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No cover-up, no corruption, no routine abuse: Wass inquiry dismisses claims that ‘grossly and unfairly’ tainted St Helena

Allegations of corruption and of child abuse being covered up on St Helena and Ascension Island have been searingly dismissed at the end of a 13-month inquiry.

Sasha Wass QC and her inquiry team found no justification for “lurid” headlines in the Daily Mail.

“St Helena and its people have been grossly and unfairly tarnished by the allegations which the inquiry was asked to investigate”, she says.

A report leaked to the paper by social worker Claire Gannon was found to have been “compromised” by her own unfounded evidence to the Lucy Faithfull Foundation.

Evidence given to the Wass Inquiry by her fellow social worker Martin Warsama was also dismissed.

Its report – published by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office yesterday (10 December 2015) – says:

“The Inquiry Panel found no evidence that child abuse was either endemic or routine.

“The allegations made by Claire Gannon and Martin Warsama were taken extremely seriously by the inquiry and much of the inquiry’s time was spent investigating what they said in order to establish whether it had any foundation.

“Having conducted this detailed exercise, the inquiry panel was able to demonstrate that there was no truth in the sweeping assertion made by Claire Gannon and Martin Warsama that St Helena was a ‘paedophiles’ paradise’ or that the police and government were corrupt.

“Inevitably, we examined the conduct of Claire Gannon and Martin Warsama themselves.

“The panel was left in no doubt that each of them was professionally incompetent and unable to fulfil the terms of their employment.

“We have considered in detail the cases cited by Ms Gannon and Mr Warsama in which they have alleged corruption in others and have been able to dismiss their claims.”

But Claire Gannon and Martin Warsama may nonetheless have been responsible for spurring officials in London and Jamestown to take proper steps to protect children.

The Wass Report says:

“Following the sensational allegations made in the Daily Mail in July 2014, the St Helena Government has made a concerted effort to address safeguarding.

“One witness told the inquiry panel: ‘It took two of the most incompetent people that I have ever met to go to the papers and exaggerate, for St Helena to give social services the resources it needed.'”

SEE ALSO:

Daily Mail tricked into printed lurid stories based on ‘compromised’ abuse report

‘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

After a ‘terrifying’ year, whistle-blower talks of retribution

Martin Warsama is angry and he’s talking revenge.

It was “terrifying”, he says, to find himself being investigated by the very police force he’d accused of corruption and covering up sex abuse on St Helena.

“It’s been absolutely horrible. It’s been frightening. How can it be right for a police force to investigate the very people who’ve whistle-blown against them? It’s madness.”

St Helena Government has insisted the “close involvement” of another police force meant there was no potential for “inappropriate influence” by police. Try telling that to Martin Warsama.

He and his fellow social worker, Claire Gannon, have now been cleared of any criminal wrong-doing in a family case that actually had nothing to do with the sex abuse scandal. They feared they might face trial on St Helena.

“I have had a year of being terrified, absolutely terrified,” he says.

“They took over my life and Claire Gannon’s life for nothing, for simply doing our jobs, trying to protect vulnerable adults and children.

“They have made our lives a misery for over a year and they’re not going to get away with it because now the boot’s on the other foot. They have to pay for what they have done.”

On the afternoon of Friday, 20 February 2015, he got a phone call from his solicitor saying that an investigation lasting nearly a year had failed to find evidence against them in the family case. They were not told why it took so long.

But in the evening, very briefly, the inner dread returned. “I had a panic attack. I had to tell myself it’s stopped… it’s all over. They can’t get me now.

“This is what all this threat of prosecution has been about – ‘scare them witless and keep their mouths shut.’ But it hasn’t worked, has it?

“This has cost thousands of pounds and the governor is trying to save face. And if the governor wants to have a go at me, let him try.”

Recent statements by Governor Mark Capes and Councillor Les Baldwin do appear to suggest – at the very least – a charm offensive. They assured people that sex abuse was now being taken very seriously. One statement was put out just before new evidence was revealed in an employment tribunal judgement, and the second just before it emerged there was no crime in the adoption case.

And in her own statement, the Attorney General did not merely state that the outcome of the investigation: it also cited criticisms made by the independent counsel.

He says he was not told about the statement before it was published. When he found out, he was outraged. He says he has never seen the counsel’s findings, and does not know the basis for the criticisms. He does not even know the name of his accuser.

(For the record, it should be stated that at no time has it been deliberately implied that there was any dishonesty on the part of the Attorney General in reporting these comments: but it is a matter of legitimate concern when highly critical statements cannot be tested by the public, the media or the people criticised, because the source is not open to scrutiny).

A week after learning they’d been cleared, the social workers handed bundles of written evidence to Sasha Wass, the Queen’s Counsel appointed by the British government to investigate their claims that police had allowed alleged sex abusers to go unpunished. Police officers have vehemently denied the claims, but there have since been successful prosecutions.

“We have the evidence, we are going to produce that to Sasha Wass, and we are going to take people down,” said Martin Warsama before the meeting on 27 February 2015.

“We challenged police practices and they didn’t like it.

“I want them to know we’re not victims any more. Now we are coming for them.”

What’s kept him going for the past year, he says, is “knowing that the truth will out. And it will come out.

“You question your sanity. But we have stood fast, because what we are telling is the truth.”

Warsama and Gannon both live only half an hour’s drive from Rotherham, the UK town where police and council officials were found to have allowed more than a thousand girls to be sexually assaulted and raped by organised gangs over many years. An inquiry found they silenced social workers who tried to raise the alarm.

What happened on St Helena was on nothing like the same scale, but comparisons are inevitable.

“Les Baldwin said it’s just like any other place in Britain. Yeah, it is – it’s like Rotherham. Where the councillors, the police and every bureaucrat was in complete denial and they bullied whistle-blowers.

“I don’t want it to go in the paper that we are completely wounded, that we are just relieved they have done away, that we’re victims. We are victims. But these victims have got up and we’re going to fight back.”

But Martin Warsama knows there is another kind of victim in the St Helena abuse scandal.

“This is what I want them to know,” he says. “Tell them this: we have been contacted by numerous Saints who live in this country who have been abused for years, who are now thanking us for being able to come forward.

“And they will come forward. And they are coming forward.”

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. 

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

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.

New safeguarding boss promises action and support for victims

A new Safeguarding body on St Helena is already reported to be bringing new concerns to light, two months after it was set up to protect people from abuse and violence.

A specialist detective now works solely on sex and domestic violence cases, and two new protection officers are helping to improve the management of offenders.

Greg Hall arrived on the island on 29 January 2015 to start work as head of the new Safeguarding Directive, which aims to protect vulnerable children and adults.

Part of his role is to make sure the police, judiciary, health and education services work well together, with others.

In November 2014, Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, said the relationship between police and social services on St Helena had broken down.

A statement from The Castle in Jamestown said better assessment of cases was “already bringing about increased confidence in safeguarding… and a rise in referrals”. Historic cases were also being dealt with.

“Safeguarding on St Helena is rightly a high priority for St Helena Government,” said the statement.

“The recruitment of experienced officers to key posts… has greatly improved the capacity of government to protect individuals.

“For example, an experienced child protection and sexual offence detective now works exclusively on allegations of sexual offences and child abuse.”

Greg Hall said: “For people who feel vulnerable it can be difficult to talk about personal issues or raise concerns. Our staff understand this and are committed to listening and giving options, and we will continue to develop avenues for support.”

Training is being given to social care officers and people working with children.

The government said it was also implementing recommendations from the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, which had alleged failures to deal with abuse.

Money is being sought to recruit two more social workers, set up a family centre and a victim support service, and employ more staff in the mental health service.

Incest and violence ‘not uncommon’ says 1990s governor

smallman-on-crime-800
Governor Smallman referred to sex crimes in his 2003 book. Click for larger image

Problems with sex abuse and domestic violence on St Helena were acknowledged in print by a former governor more than a decade before the issue became an international scandal.

David Smallman’s brief mention of the issue shows action was being taken against at least some offenders – but it does not undermine allegations made in a Daily Telegraph investigation.

The newspaper said the UK was warned in 2002 that the island did not have the resources to protect children, but took too little action. Ivy Ellick OBE told journalist Tom Rowley that when cases were taken to court, they were often dismissed because they had not been handled properly.

David Smallman's book, Quincentenary
David Smallman’s book, Quincentenary

Mr Smallman referred to the problem in the introduction to his 2003 book, Quincentenary, marking 500 years since the island’s discovery.

He said strong family values and sense of community had grown up, creating “a society in which there is no overt racism, there are no muggings, or murders, no hard drugs or organised crime, and where it is still the rule rather than the exception to leave one’s house and car unlocked.

“Nonetheless,” he continued, “drink-related crimes, battered wives and domestic violence, even incest, are not uncommon.

“The local jail customarily has a majority of its inmates (an average of between four and six convicted prisoners) serving sentences for sex offences…”

The passage confirms that action was taken against sex offenders, despite an alleged culture of acceptance of sexual abuses.

But the Telegraph, like the Lucy Faithfull Foundation before it, was concerned with allegations that “establishment” figures went unpunished and that UK officials failed to deal with the issue adequately.

St Helena Government has made child safeguarding a high priority in response to the Lucy Faithfull report, launching a number of initiatives to support victims and prevent offending. Frequent action in cases of domestic violence has been reported by police.

David Smallman was governor of St Helena from 1995 to 1999. The fly leaf of his book says he was not always popular in London because of the way he championed the island’s cause.

The book says his legacy includes a strengthening of the island’s legal and judicial system, which included bringing independent legal representation to Jamestown through the creation of the public solicitor’s office.

SEE ALSO:
Ivy exposes years of inaction over St Helena sex abuseAbuse: don’t drag down the good with the bad, says blogger

 

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