LENNY Harper's conduct as head of the historical abuse inquiry was branded 'disgraceful' by appeal judges yesterday. In dismissing the applications by two child abusers to have their convictions and sentences reviewed, the court also accused the Island's former deputy police chief of 'wilful misconduct'. In delivering the court's judgment, Clare Montgomery QC criticised Mr Harper for his conduct regarding day books relating to the investigation of Claude James Donnelly and Gordon Claude Wateridge. Mr Harper had been accused of stealing the books from Jersey by Donelly's and Wateridge's defence, Advocate Mike Preston, and not returning them when requested to do so. Donnelly (69) is serving 15 years in jail after being convicted in June of five counts of rape, 13 counts of indecent assault and one count of procuring an act of gross indecency. Wateridge (78) was convicted in August of 11 counts of indecent assault and one count of common assault. Miss Montgomery, who was sitting with fellow appeal judges Dame Heather Steel, president of the court, and Michael Jones QC, said: 'The conduct of Mr Harper regarding the day books is regarded as disgraceful. We are also prepared to assume that Mr Harper's contacts with the press were the product of wilful misconduct on his part. But we are satisfied that fair trials took place and that the publicity did not have an effect on the process.'(1)
The "day books", as Mr Harper explained before, and has explained recently, did not exist, despite the criticism of him for not giving them up. Quite how he could give up something that he never had, that never existed, is remarkable! What is even more remarkable is how the Court of Appeal could be so ill informed. Historians trying to piece together the saga of Haut de La Garenne - if they take as a primary source the Court of Appeal summing up, or the JEP report of it - will be presenting an unverified and potentially distorted version of history. Lenny Harper, in his own words, gives quite a different picture:
One late evening as I was heading out of the country I was told that a note had been pushed through my door telling me to contact Strathclyde Police. I did so to find out that I was wanted at court in Jersey the next day. Perhaps I could just beam myself up there? I had no idea what it was about. Eventually I managed to get hold of a Crown Officer in Edinburgh who dealt with applications and requests from foreign jurisdictions. He explained that the AG wanted me to produce some day books. I explained to him there were none. He told me that there was no witness summons of any kind issued and that it was up to me to return to Jersey or not. He told me they would be willing to facilitate my appearance at court in Scotland if I preferred to do it that way. I said I would be happy to do that. (2)
Why were there no day books kept? This was part of the review by Scotland Yard of the procedures followed, in which instructions were given not to give day books, but to keep policy books. These were reviewed by the ACPO Homicide team, who said they were "kept properly".
There was also a bizarre series of e mails between myself and the AG during which I explained that I had not kept day books on the instructions of Scotland Yard. All my decisions were in the policy books.(2)
It would, I feel, be instructive and worthwhile for a journalist to try to track down those emails, especially since the appeal process is now ended, and one assumes that matters, even ones on the periphery, are no longer sub judice. The result of this exchange resulted in what appears to have been a very bizarre request by the Attorney-General, again an allegation which should be checked out by responsible journalists:
Eventually, after I had reminded the AG that Scotland Yard had corroborated what I had said in a statement and had also told the enquiry team that at none of the meetings had I ever used such a book, he made the pathetic request for me to hand over the retirement cards I had been given by my colleagues, "in case there was anything relevant to the case in them." After removing officers' names I sent him copies.(2)
Lenny Harper also offered to testify and answer any questions in a Court in the UK, hence under oath, which certainly gives a lot of credence to the authenticity of his reply.
Incidentally, my offer to testify and answer any questions in a court in the UK was forwarded to Jersey. I have never even had an acknowledgement. Instead the lie has been peddled that I refused to return and defied an imaginary court order to hand over imaginary books. (2)
How was it that the Appeal Court were not aware of this? Did his emails get somehow lost in the process of transition when the Attorney-General was made Deputy Bailiff, and the Solicitor General was made Attorney-General? It seems quite clear that no thorough checks were made, and the pronouncements of the Appeal Court regarding pocket books were made on the basis of faulty intelligence they received, or failed to receive, and somewhere along the way the chain of command failed, resulting in a headlined criticism which turns out to be based on a mirage. I do not blame the Appeal Court, because after all they have to rely on information given to them, but it does highlight how easy it is to make judgements that distort history.
Regarding the media contacts with the press, an early statement by Lenny Harper, which was judged authentic by BBC Radio Jersey only after they had quite properly vetted its authenticity (as any responsible reporter should), gave a quite different, and again verifiable picture. Lenny wrote:
They only have to look at the BBC News website for the 31st July 2008, to see that I was saying that in view of the contradictory evidence from the experts in respect of the evidence of the age of the bones, unless things changed there would be no homicide enquiry. Even clearer, the Sunday Times on 10th May 2009 made it plain that I was actively discouraging their journalist from believing the more lurid headlines.(3)
Now given the way in which some of the media certainly overplayed the "house of horrors", linking it in to Dutch paedophile rings, bodies uncovered, six more bodies feared buried, etc, it is not surprising that some criticism was made of Lenny Harper by the Appeal judge, although the criticism should have been largely directed at the media. And yet the appeal failed, a new history, it seems to be is being written.
This new history takes the form of saying that "but now we know the truth about Haut de La Garenne", which is usually taken as almost implying that nothing happened, that it was a complete distortion, a fabrication of lies, and can now quietly be forgotten.
But the conviction of Wateridge, and the failure of his appeal, shows that despite many allegations not being deem strong enough for conviction, there is at least some very strong legal evidence for abuse taking place at Haut de La Garenne:
A former carer at a Jersey children's home was found guilty today of indecently assaulting teenagers in the 1970s. Gordon Wateridge, 78, was convicted of eight charges of indecent assault and one charge of assault following a trial at Jersey royal court. He was the first person to be charged in connection with the Haut de la Garenne abuse investigation.(4)
Clearly, the staff were not properly monitored, and neither, it appears, were the children there. Another child was able to abuse younger children when he was at the home, and this was not picked up on at all. Again, this resulted in a conviction - solid evidence that the home was not a well-run happy place:
A man has been sentenced to two years' probation for sexually abusing two boys at the Haut de la Garenne children's home on the island. Michael Aubin, 46, of Southampton, admitted two counts of indecent assault and two of gross indecency on two boys under 10 in the 1970s when he was 14.(5)
There are also anecdotal reports of physical abuse taking place during the 1970s, such as this reported by an anonymous individual to the BBC:
There were two dreadful places for me - school and home. I spent two brief periods at Haut de la Garenne, and thought it was going to be a relief for me. But it wasn't. It felt unsafe. At Haut de la Garenne, physical abuse was a regular occurrence. It was common currency to be hit about the head. The local hospital, where I received attention on more than one occasion, never reported anything untoward to the local police or the equivalent of social services. The local police, and in particular the local 'honorary' police, ever keen to ensure that these matters were resolved behind closed doors, never raised an alarm. Everything that could be done by those in authority to normalise a terrible situation was done, and more than once I was given a thick ear for trying to stand up and make complaints about actions that today would be described as assault.(6)
That is physical abuse, not sexual abuse, and physical abuse was commonplace in many island schools. In the 1970, Victoria College, for example, still used the cane to punish boys, and teachers were not above using a wooden ruler to sharply clip boys around the ear for inattention. So we must place this anecdote in the context of its time.
Nonetheless, the extent to which this was carried out - receiving attention at the hospital - suggests that the perpetrators were carried away, and no one wanted to look into the matter, which again in the 1960s and early 1970s culture, is perfectly possible. For an orphan, or child in care, with places such as Haut de La Garenne still almost under Victorian standards of discipline, and harsh physical punishments, life was probably extremely wretched and unhappy.
So it is just as much as distortion of history to say that "we now know that nothing happened" as to say that there were, as one newspaper put it, six bodies feared buried. The anecdotal evidence, such as that mentioned, also indicates a harsh regime, not that far removed from the Victorian workhouse, and certainly there are many lessons to be learned from that. The two convictions which have taken place, shows that there was indeed sexual abuse also taking place. Other evidence may not be good enough to secure a conviction, but the very fact that two cases have been proven, should not cause us to dismiss them so casually or overconfidently.
Let it not be supposed by the enemies of 'the system,' that, during the period of his solitary incarceration, Oliver was denied the benefit of exercise, the pleasure of society, or the advantages of religious consolation. As for exercise, it was nice cold weather, and he was allowed to perform his ablutions every morning under the pump, in a stone yard, in the presence of Mr. Bumble, who prevented his catching cold, and caused a tingling sensation to pervade his frame, by repeated applications of the cane. (Oliver Twist, 7)
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