, prison visitor Catherine Turner wrote of the despair she witnessed.

“For the prison officers,” she said, “it is demoralizing knowing that they could do the very best job, but it would have little effect because in a few years’ time another two-year-old will be abused.

“But for the one person who knows that he will spend five years in jail and then is almost 100% likely to re-offend within a year of release, it is in effect a life sentence.

“While it is easy to blame the perpetrators, often they themselves have been victims all their lives.”

Another expert has told St Helena Online that it can take six generations to erase the effects of past child abuse.

The report on the annual UK aid negotiations on St Helena says: “We welcome the recent appointment of a Champion for Children and look forward to supporting further child safeguarding work in 2013/14.

“We also look forward to the Department of Education and Employment review of child safeguarding procedures later this year and we would be willing to agree technical  assistance to fund sex offender training needs.”

The report also noted improvements in help for vulnerable people.

“We are pleased to see that the post of Senior Social Services Manager,
agreed at last year’s DAPM, has recently been taken up and hope to see the
Social Work Trainer post taken up shortly.

“We look forward to the development of a Strategic Framework for Integrated Social Services to support vulnerable individuals and families, with a focus on disability (including integrating the disabled into the workplace) elderly care, learning difficulties, safeguarding of children and other vulnerable groups.”

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