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£23m child abuse inquiry hits back at poor data care report

£23m child abuse inquiry hits back at poor data care report

Thursday 12 May 2016

£23m child abuse inquiry hits back at poor data care report

Thursday 12 May 2016

The Island's Information Commissioner has come under fire for her report criticising how Jersey's Care Inquiry has been handling confidential information provided by alleged victims and alleged abusers.

Emma Martins' report to the Chief Minister claims the Inquiry has failed to implement clear policies on how confidential data should be dealt with and questions whether their UK lawyers know enough about the Island's Data Protection Law to be handling extremely sensitive personal data.

The Inquiry, which is set to cost more than £23 million, has been working to find out what happened to children in care in Jersey, allowing alleged victims to describe what happened to them and alleged abusers to have their say.

Mrs Martins says she put the report together after finding "...evidence of systemic breaches in personal privacy and a fundamental misunderstanding by the Inquiry as to their obligations under the DPL and the importance of good data governance."

Her office has issued the following statement: "The Information Commissioner understands and appreciates that the Inquiry has attempted to put in place a framework whereby individuals including victims, witnesses, service providers and abusers can give evidence to the Inquiry in what are no doubt extremely difficult circumstances. 

"The Commissioner’s Report does not undermine that aim nor does it detract from the good work done by the Inquiry to date, but serves as an indication of the Commissioner’s concerns regarding the Inquiry’s data handling processes. 

"She hopes that this Report assists the Chief Minister in highlighting the perceived deficiencies in the Inquiry’s data processing policies, and recording the difficulties experienced by certain individuals and parties to the Inquiry and which have been communicated to the Commissioner on a confidential basis throughout the course of the Inquiry."

But the Inquiry Panel, who have been working with UK law firm Eversheds, are adamant they have been adequately safeguarding all the personal data they have been given.

They say: "The Inquiry has provided a detailed response to the issues raised in the Data Commissioner's Report.

"It is a matter of regret that the Inquiry did not have sight of the draft report prior to it being submitted to the Chief Minister as this would have allowed the many inaccuracies in the report to be corrected at an early stage.

"No formal complaints have been made to the Data Commissioner.

"The Inquiry is satisfied that the data protection systems in place are as robust as is required in handling sensitive material.

"The Panel do not intend to make any further statement on this matter."

But the Jersey Care Leaver's Association, who represent some alleged victims of abuse are concerned the report could jeopardise the Inquiry which is due to be completed this year.

"Following the publication of the Data Commissioner's report the JCLA's position is that the IJCI must be allowed to complete the task it was set by the SOJ.

"The JCLA is surprised and concerned by the nature and timing of the Data Commissioner's report.

"The JCLA trusts that the issues (valid or otherwise) raised by the Data Commissioner are comprehensively and expeditiously addressed by her and the IJCI."

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Posted by David Morgan on
I've given evidence to the Inquiry. I had to travel twice to Evershed's offices in Cardiff - a round trip of over 100 miles. I'd wasn't offered any travelling expenses, so how have they spent £23 million? This is an obscene amount of money, when at the end of the day they'll tell us lessons have been learned. Hopefully the lessons won't be forgotten as they often are in cases like this.
Posted by Gillian Gracia on
I think you will find Mr Morgan that the bulk of the expense has been incurred by the Jersey legal teams, and breakdowns of the expenses are available where you can see where the well spent £23 million has gone. I don't think you will hear the final report will say 'lessons have been learnt'. That is a jersey 'stock phrase' that is rolled out every time it is proved that systems have failed the vulnerable etc. Sadly they are never learnt.
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