Four years ago this week a group of more than 400 islanders gather outside the Jersey Parliamentary Assembly, in St Helier's Royal Square, to remember the victims and survivors of decades of abuse whilst in the care of the States of Jersey. They also came to demand change to what some called the 'Jersey Way' - the political and administrative systems which allowed this abuse to take place right under our noses, without being picked up. The questions were many. How could this happen? Why was this not picked up? It became apparent that children at the time had tried to tell those in authority that they were being abused, but they were either not believed or threatened. I heard first hand from one of my constituents who said how she and some of the other children had 'run away' from Haut de la Garenne and its culture of abuse and try to tell the police. She says how they were told that they were 'bad children', put in the Black Maria. Those who should have listened were deaf to the pleas of young children, and surely must be partly as guilty as the abuses themselves.
Those who would seek to detract from the suffering of the abused say such things as, 'Most of the children went to Haut de la Garenne were happy and well looked after.' This is no doubt true, but it completely misses the point. Not one child should have had to suffer. They were vulnerable children taken in for different reasons and should have expected the protection of the State, not to have to fear abuse. Moreover, the fact that the abuse remain hidden for so long, signals that there must have been a cover-up on more than one level.
So where are we now?
Well much has happened since. Many attempts have been made, and largely succeeded, by those in power to distract and discredit the abuse victims and the Police inquiry that led to the abuse scandal being blown open. It would take to long to list these here, but other sites deal with these in more detail here and here.Last year, Senator Le Gresley, former Deputy Bob Hill and myself were successful in our motion to secure an independent Committee of Inquiry to look at the whole area of historic child abuse (More details will followin part 2). I say 'secure', however, as we have seen from this weeks events with the Independent Electoral Commission (now lack of), there is nothing to stop one man overturning that and cutting back on the most important terms of reference. We must be vigilant and not allow this to happen.
*Photos courtesy of BBC JerseyMore to follow. In the meantime, keep up the good fight and do not lose faith.