The Independent Jersey Care Inquiry on Wednesday (22 June) concluded the final Phase 3 of its investigation into the abuse of children in Jersey's care system over many years.
In her closing statement, Panel Chair, Mrs Frances Oldham QC, recalled the April 2014 preliminary hearing in which she had said that the IJCI’s aim was to be open and transparent, acting independently of the States of Jersey, the police and any other organisation of individual in Jersey or elsewhere. Its purpose was to establish the truth about what happened to children in residential and foster homes, how mistreatment of children remained hidden for so long and what was done when concerns were raised.
She said it was only through the determination and hard work of all those participating in their various ways with the work of the Inquiry that the Panel had been provided with the material which will form the basis of its report.
“We thank everyone who has contributed to the work of this independent Inquiry. The Panel acknowledge in particular the contribution of those who gave evidence of their childhood experiences in residential and foster care,” she said.
Mrs Oldham stated that the Panel would not be making findings of fact in relation to individual allegations as it was not part of their remit.
“We will analyse the evidence as a whole to determine the culture of the relevant institutions and establish whether there were any patterns of abuse or systemic failings that can be identified.”
She added that the Panel noted the questions raised by Counsel to the Inquiry and Interested Parties during the course of submissions. However, they were not bound by those questions alone and will have their own questions to address.
Mrs Oldham responded to a suggestion from a number of parties that there would be benefit in engaging again with the Panel before the report is finalised and in particular that there should be "early dialogue" with the Panel to ensure "realistic and achievable" recommendations.
“The Panel recognise that those parties are motivated by a desire to assist the Inquiry. However, all parties have in fact had the opportunity to engage with the Panel and make recommendations when giving evidence, taking part in public consultations and when making closing submissions. Public sessions have been held with key stake-holders, members of the public, managers and senior politicians.
“The Panel has decided therefore, that any further engagement would be inappropriate prior to publication of the report. We will therefore adhere to what we set out in our protocols at the outset of the Inquiry with regard to the arrangements for the publication of the report.”
She said the Panel also considered that a "Maxwellisation" process in which parties are given notice of potential criticisms before publication and invited to respond was unnecessary. Criticisms had been put to the parties and they had had the opportunity to address those criticisms during the course of the hearings.
Mrs Oldham concluded by reassuring Witnesses that the arrangements for their support via the Northern Ireland Victim Support Unit and a local independent support unit, which had been in place since 2014, would continue. Details are available here.
Transcripts and Final Submissions will be available on this website in due course. The Panel’s final report is expected to be published at the end of the year.