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9 September 2015

A former Health and Social Services minister has described his time in charge of the department that ran Children's Services.

Ben Shenton told how he was elected to the role in 2007 after a brief period serving as former Minister Stuart Syvret's assistant.

Mr Shenton was taken through his statement by Counsel Patrick Sadd. He said that his background was in the finance industry and that until his appointment his only experience of the department had been as a foster parent.

Within weeks of being appointed as Assistant Minister, Mr Syvret was removed from his post. Mr Shenton described his dismissal as "100% political." He said the former minister had been considered "too outspoken, and challenged things publicly."

As minister, Mr Shenton appointed a deputy, Jim Perchard, and put him in charge of Social Services. He sent Mr Perchard to Council of Ministers' meetings whenever Social Services were under discussion.

Mr Shenton also supported the appointments of child protection experts to key roles within the department. He described it as the "first step to making the States of Jersey a little bit more professional, but it upset a lot of people."

When asked about funding, Mr Shenton said the departments were expected to operate on budgets that were set historically: he called this "the Jersey way."

He said there was a culture of closing ranks whenever a States department was criticised: "For this reason, serious problems have been kept from the political establishment and those with ultimate responsibility." He claimed this culture was still prevalent in the public sector.

In November 2007 the States of Jersey Police launched Operation Rectangle to investigate historical child abuse. Mr Shenton, whose wife had been brought up in care on the mainland, said that he had been angry when it turned out that the announcement that the remains of children had been found at Haut de la Garenne was unlikely to be true. He said he was "extremely angry that the police had been misleading both the public and the politicians."

Mr Shenton told the Inquiry he had wanted the police to stop speculating and to report the facts.

Mr Shenton also covered other major issues that cropped up during his time as minister, including the controversial use of the 'Grand Prix System' of behavioural control at Greenfields secure unit, which he described as "out-dated."

When Terry Le Sueur became the new Chief Minister, Mr Shenton was asked to step down when his tenure expired. He said he felt the reason was that he had put too much pressure on the Chief Officer to get things done. Mr Shenton then served as chair of the Public Accounts Committee before leaving politics in 2011.

Full transcript and supporting documents will be published on the website as soon as they are available.

Hearings continue tomorrow morning at 10.

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