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27 January 2015

The Independent Jersey Care Inquiry has been hearing statements from six former residents of Haut de la Garenne in the 1970s and '80s.

Counsel to the Inquiry, Paul Livingston, said Witness 377 described himself in an interview with States of Jersey Police as "a troublesome youth who was stealing things and couldn't be controlled by his parents." He became friendly with Witness 636, a female staff member, and recalled a number of instances of sexual acts taking place between them when he was a teenager.

Witness 374 was placed in HDLG in 1974 because his mother was violent. In a statement to SOJP he recalled he was "probably a handful at that time" and that he often absconded with some of the other lads.  He said: "As a result I was often put in the detention rooms as a punishment, which frustrated me at the time but I can understand why they did it now".  He said he was never a victim and was never hit as far as he could recall.

Witness 395 gave evidence to the SOJP about her daughter, Witness 643, who had died in 2003. She was admitted to HDLG when she was 16-years-old in 1973. During a visit, 643 told her mother that a male member of staff was abusing her as she was going to bed. 395 said she went to HDLG and spoke to the man in charge, telling him what 643 had said. She stated that he replied, saying that she was lying and that nobody at the Home was capable of doing such things.  Mr Livingston pointed out to the Panel that Colin Tilbrook was the Superintendant of HDLG at that time.

Witness 182 described her time at HDLG between 1979-83 as a "very institutionalised existence with little love or care". She stated that "many of the parents were doing a job for which they were paid and had little empathy or understanding of many of the broken children who were placed in their charge" but added that "on the whole the staff were supportive and tried to do the best they could to keep 60 children in check".  182 said she had been sexually abused between the ages of 8-14 by Witness 33, but when she told police she felt as though they did not believe her and that she was making it up and looking for attention.  Mr Livingston referred to an SOJP report from June 1982 which described 132 as extremely distressed when asked if her allegations were true, but remaining emphatic that she was telling the truth. 132 said "the Police Officers were not supporting me at all, I was tired and so in the end I said I lied". Following the retraction of the allegations Mr Livingston said the matter did not appear to have been pursued further by the SOJP. He also said the Panel might wish to consider the extent to which Children's Services were aware that 182 may have been a victim of abuse at this time.

Witness 213 stayed at HDLG when she was 13 in 1973 and again in 1974-75.  She told SOJP she used to call HDLG "the lost soul department, because everybody had that blatant bland look on their face like…You didn't wanna be there, it wasn't a nice place to be." Mr Livingston directed the Panel to a number of statements and documents relating to 213 including records confirming that she was self-harming. In 2008 213 described how children would go through a gap to explore the cellars.  "You could squat in that room if you were an adult and if you were a child you would have to bend your head... Loads of us used to go into the cellars, it was just exciting going and seeing how far we could get and the cellars went a long way." She was forced to take sedatives and blamed large amounts of Valium as the catalyst for a future life of drug addiction.

Transcripts and supporting documents will be available in due course.

The Inquiry will continue hearing witness statements tomorrow (Wednesday) from 1000.

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