The IJCI has today (Wednesday 15 October) been hearing the first tranche of evidence regarding Blanche Pierre, or Le Squez, family group home.
Counsel to the Inquiry, Patrick Sadd, provided context and background to the home in St Clement, which was run by Alan and Jane Maguire. Diary entries between 1986-1989 recorded punishments such as the smacking of children and washing their mouths out with soap.
A letter sent by Iris Le Feuvre, President of the Education Committee, to Jane Maguire on her retirement in 1990 congratulated her on her excellent work and 110% commitment to the children in her care.
Counsel to the Inquiry, Harriet Jerram, took former resident, Darren Picot, through his witness statement. He said he was first put into care at Blanche Pierre at the age of 3. He described being beaten by the Maguires nearly every day for not eating tea, breaking a toy or because "they were just in wrong mood".
He recalled receiving two serious knocks to the head at the hands of the Maguires on the same day, but was told to tell staff at Jersey General Hospital that he’d fallen and banged his head.
He was made to stand with his nose to a tree as a punishment for up to 6 hours at a time. This happened so often it became known as “Darren’s Tree”.
On another occasion he was punished for taking the drip off a custard jug to stop it falling on to the table. The Maguires wrapped a tea towel around his head, dipped his head back and poured all the contents of the jug into his mouth and down his throat. The custard went everywhere and he started choking. He was then beaten for being sick and told to stand by the tree.
Mr Picot said there was never any sign of remorse or apology from the Maguires. He said there was “no point” telling his Childcare Officer, Richard Davenport, about the abuse because he feared repercussions from them, although “he seemed a nice enough man”,
Mr Davenport wrote in a report: “Darren seems to be scape-goated and seems too sad too often. I seem effectively powerless to change the situation and wonder whether we could act on Darren’s behalf.
In a later report Mr Davenport wrote: “A lot of Darren’s difficulties might be due to family group home management, lack of proper resources and cramped accommodation”.
Mr Picot explained that a neighbour did seem concerned and it was only years later that he discovered that she had come forward but her report was put in a drawer.
He later moved to Heathfields where ‘Mr AA’ tried to sexually assault him, but "on whole, staff looked after me and I met some really good people".
Mr Picot left Les Chenes at the age of 16 and lived on his own without support from Children’s Services or States of Jersey. At the age of 18 he gave evidence from behind a screen in the prosecution against the Maguires and said he found the court process difficult. He said he felt "pure anger" about the prosecution not going ahead.
The Inquiry was shown a letter written in 2000 by Marnie Baudains, Manager, Children’s & Adult Social Services, in which she wrote that they did not have copies of police reports and statements relating to the case against the Maguires.
Mr Picot said: “I now know that there were a number of reports and complaints relating to the Maguires and Blanche Pierre before the complaints which lead to their prosecution.
“I think there were plenty of opportunities for the States of Jersey to take action & help us while we were children but nothing was done.”
He concluded: “Learn by your mistakes, concentrate more – even the slightest little thing that people come out with could be serious. It could be nothing, but just listen.”
This morning, the Panel heard further submissions from Interested Parties re the redaction protocols.
The public hearings will resume tomorrow (Thursday 15 October) at 1000 with the reading into the record of further witness statements about Blanche Pierre family group Home.