Monday, 25 January 2010

Distorting History

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)



voiceforchildren said...


Thankfully we now have the internet and in particular "Citizens Media". There is now an alternative to the "official line" that is peddled out by our "accredited" media.

History will be most unkind, not only to our "accredited" media but to those politicians who deny the Child Abuse and vote accordingly.

This will be a very dark era in the history of our island, made even darker, by the powers that be and their media in refusing to aknowledge past "mistakes" and "failures".

The truth IS out and it's time our "accredited" media and "ruling elite" learned there is no hiding place, the game is up!!

Rob Kent said...

The JEP might defend itself by saying that it was merely printing the judge's remarks, in bold headlines. Curious that neither CITV nor BBC Jersey thought fit to even mention that minor aspect of the appeal. According to Lenny Harper, the JEP already knew that there were never any daybooks; he has even published the email he sent to Diane Simon of the JEP fully explaining all of the facts. It seems that the JEP prefers to ignore that evidence.

Maybe the judges were misled, which is why they made that statement. It is highly unlikely that Donnelly and Wateridge's advocates did not know the truth, given their close involvement with the case. I can understand the advocates wilfully bending the truth in order to get their clients acquitted and, if the judges believed them, their statements are also understandable.

But for the JEP, knowing the truth, to print the judge's statement without even noting what Lenny Harper had already told them or contacting him for another comment, that just reveals their desire to spin the story against Harper. Lenny must have grounds for suing the courts and the JEP for defamation of character, assuming he has the inclination, time, and money to do that.

We know that Scotland Yard told the HdlG investigators not to keep daybooks, and Lenny Harper has confirmed that he followed their instructions and did not keep daybooks; he was even prepared to go to court and testify that under oath. Why, therefore, would the Jersey judiciary keep referring to the fictitious daybooks?

One explanation is that, for whatever reasons, they have wanted this whole scandal dead and buried and have developed a strategy of rubbishing the original investigation. A key aspect of that strategy is to defame the character of Lenny Harper and destroy the career of Graham Power, along with others. By not accepting the truth that there are not any daybooks, they are saying that Lenny Harper is a liar, which fits right in with their strategy. Why else would apparently intelligent people, informed of the facts, persist in ignoring them?

There are a number of other facts which have been conveniently ignored:

- Graham Power's timestamped and corroborated note written after the meeting where the sacking of Stuart Syvret was discussed.

- The non-disclosure or complete absence of the Met report that supposedly led to the suspension of Graham Power.

- The reversal of cause and effect evidenced by the predating of documents related to Power's suspension.

- The instruction from the AG's office not to charge Wateridge, even though he was guilty, dead to rights. (How many others were let off even though they were guilty?)

These are just examples where there is publicly available, hard evidence that contradicts the official position and yet the Jersey law officers, courts, and the JEP continually act as if that evidence did not exist and had never been publicly revealed. Even where the JEP has been grudgingly forced to publish such evidence - as in the case of the Power suspension documents, which were published by bloggers and other media outlets first - it then carries on as if it didn't exist.

All very strange and disturbing.

An equally legitimate headline for the JEP would have been:

Wateridge found guilty twice despite the AG's office not wanting to charge

Perhaps Simon Thomas, the 7 Bedford Row solicitor who instructed Lenny Harper not to charge Wateridge, could now be brought back to explain why he came to that conclusion. While they are at it, perhaps they could reopen all the other cases where he or others decided not to charge. I mean, how can you trust them now?

Anonymous said...


The JEP persists in outrageous and willful distortions of nearly everything related to HDLG, Lenny Harper, Graham Power, and Stuart Syvret. It would be impossible for an objective person to come to any other conclusion. The only question left is why.


TonyTheProf said...

I can understand the notion that the JEP has an agenda regarding Lenny Harper, which they may well have, but I am not commenting on that because there is no documented evidence of deliberate intent. If there was, for example, an email, or corroborated conversation, which laid bare the motivation of the JEP reporters, I would include it. But alternative explanations are possible - the desire for a "grabby" headline to sell the paper, lazy journalism that doesn't bother to check facts.

While other bloggers may make a definite decision about the motivation of the JEP's editorial policy (that's their prerogative), I can't rule out other options, and I won't overstep that mark.

Rob Kent said...

Re @Tony, "I am not commenting on that because there is no documented evidence of deliberate intent. If there was, for example, an email, or corroborated conversation, which laid bare the motivation of the JEP reporters, I would include it."

You are never going to find evidence of that kind. It's not the kind of thing that is written down. At most it exists as backroom conversations, mute gestures, and a tacit understanding about what is 'best for Jersey'.

So we are left to draw our own conclusions.

You say: "somewhere along the way the chain of command failed, resulting in a headlined criticism which turns out to be based on a mirage"

Firstly, it is a very generous interpretation to say 'the chain of command failed'. By using the passive voice it implies there were no agents responsible: given that the advocates were fully aware of the facts regarding the daybooks (how could they not be?) - I would say that they intentionally misled the judges.

I would go even further and say that the judges themselves probably already knew the facts of this case and were themselves probably aware of Lenny Harper's previous comments regarding the daybooks.

So I would say that there was a deliberate intention to distort history - it didn't just happen due to some random concatenation of circumstance.

With regards to the JEP, there is no need to look for a conspiracy theory or evidence of a particular desire to spin the story in the way they did: it is not the job of journalism to simply print what they are told or hear - anyone can do that. It is their job to question statements and probe beneath the facts in order to discover the truth.

The UK Code of Practice states: "The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information."

The international Society of Professional Journalists' code begins:

"Journalists should:

— Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.

— Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing.

The JEP failed on both accounts. They did not test the accuracy of their story - worse, they were already in possession of information which strongly suggested that the judges were misinformed. Then they diligently chose not to seek out the subject of the story, who was being strongly defamed in bold headlines.

But, of course, they did not need to seek him out because he had already emailed them the facts on an earlier occasion.

I agree with you that we can only surmise and speculate as to why the JEP acted like they did, but there is no doubt that they did what they did intentionally. Along with others in this sad affair, they have long demonstrated a desire to rewrite history.

TonyTheProf said...

When I put "the chain of command" failed, I was commenting on the Appeal Court criticism about the non-existent day books.

As it was an Appeal Court, it may have been being restricted to examining whether the court below made the correct legal determinations, rather than hearing direct evidence and determining what the facts of the case were.

As I don't know if judge could have been informed judge that the pocket books did not exist (or if that was new evidence and inadmissable); as I don't know who (or which people_)would normally be responsible for doing this, I phrased it in as neutral a way as possible.

Regarding the UK Code of Practice states: "The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information", I suggest you read the "Street of Shame" section of Private Eye. The JEP has not a monopoly on sometimes sloppy journalism.

Rob Kent said...

Tony, I'm not saying that the UK press are any better than the JEP. They are responsible for similar kinds of distortions for whatever motivation - ideology, laziness, and commercial pressures. Anyone with any doubts about that should read Nick Davies' "Flat Earth News".

But that doesn't excuse the JEP. They didn't even have to go out and do the research since it was already in their possession. They didn't have to beat a rival to the headline as there was no commercial pressure, which leaves you with ideology, or bias.

Neither of us know what the judges really knew when they made that statement, but it is incredible to believe that the advocates didn't know what Lenny had already said about the daybooks. For the judges to have made that statement, it must have been raised during the appeal; in fact, I believe it was one of the grounds for appeal along with the media coverage.

So at some point the judges were misled. But shouldn't the prosecution have told them there were never any daybooks, since that was being used as part of the defence case?

Regardless of what the courts knew, the JEP definitely knew. So although there is no 'documented evidence of deliberate intent', it is definitely shown by their behaviour.

As your post says clearly, the issue of the bones and the presumed conduct of Lenny Harper has been used as a diversion from the fact that between one and two hundred victims gave evidence to the police. Many of those were accounts of serious physical and sexual abuse.

A lot of spin and propaganda has been used to try and make us forget that fact, and the JEP has been party to that propaganda. Last week's headline was just one more example of their desire to rubbish the original investigation.

I don't see why we should give the editor of the JEP the benefit of the doubt over his motivations when his newspaper is not prepared to give credence to the testimony of the abused.

Given this obvious desire of the establishment and the JEP to make the story go away, it is not surprising that people are suspicious that there were other cases, like Wateridge's, that were well-evidenced but a decision was made not to charge.

The investigation seems to have ground to a halt after the suspension of Graham Power, so it looks like the conspiracy succeeded.