Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Child Abuse in the 1980s - Guernsey and Jersey

A case of "historic child abuse in the Island".
Dating from the 1980s.
Into the courts and sentenced for 6 1/2 years in prison, five years on
Extended probation afterwards

This is Guernsey, of course, not Jersey. It seems that Guernsey can get their act together. No signs of the Bailiff pontificating (although in fact the Guernsey Bailiff does not make a liberate day speech), no mentions of cover-ups, slow-downs, legal officials obstructing the course of justice, but justice seen to be done. How come they can get it so right, and Jersey cannot?

The victims of a former judo instructor, who was found guilty of abusing young girls in Guernsey in the 1980s, have been speaking about their ordeal. Eugene Hughes was sentenced to a total of six and a half years in prison as well as five years on an extended probation license. He admitted seven charges of indecent assault and one charge of unlawful sexual intercourse between July 1987 and January 1996. One of his victims says the ordeal stripped her of her personality while another has revealed it left her with years of depression. Police say Hughes' role as a Judo instructor made it easy for him to abuse young girls in his care and have vowed to pursue any allegations of historic child abuse in the island.


Of course, Jersey has to get a word in, and Frank Walker has been quick to attack any comparison of how slow Jersey is doing with historic abuse enquiries. But the editorial comment hit back in fighting mood:

A LETTER from Jersey's chief minister seeking an apology from this newspaper for critical comments made about the investigation into child abuse there reinforces the view that the enquiry is floundering. From around 160 individuals who came forward to give evidence of abuse, police were able to draw up an initial list of 80 potential suspects. That has been reduced but the level of arrests and prosecutions has been surprisingly low. Add the high profile claims of case blocking and prosecution interference and it is difficult to see how anyone can have confidence in the process.

Unfortunately, the chief minister's own letter further strengthens that unease when he talks about 'alleged' victims. There was a high level of corroborative statements from those who came forward, plus inexplicable remains and bloodstains, yet the harrowing accounts the witnesses gave are, apparently, still regarded with suspicion. Of more concern, however, is the chief minister's assertion that 'the truth will eventually emerge' and it will be very different from that presented by this newspaper.

Really, chief minister? And would that truth be the version Jersey's professional police are still trying to uncover or that as viewed by the Attorney General, who does not think officers have given him enough evidence on which to prosecute? Perhaps it is the truth the chief minister's committee of inquiry will establish at some distant time in the future when it asks searching questions like those he put to the States in March: How have the island's children's homes been run in recent decades? Alternatively, it might be the truth which he has apparently already predetermined and which islanders and victims, alleged or otherwise, would dearly wish to know.

As we have argued before, these islands remain independent not just because they are well run but because they are seen to be well run. And having a visibly robust, impartial and credible judicial system is the cornerstone of that freedom. Whatever the reality, confidence in Jersey's has been damaged and, at least in the eyes of our offshore critics who regard the Channel Islands as one entity, that reflects badly on Guernsey, too.

I don't think that Guernsey has too much to be worried about, given that they have clearly managed to follow through a case of historic abuse with success, no complaints by the police of obstruction, no special lawyers appointed to make sure the police don't go "the wrong way", and so on. All in all, Guernsey has provided a good example of how justice is seen to be done, to use the words of the editorial, "visibly robust, impartial and credible". No wonder Senator Walker is incensed at any sidelong glances from Guernsey to Jersey's own historic child abuse case. Perhaps instead of swiping out at the Guernsey newspaper, he might reflect on what mistakes Jersey has made instead.

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