The Independent Jersey Care inquiry on Wednesday (21 October) heard evidence from two witnesses who worked with States of Jersey Police.
Summarising his career, Mr Brian Carter said he joined the SOJP in August 1988 and held a variety of posts until retiring in 2007. He spent a few months with the Housing Department before working as a Civilian Investigator on Operation Rectangle.
His first experience of working with the Child Protection Team came in 2002 with a secondment to assist with an investigation into an incident of historic child abuse in Jersey. He then joined the team on a permanent basis.
Inquiry Counsel, Ms Cathy McGahey, asked Mr Carter about his experiences and day-to-day tasks. He described what it was like working with victims of abuse and how information needed to be coaxed out of them in a sensitive manner. He stated that there was no initial training - but there was the intention to send officers on appropriate courses within their first few months both in the UK and in Jersey.
He described some of the challenges the team faced regarding resources, including staffing; they could not visit every case and just had to deal with situations as they arose. One year they had 400 referrals as well as major cases. There were also difficulties getting cases to court because of the need for corroboration. He stated that many of the older cases they came across would make it to a courtroom today.
He said he was disappointed with some of the decisions not to bring prosecutions, but accepted the reasons given by legal advisors and the need to do what was best for the child. He said that the SOJP are far better equipped and trained to deal with safeguarding matters today.
He detailed the investigation and successful 2006 prosecution of Thomas Hamon, a member of St John Ambulance, who was [convicted] of 12 counts of indecent assaults involving children between 1964-1989. He praised St John Ambulance for all their help with the investigation and mentioned the support he received from his sergeants. He said he did not know why a similar investigation was not carried out in 2001 when disclosures of abuse were made by a former resident of Haut de La Garenne.
Mr Carter also recounted how he dealt with allegations of physical assault against members of staff at Les Chenes, issues regarding the lack of staff training in restraint and of possible malicious complaints.
He described his approach to a case in which a dependent was charged with a sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl in private foster care. Mr Carter also described the procedures for when complaints were made and how strategy meetings were held within the police.
He said the relationship with Children’s Services and others such as paediatricians and mental health was good. All would have their own thoughts on cases and whether it was deemed appropriate whether or not to prosecute. They all wanted what was best for the child and had to work together to come to a professional agreement about what was right. Children’s Services would go down the line of protecting the family and decisions were made when it was not in the public interest to prosecute.
Mr Carter spoke of the shortage of foster parents and how a lot of children were placed at La Preference and Heathfield.
He was positive about the changes implemented by Alison Fossey in 2006 after she became DI in charge of the FPU – including structural, staffing, recording systems, Jersey’s children’s law, training and improved supervision.
He recalled how in the early 2000s they did not hear of any direct complaints from children at Haut de la Garenne except in relation to two specific abusers and recalled in detail how the investigation into their activities came about and was undertaken.
He talked about the concerns forming in the back of his mind that a pattern was emerging regarding abuse and suicides at HdlG and was particularly struck by the amount of people he knew. Having reviewed all the personal files he realised something was not quite right. Following a conversation with acting DI Peter Hewlett he wrote a report asking for an investigation to be considered into child abuse concentrating on HdlG which he submitted to the Chief Inspector of Crime Services, DCI Andre Bonjour. He became frustrated when he did not hear anything for nine months and recalled telling Mr Bonjour on a couple of occasions that he did not think he was supporting the Child Protection Team.
Mr Carter decided to retire and a few months later DCI Lenny Harper offered him a role as a Civilian Investigator on Operation Rectangle.
One of the first things was to set up a major incident room and his role was initially as an investigator and then in intelligence. He described the way the investigation expanded and it became clear that abuse may have been happening in a number of other institutions in Jersey which also needed to be thoroughly investigated.
Operation Rectangle visited the case of Witness 195, but it needed corroboration. Mr Carter recalled that Witness 264 was too unwell which closed off the possibility of interviewing him. Mr Carter talked about the difficulties in relying on some of the evidence given by children and being able to corroborate it.
Mr Carter responded to criticism that very few prosecutions came out of Operation Rectangle, making the point that many alleged abusers were dead at the time. He stated that the legal process was transparent, and with so many people were involved there was no room for a cover up.
Mr Carter told the Inquiry that Mr Harper appeared to convince himself that many senior SOJP were untrustworthy and that people in positions of authority within the States were responsible for covering up child abuse. He never saw evidence himself and denied there was any form of police corruption connected with investigations into child abuse.
After lunch, Inquiry Counsel, Mr Patrick Sadd, took the day’s second witness, WPC Emma Coxshall though her evidence about working with the Family Protection Unit. Ms Coxshall joined the SOJP in 1990 and initially went on secondment to the FPU in 1995. She was assigned there permanently between 1997-2006. She now works in SOJP Events Planning.
Ms Coxshall told the Inquiry that she did not recall any initial guidelines given to her when she joined the FPU, but did shadow an officer. The first guidelines she saw were given in 1997 in tandem with Children’s Services. That same year she did a two-week course in interviewing children.
She explained that her role was to investigate cases of current and historic child abuse and described her experiences in the Unit, colleagues, day-to-day tasks and how the filing system worked prior to computerisation.
She gave an account of the weekly Friday meetings which were recorded in a hard-back book. FPU and Children’s Services would go through the cases and prioritise them. This was also the method by which cases were referred to the unit. On rare occasions information was not shared, usually because Children’s Services had not yet done anything with it. She described this as “unhelpful” but not concerning and it never stopped an investigation. She described some of DCI Harper’s recollections of meetings with her about these incidents as “inaccurate” but recalls raising concerns about procedures.
Ms Coxshall explained that CID not the FPU would deal with allegations against members of Children’s Services but she was asked to sit in on the interviews as she was interview trained.
She said the success of working with Children’s Services depended on which DS was heading the team at the time and praised DS Barry Faudemer because he was passionate about the importance of working closely with other agencies.
She stated that some members of Children’s Services had frustrating attitudes to people in some parts of the island and that there were double standards in dealing with them, ignoring signs of neglect.
She talked about how Children’s Services often relied on an FPU investigation to apply for a court order and said the police took the lead in providing evidence. She described the processes around ABE (Achieving Best Evidence) interviews.
Ms Coxshall was critical of case conferences where the person who was putting the child at risk was in attendance. Sometimes Children’s Services would ask the FPU to share details of the investigation to identify why the child was at risk. She would refuse and some regarded this as obstructive, but it would be dealt with at the Friday meetings.
She was also critical of a former Senior Children’s Officer, who was deemed as not being completely independent as chair of case conferences because of her previous involvement with Children’s Services. She gave an example where there was criticism of the SOJP and was shown a report she had written complaining about the situation. She said she must have been very angry at the time and had had a growing sense of unease. She commented on a number of documents outlining increasing concerns about how cases were dealt with and gave examples of case histories where corroboration was needed.
She concurred with some concerns raised in a memorandum from Force Legal Advisor, Bridget Shaw, to the Attorney-General, William Bailhache in 2007 after she had left the Unit, but said they would have been dealt with at a high level.
She provided an account of Children’s Services not removing children from a violent home setting because Children’s Services did not have sufficient availability to take the children into care. In her eyes this was giving the abuser the go-ahead to continue. She raised it straight after but was told there was nowhere for them to go.
Ms Coxshall was then asked about the 1998 investigation into Alan & Jane Maguire. She described how she went about taking statements from residents at Blanche Pierre, how difficult the experience was for some of the residents and how it took a long time to gain their trust. She said they had enough evidence to arrest the Maguires and the matter went to the Magistrates Court. She said she was very disappointed when the charges relating to sexual offenses were dropped and that the Criminal Justice System might be perceived by witnesses to have let them down.
She described the role of the Force Legal Advisors, the procedures and systems used to bring cases to court and what lessons had been learned.
She gave an account of DS Roger Pryke who was in charge of the FPU in 1997 and how she discovered that a number of files had gone relating exclusively to the work of the unit. She was also concerned about the way he conducted video interviews. At the time she and two other officers expressed their concerns to DCI Kevin McKerrell. She had not expected Mr Pryke to be removed from his position and after making the complaint things became very difficult for the three officers as Mr Pryke had been a popular officer. In retrospect she said she thought his behaviour may have been due to a brain tumour as he did not do those things before.
Ms Croxshall said she had no suspicions that there was any form of sexual abuse going on in Jersey’s children’s care homes. She recalled her impressions of Les Chenes and interviewing young people there and how CID took over the investigation. She also commented on a number of documents relating to other cases involving allegations of abuse.
Transcripts and supporting documents will be available in due course.
Public Hearings resume Thursday (22 October) at 1000.