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11 September 2015

​​​A former governor at Les Chenes school has given evidence to the Inquiry.

Ron McLean, who moved to Jersey to work in insurance in 1966, later joined the Board of Visitors at Greenfields. Both positions were voluntary.

Answering questions from Counsel Patrick Sadd, Mr McLean said that he'd joined the honorary police in 1987 before being appointed as a centenier. He believes that this experience led to his being asked to join Les Chenes' Board of Governors in 1995. He was appointed as Chair a year later.

He told the Inquiry the principal role of the Board was to ensure Les Chenes ran well, particularly from a financial perspective. He added ​there were "no policies or guidance which set out what our duties were."

When he joined the Board Mr McLean became aware of Les Chenes' dual purpose: it operated as a residential school as well as a remand centre. There was an increase in the number of remand admissions to the school which led to it becoming increasingly overcrowded.

In 2000, the Board wrote to the Director of Education, Tom McKeon, to express their "extreme concern" at the overcrowding. But he felt the issue was not addressed until the 2002 report by Kathie Bull led to the opening of Greenfields.

The minutes from a meeting in Jan 2001 described the staffing situation at Les Chenes as a 'nightmare'. But Mr McLean did not recall that being the case. He said staff "coped very well" and, in his opinion, the atmosphere was "quite relaxed."

In his witness statement, Mr McLean descrcribed children at Les Chenes as "young villains." He told the Inquiry this had been a "poor" phrase and accepted there was a difference between children who attended the school as pupils and those who had been charged with an offence.

He added that: "With hindsight, the staff were probably not sufficiently equipped to deal with children on remand."

Mr McLean described the Board as being "reliant" on the school's Principal and staff to keep them informed: "We felt we did provide good oversight." He added that: "Our opinions were not always acted upon" and there was "a limited amount we could do....To a certain extent, the Board was toothless."

When Greenfields opened as a remand centre in 2006, Les Chenes' Board of Governors became its Board of Visitors, modelled on the prison system. Mr McLean's view was that the "Board was renamed and forgotten about."

It had a duty to look after the welfare of the children at Greenfields and visited once a month. One-to-one visits with children were not allowed - a Child Care Officer had to be present - but Mr McLean did not recall such meetings happening.

The effectiveness of the Board of Visitors was criticised in a report by the Howard League into Greenfields. But Mr McLean said he: "...would have liked to have thought...that the children felt they had the confidence to approach us should they wish to do so"

In 2009, the Board resigned after hearing that young offenders from La Moye prison might be sent to Greenfields as it did not feel that staff were sufficiently trained to deal with them.

Mr McLean said to the Inquiry that there was a "general lack of co-ordination within Social Services and I believe that this fundamentally prevented us from being more effective."

Before Mr McLean's evidence, the Inquiry Chair, Frances Oldham QC, returned to the issue of disclosure of States' documents to the Inquiry, which she'd raised on Tuesday this week. Mrs Oldham said that Advocate Lacey, who represents the departments involved, had provided an update and a meeting will be held next week to discuss the timetable.

A full transcript and supporting documents will be put on the website as soon as they're available.

​There will now be a break in hearings to allow for preparation of the next phase of the Inquiry; they'll resume in mid October.

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