St Helena Online

Tag: Attorney General

Exactly who is – or was – St Helena’s mystery prosecutor?

The identity of the “Public Prosecutor of St Helena” remains a mystery, two weeks after the unnamed lawyer was cited in a statement about a criminal investigation into four former government staff.

No appointment to the role has been reported in the Government Gazette, which records all public service job changes.

The puzzle arose after two UK social workers and former Attorney General Frank Wastell were cleared of criminal conduct in an adoption case on Ascension Island. A fourth person, who has never been publicly identified, was also cleared.

St Helena Government says the adoption case has not been closed and no details can legally be discussed. The criminal investigation arose from the judge’s concerns about the conduct of officials involved in the hearing.

The statement announcing the outcome of the inquiry made fresh criticisms of the people involved, and attributed them to an independent counsel – an unnamed barrister.

St Helena Government was asked last week to name the two lawyers who had given opinions on the affair, but did not do so. It said: “No personal details will be provided as to the identity of any individuals concerned.”

However, the statement by current Attorney General Nicola Moore said one of the counsel, who reviewed police evidence, had been “appointed as Public Prosecutor of St Helena specifically to undertake this task”.

Yesterday, the press office in The Castle was asked to name “all people who have held the office of Public Prosecutor of St Helena in the past 12 months”.

The email from St Helena Online added: “This is a public office and must be a matter of public record.”

By the end of the day, a response was still awaited.

One source with knowledge of procedures on the island told St Helena Online: “Such appointments are made by the Governor and are supposed to be listed in the St Helena Government Gazette.

“Perhaps I’m not looking hard enough. but I’ve not found any such appointment being so listed.”

Martin Warsama, one of the two UK social workers cleared in the police investigation, said he could not understand the government’s apparent reluctance to name the holder of a public office on the island.

He said he could not feel confident the counsel concerned was truly independent if he was not even allowed to know their name.

Mr Warsama has written to the Attorney General demanding to know the basis of criticisms made about the people cleared in the adoption case – and to ask why he was not told about them before they were made public.

He has also demanded to know the name of the two lawyers involved in the investigation.

St Helena Online has not asked the Attorney General herself to name the lawyers and it is not suggested that she has declined to do so.

If neither name is revealed, attempts will be made to obtain them through other channels as a matter of public interest.

SEE ALSO:
Criminal investigation clears sex abuse whistle-blowers
MP voices concerns as police investigate their accusers

After a ‘terrifying’ year, whistle-blower talks of retribution
At last, the truth about Attorney General being suspended
Top barrister to investigate sex abuse ‘cover up’ claims

MP voices concerns as police investigate their accusers

A “proper review” should be held into the way St Helena Police were allowed to investigate two social workers who had made whistle-blowing claims against them, a UK Member of Parliament has said.

St Helena Government has denied that there was any possibility of “inappropriate influence”, even though officers would have appeared able to access emails containing corruption claims against the police service.

One of the social workers has also expressed anger about the way St Helena’s Attorney General, Nicola Moore, announced the outcome of the case without informing him.

Martin Warsama has also taken legal advice about critical comments she made that appeared to relate to all four of the former officials who were investigated over an adoption case.

All four were cleared – including her own predecessor, Frank Wastell.

Mr Warsama has also written to the Attorney General demanding to know the basis of criticisms made about them – and to ask why he was not told about them before they were made public.

None of the people investigated were named in the Attorney General’s statement, but three of those involved had been publicly identified elsewhere.

The statement attributed the criticisms to independent counsel who had reviewed evidence in the affair. But St Helena Government has refused to name the two lawyers who reviewed the files.

Mr Warsama said he did not even know about Nicola Moore’s statement until he was sent an internet link, two days after it was issued.

Chief Justice Charles Ekins had recommended that the case should be reviewed by an independent lawyer to see whether there might have been perjury or an attempt to pervert the course of justice – both serious crimes.

But Mr Warsama feared the police investigation would give officers the opportunity to seize emails that would reveal allegations he had made about the handling of sex abuse cases.

The British government has since commissioned an inquiry by Sasha Wass QC into alleged police corruption on the island. Mr Warsama was due to meet her in London on Friday, 27 February 2015.

The government dismissed any suggestion of a conflict of interest for police because of oversight by the unnamed independent counsel, and the involvement of Merseyside Police. Mr Warsama was not pacified.

Concerns about the investigation and the events that led to it were sent to the British MP John Hemming. In an email, he said: “This needs a proper review, but that may need to be after the elections [in May 2015].”

Asked for a comment, he said: “It worries me if whistle-blowers are investigated by those against whom they have blown the whistle.”

Mr Hemming has been praised by Britain’s Home Secretary for his campaigning on sex abuse. On 4 February 2015, he told the House of Commons he had documentary evidence that officials in London turned a blind eye to child abuse on St Helena.

Mr Warsama said Nicola Moore had breached his privacy by revealing that information had been passed to the professional bodies of the four people investigated in the adoption case.

He said such information should have been confidential. Ms Moore has pointed out that the Daily Telegraph had already reported than the social workers’ professional body had been investigating.

The Health and Care Professions Council, which regulates social workers, also said that complaints were kept private under its duty of confidentiality.

Questions put to St Helena Government:

On 27 February 2015, St Helena Government press office was asked: “Could you please tell me the names of the two independent Counsel who reviewed the judgment and addendum in the adoption case on Ascension? It should be a matter of public record and easy to establish.

“Although none of the investigated people were named, it is widely known that they included Claire Gannon and Martin Warsama (the latter has told me so) and that they had acted as whistle-blowers, making allegations against St Helena Police regarding sex abuse.

“Could you please give me a comment on the fact that the two social workers were being investigated by the very police force against which they had acted as whistle-blowers? There would appear to be a conflict of interest and I expect to write a story to this effect.

“Please say when Operation Ladder commenced, and when the investigation was complete. Please say whether anyone was arrested and bailed in the course of the investigation.”

Response from St Helena Government:

Received 27 February 2015: “No personal details will be provided as to the identity of any individuals concerned. The oversight by independent counsel, both at the instigation of the investigation and when deciding upon charges, plus the close involvement of Merseyside Police, removes the potential for any inappropriate influence by anyone including the St Helena Police Service. As was made clear in the Attorney General’s statement, the investigation flowed directly from a recommendation from the Chief Justice following concerns relating to the conduct of a family case in the Supreme Court. It is therefore quite evidently incorrect and misleading to link the investigation to the issues raised by those persons who assert that they are whistle blowers. Kind Regards….”

SEE ALSO:
Criminal investigation clears sex abuse whistle-blowers
New safeguarding boss promises action and support for victims
Ivy exposes years of inaction over St Helena sex abuse
Top barrister to investigate sex abuse ‘cover up’ claims

Criminal investigation clears sex abuse whistle-blowers

An eight-month criminal investigation has failed to find evidence to justify a prosecution of former St Helena Government staff, including the social workers who raised the alarm about sex abuse on the island.

Frank Wastell, who stood down as Attorney General in June 2014, was one of those suspended from duty when police inquiries began – although he had already announced he would be leaving the island.

The investigation cleared the social workers Martin Warsama and Claire Gannon, who brought employment tribunal claims over the affair. They alleged they were being victimised for whistle-blowing.

Their complaints later triggered the inquiry by Sasha Wass QC into the way into the way the island is governed, and the handling of sex abuse issues.

It is believed an unnamed St Helenian was also cleared of criminal wrongdoing.

St Helena Government suspended Frank Wastell and Claire Gannon over concerns about the conduct of an adoption case in March 2014 – unrelated to the abuse scandal. Mr Warsama was deemed to have failed his probationary period in the job and was dismissed – despite having been promoted a few weeks earlier.

A statement was released by St Helena Government late on Friday, 20 February 2015.

But it was released only to island-based media, hindering efforts by other reporters to cover the affair. A statement was published on the government website but it was not drawn to the attention of journalists.

Mr Warsama had been told by his criminal lawyer on the Friday afternoon that he and Claire Gannon would not be prosecuted – after a year of living in dread of extradition to an island where they had clashed with police over alleged failures to investigate suspected sex offenders.

On the Saturday evening, he went out to celebrate with his family.

But on the Sunday, his anger returned when he learned that the Attorney General had released a statement without his knowledge, saying evidence would be shared with professional bodies – meaning the nightmare was not over.

It also quoted new criticisms made by the independent counsel, but gave no information about the basis for the comments.

Martin Warsama – who claimed constructive dismissal from his job – says he did not learn of the statement until St Helena Online alerted him, two days after it was issued. He said he did not know the substance of the criticisms. It was not even clear whether they referred to everyone involved in the case.

The statement said: “The investigation was instigated by St Helena Police following a family case heard in the Supreme Court where the Chief Justice concluded:

‘So troubled am I by what has occurred that I shall direct that a copy of this judgment and addendum be sent to HE The Governor. I shall recommend that experienced independent counsel should urgently be engaged to review the papers in this case and to advise on whether the evidence is such as to disclose reasonable grounds for suspecting the commission by any member of the applicant’s staff of any criminal offence pertinent to attempting to pervert the course of justice or perjury.’

“HE The Governor followed the Chief Justice’s recommendation and appointed an independent Queen’s Counsel, experienced in family and international matters, to complete the review. It was as a direct result of that review that the St Helena Police Service was requested to undertake an investigation into allegations of criminal conduct. The investigation was led by St Helena Police and supported by Merseyside Police in the UK.

“The matters were rigorously and thoroughly investigated. The evidence from this investigation was reviewed by a second independent counsel, appointed as Public Prosecutor of St Helena specifically to undertake this task.”

The statement said there was “insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction” – in effect, finding the former SHG staff not guilty.

St Helena Online has interviewed Martin Warsama and will be publishing his reaction in the next few days. 

At last, the truth about Attorney General being suspended. But you didn’t hear it from St Helena’s ‘open’ government

The people of St Helena were never told that the man who wrote their laws had been suspended while a criminal investigation took place.

They were told only that Frank Wastell was leaving the island “for personal reasons”.

Even when it was announced that the investigation had ended with no criminal charges, his name was not mentioned – despite the clear public interest.

The affair is likely to be seen by many as a cover-up by St Helena Government, albeit only a “passive” failure to release embarrassing information.

Few details have been disclosed about the investigation into the conduct of government staff, beyond the fact that it involved suggestions of lying to the island’s Supreme Court or attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Both are extremely serious matters that can result in a prison sentence.

No suggestion has been made that all those involved were suspected of crime – merely that people had been suspended while it was established whether any person was culpable.

Making the affair public might have undermined confidence in the justice system on St Helena, already damaged by allegations about failures to prosecute sex offenders.

The truth emerged in a court judgement given in an employment tribunal case brought by the two social workers caught up in the affair, Martin Warsama and Claire Gannon.

Judge Anthony Snelson’s ruling on 30 January 2015 revealed that Frank Wastell and Claire Gannon had been suspended from duty seven months earlier over the conduct of an adoption case.

The decision had been made by Acting Governor Sean Burns after consulting with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London.

On 5 February 2015, St Helena Online asked whether Mr Wastell had been “advised/encouraged to resign”. The government press office declined to comment, confirming that criminal investigations were still ongoing.

A decision was made not to run a story on St Helena Online at that late stage because of doubts about fair treatment of Mr Wastell and others involved. It appeared unlikely that a criminal case would arise.

It was also understood the roots of the affair lay in an act of kindness by Mr Wastell that later placed him in a compromising legal position.

Criticism had been levelled by the island’s Chief Justice, Charles Ekins, who heard the adoption case.

The government may have had little choice but to suspend Mr Wastell because of the impossibility of having an attorney general in post while a criminal inquiry was going on.

But it never admitted it had removed him from his duties.

At one stage his office was reported to have been sealed off by police.

Islanders were told only that Mr Wastell was “returning to the UK for personal reasons,”

A press release was issued on 2 June 2014, saying that Mr Wastell would be “returning to the UK for personal reasons” at the end of July. He was formally suspended two weeks later.

The statement said: “Frank has been an integral part of St Helena Government’s legal team since joining as Crown Counsel in 2006.

“He subsequently became Solicitor General and later Attorney General of St Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha in 2013, having served several years acting up in that role since 2006.”

In the same release, Mr Wastell said he and his wife Lorna would never forget the friendship of people on all three islands, and “the vast majority” of his colleagues.

“St Helena and her people will have about as special a place in our hearts as it is possible to have,” he said, “and although we have had to make this decision to leave now, I can say it is with the deepest sadness that we go.”

SEE ALSO: 
Attorney General to leave St Helena – press release

The truth: how Mike O came to own his rival’s name

The media organisation set up by St Helena Government has had to change its name from St Helena Broadcasting (Guarantee) Corporation because it was too similar to one owned by its rival – the St Helena Broadcasting Corporation. In a breathtaking swerve, The Castle has blamed “another party, for reasons unknown, pre-registering a company name virtually identical to SHB(G)C’s”. In fact, it was The Castle that registered a company name virtually identical to the SHBC’s. MIKE OLSSON, owner of Saint FM and the SHBC name, reveals how the government mishandled the setting up of the media organisation from its very early days. 

In June-July 2011 there were negotiations between SHG and Saint FM.  The original plan was to buy Saint FM and use the trade name and equipment in the government’s new media.

This fell through as the SHG bid was unrealistic in monetary terms and took no consideration to the staff in Saint FM. I did not at the time know what they should call their new media organisation.

In August 2011, a job advert was submitted to the St Helena Independent for St Helena Broadcasting Corporation Ltd, abbreviated to SHBC. My journalistic curiosity led me to go over to the company registry to check the records. I was interested in who the directors were and what their articles of association looked like. This information is in the public domain.

To my astonishment there were no records. They had not registered it before they issued the advert. This is especially peculiar as they were advertising it as “Corporation” and “Ltd”, which you can’t do if it is not incorporated.

As we were in negotiations about the future media, I thought it could be worth £50 to register St Helena Broadcasting Corporation (SHBC) Ltd. I did this the same day.  After a couple of days I received the incorporation certificate.

I knew that the legal advisor to the Company Registry – the Attorney General, Ken Baddon – had seen my application. There was not much he could do about it. He couldn’t stop my registration.

Only a few days later, Ken Baddon registered St Helena Broadcasting Corporation (Guarantee) Ltd on behalf of the new organisation. He approved it himself.

Anybody with any knowledge about corporation matters would know that this was wrong.  The two names are far too similar and would lead to confusion. Why Ken did this is beyond me. It was clumsy. I did not jump up and down about it but decided to bide my time.

In a second round of negotiations between SHG and Saint FM in August, SHG offered to buy my company, St Helena Broadcasting Corporation Ltd, together with Saint FM. These negotiations subsequently broke down as well.

By offering to buy SHBC, SHG had, in writing, recognised my right to the name. I continued to wait.

As the Attorney General was the legal advisor to the Company Registrar, I realised that the situation was a bit complicated as Ken Baddon had also registered the “Guarantee Corporation”. He would hardly give advice against himself.

Through another matter in November 2012, I was told that the Chief Magistrate, John MacRichie, was now legal advisor to the Company Registrar, and I brought the matter to him. The timing was also right as the “Guarantee Corporation” was preparing to go on air.

In the first days of January this year (2013), the matter was sorted.  The Chief Magistrate gave an initial view on the matter which was, not surprisingly, very favourable to me. A copy of this advice was sent to the “Guarantee Corporation” for comment.

Terry Richards, the chairman of the “Guarantee Corporation”, saw that he would lose the battle and gave in immediately.

In 2011, the Attorney General had pushed through an amendment to the Companies Ordinance, saying that “by title of his office, acting on behalf of Her Majesty”, he could incorporate a company.

This was made to allow him to register the government media.

Already in the same ordinance was the following:

“212. (1) The Registrar of Companies is, under the general supervision of the Attorney General, responsible for the administration of this Ordinance.”

It is absolutely fabulous that the Attorney General can register any company on behalf of SHG, and then scrutinise the application himself. Colonialism is wonderful.

NOTE: As reported, St Helena Government has twice been given the opportunity to say that it was not the Attorney General that registered the SHB(G)C name improperly. In the absence of any denial, St Helena Online may reasonably assume that he was indeed responsible.

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