St Helena Online

Tag: Lucy Faithfull Foundation

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.”

Stunning island images – but not quite the whole picture

Some truly stunning pictures accompany a travel article urging tourists to seize a last chance to make the “iconic” voyage to Jamestown on the RMS St Helena.

As seen on Twitter: click to read
As seen on Twitter: click to read

One panorama, looking across Bamboo Hedge to Lot and Lot’s Wife, presents an image of an exotic paradise (except, perhaps, for the farm buildings).

The article is slightly geographically confused, putting the island 1,200 miles off Angola and 1,200 miles from the much-more-distant Cape Town.

But it does a good job of promoting a one-off holiday package:

“The 20-day tour offered by Discover the World also includes a unique hosted farm stay in a former East India Company plantation owner’s home and offers plenty of opportunity to enjoy the island’s scenery and historic sites by car.”

It also quotes managing director Clive Stacey, who says: “There are so few places left on the planet that enjoy the veneers of modern civilization but yet are so unaffected by the stresses these can produce.”

This being a promotional travel puff, no mention is made of the very dark stresses that have blighted island life for many, and brought unwelcome media coverage.

Some might find this slightly surprising, given that the article is published by The Daily Mail… the paper that first reported the contents of the leaked report on sex abuse on St Helena.

Read it here

‘Horror’ of child sex going unchecked – social workers’ claims

Claire Gannon and Martin Warsama told of “the sheer horror” of finding widespread child abuse on St Helena, in sworn legal documents submitted to their employment tribunal pre-hearing.

And they spoke of the stress of trying to work in what Britain’s Foreign Secretary has called a “difficult” relationship with police.

Claire Gannon wrote in her evidence about returning from leave over Christmas 2013.

“The hostile working environment was as before,” she said. “The police still refused to work with us on safeguarding issues and sought to undermine and frustrate our work.”

Police have previously strenuously denied such claims.

But the same criticisms were levelled in the leaked first draft of the report the FCO commissioned from the “respected” Lucy Faithfull Foundation – which named police officer Jeromy Cairns-Wicks as a probable paedophile.

Only later was he prosecuted and jailed for 11 years for prolonged child sex abuse.

The social workers’ evidence may never be tested and challenged in open court, because of the judge’s ruling that the employment case cannot legally be heard in the UK.

The preliminary hearing was held simply to decide whether the law allowed the unfair dismissal claims to be heard in London, not St Helena. The broader evidence in the case was not considered.

Martin Warsama’s submission told how he asked for extended leave over Christmas 2013 to recuperate from the strain of the job.

He said: “I had been exhausted by the enormous workload, the harassment and the sheer horror of the widespread and un-addressed child abuse on the island.”

He said St Helena Government refused the leave request, but that the Department for International Development (DFID), which paid his salary, agreed to it.

Mr Warsama’s evidence told how the island’s Chief Secretary asked DFID to help after they first raised confidential concerns as whistle-blowers. He said they were given more leave and better pay to help them cope with the stress.

He said the chief secretary also agreed to implement the recommendations of the Lucy Faithfull report.

Mr Warsama’s salary rose from £42,000 to £47,000 and his job title was changed to become a social services manager.

But then concerns were raised in a court hearing on Ascension about the handling of an adoption case, completely unrelated to the sex abuse issues.

Claire Gannon was one of “a number of officials” suspended over the affair in May 2014, according to the UK Government statement announcing the Wass Inquiry.

Ms Gannon resigned, claiming constructive dismissal – meaning that she felt she had been forced out of her job.

Mr Warsama was dismissed outright for failing to complete his probation period satisfactorily – despite having been promoted part-way through it. He claimed unfair dismissal.

St Helena Government said on 5 February 2015 that investigations into the adoption case were continuing.

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.”

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