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Tag: Martin Warsama

‘No credible evidence’ as whistle-blowers are cleared again

warsama letterhead 640Experts have dismissed serious criticisms of the whistle-blowers who triggered investigations into sex abuse on St Helena.

Their professional body in London has declared there was “no credible evidence” that the two social workers were unfit to practise.

The finding renews questions about the way Claire Gannon and Martin Warsama had been publicly denounced in documents published by St Helena Government.

Attorney general Nicola Moore had issued a statement saying they had acted unprofessionally in an adoption case, without providing evidence for the claim. Later, SHG published a judge’s damning suspicions about their conduct – but two months after a criminal investigation cleared them.

Ms Moore also announced that evidence was being passed to their professional body – a matter that would normally be confidential.

The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) has now found they had acted in the best interests of a child in the adoption case, and followed recognised good practice.

warsama letter no evidence 640
Mr Warsama said: “It was clearly rubbish and our governing body have reviewed all the information, and believe me these people are not biased toward practitioners.”

He has repeatedly stated his belief that he and Ms Gannon were being “punished” for alleging the St Helena authorities had failed to investigate sex abuse cases – some involving child victims.

“Basically we whistle-blew and the whole establishment tried to destroy us,” said Mr Warsama.

He said he and Ms Gannon had been unable to take up secure jobs in UK social work while threats of criminal prosecution and a professional fitness hearing hung over them.

They told the UK’s Daily Telegraph of living under enormous strain.

In November 2014, the UK Foreign Secretary announced an independent inquiry into their allegations of cover-ups of abuse cases, and into the governance of the island. Sasha Wass QC was expected to publish her findings before the end of 2015.

The complaint to the HCPC was made after an eight-month investigation failed to secure clear evidence of criminal conduct by the two UK social workers in the adoption case, which was not related to the alleged sex abuse issues.

It was launched after Judge Charles Ekins said he suspected they had withheld case files. He urged a review of the papers by an independent lawyer to see whether anyone had committed perjury – a serious crime that can carry a long prison term.

The attorney general’s statement in February 2015 said evidence from a later police investigation was reviewed “by a second independent counsel, appointed as Public Prosecutor of St Helena specifically to undertake this task.

“Counsel concluded that some of the actions of the suspected persons were ill-advised, unprofessional and showed poor judgment but that there was insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction.”

But the HCPC’s letter to Mr Warsama says there is “no credible evidence to suggest your fitness to practise is impaired.

“We received no evidence to substantiate the allegations against you, and the criminal investigation concluded with no evidence being taken against you.

“On this basis, we will not be pursuing the concern further, and the case is closed.”

Claire Gannon has been advised not to share information with the media until the findings of the Wass inquiry are published. It is understood the HCPC’s letter to her went into more detail, because she had closer involvement in the adoption case.

St Helena Government has refused to reveal the name of the public prosecutor cited by Ms Moore, on the grounds that it would prejudice the administration of justice on the island – though it is not clear how.

Ms Moore offered no evidence to justify her criticism of the social workers – who were not named in her statement – but Judge Ekins later made the extraordinary move of publishing his ruling in the adoption case, even though family matters are normally kept confidential.

No reason was given for publishing the ruling, which voiced strong suspicions of wrongdoing by the social workers. Crucially, it was made public two months after they had been cleared.

The findings of the professional body directly contradicted criticisms made by Judge Ekins.

Ms Gannon and Mr Warsama are continuing to try to bring a case for unfair dismissal over the saga.

Ms Gannon resigned after being suspended from her post as St Helena’s senior social worker. Mr Warsama was told he had failed to pass his period of probation in his job, only weeks after being promoted.

Mr Warsama asked: “Will SHG now apologise, given everything thrown at us?”

St Helena Government said it had no comment to make.

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
Top barrister to investigate sex abuse ‘cover up’ claims
Judge goes public on adoption case accusations that led to investigation of social workers

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

Judge offers comfort over tales of power and abuse – but says No to London jobs hearing for whistle-blowers

A judge has spoken of “disturbing” claims made about sex abuse on St Helena and the way the island is governed – after ruling he could not hear a case brought by social workers.

Claire Gannon and Martin Warsama claimed they suffered unfair treatment because they were whistle-blowers who exposed failures to investigate abuse properly.

They have now been told they cannot bring a case for unfair dismissal in London, rather than on St Helena.

But their allegations of a cover-up and failures to investigate abuse cases had already prompted the UK Government to set up an independent inquiry under Sasha Wass QC.

Judge Anthony Snelson ruled that the London Employment Tribunal did not have jurisdiction in the case because the pair were employed by the government of St Helena.

But at the end of an 18-page ruling, he said: “… nothing in these reasons should be taken as diminishing the concerns which the claimants have voiced about the welfare of children on St Helena and governance generally on the island.

“I hope that is some comfort to them to know that, given the announcement of an inquiry to be conducted by Sasha Wass QC, a notable member of the criminal Bar, there is now a real prospect of light being shed on the disturbing tale which they have told.”

The pair had argued that although they signed contracts with St Helena Government, their real employers were either the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) or the Department for International Development (DFID), or both.

They said that DFID funded their jobs and FCO officials directed their work.

In written evidence, they also referred to the extent of the power exercised by Governor Mark Capes.

Mr Warsama’s deposition said: “The St Helena Government is simply a front for the FCO and DFID… It does exactly what the governor instructs it to do. Effectively the governor is the local government and he himself is merely an employee and agent of the FCO.”

As an example, they referred to Mr Capes’s decision to dissolve the island’s legislative council in 2013 at an hour’s notice, several weeks before calling an election – an action for which he has never given any explanation.

Claire Gannon’s written evidence said: “When I arrived at St Helena and the chief secretary told me that nothing happens on the island without the governor’s knowledge or permission, what seemed to be an extreme statement proved to be true.”

The two social workers claimed that Mark Capes dealt with them under instruction from officials in London, but the judge accepted evidence that he simply consulted and took soundings – not orders. There was “no evidence” they were employed by FCO or DFID.

Crucially, the claimants said that when they warned the FCO about police and officials on St Helena, their concerns were passed to the governor – in breach of their right to confidentiality.

Sasha Wass has been commissioned to investigate the handling of sex abuse cases on St Helena and allegations of a cover-up, made by Martin Warsama and Claire Gannon as part of their case.

When he announced the inquiry, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the claims related to “child abuse in the territory, police corruption and incompetence, and a conspiracy by the St Helena Government, the FCO and DFID to cover these up.”

The FCO had already acted on anonymous allegations made in 2012 about cases not being properly investigated.

Ms Wass has been given scope to look at a range of issues, including:

  • SHG response to independent reports on abuse, and on the police
  • the role of FCO and DFID
  • response to specific incidents involving children
  • the relationship between social services the police – in the past and now
  • treatment of people who raise concerns, including whistle-blowers
  • how SHG handles abuse cases in general

It can also review other matters that arise during the investigation – and consider whether criminal investigation is needed.

It is not known how far the inquiry panel will investigate the issues raised by the social workers about the way the governor’s powers are exercised.

The allegations of a cover-up of abuse – also raised by Claire Gannon and Martin Warsama – are likely to be of far greater concern.

St Helena Government has made child safeguarding a top priority and now has a number of measures in place to protect children.

An outline of the Wass inquiry panel’s work is due in March 2015, with a final report by the UK summer of 2015.

‘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.

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