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What the former Police Chief told the abuse inquiry…

What the former Police Chief told the abuse inquiry…

Friday 06 November 2015

What the former Police Chief told the abuse inquiry…


Over two days of explosive testimony to the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry, former Police Chief Graham Power has given the ultimate insider's view of the historic abuse inquiry.

His evidence touched on many areas of the inquiry (codenamed "Operation Rectangle"), including previous cases, political interference, the role of investigation chief Lenny Harper and claims of organised abuse.

On Senior Investigating Officer Lenny Harper…

"[Responding to a statement that Mr Harper had been described by one of his colleagues on the Metropolitan Police as “one of the best detectives of his generation”] Yes. During his time at the Metropolitan Police he was selected to work on very difficult terrorist investigations in Northern Ireland. There is no doubt that he was good."

On the perception that the police weren’t interested in prosecuting child abusers…

"More people should have faced charges at Victoria College. A previous case involving two people at a children’s home had not been dealt with very effectively and people should have faced trial when they did not. The general talk among police officers when they had been involved in this type of investigation that had received little support from line management. The rumour system generally in the island there was a background of suspicious. Victims were coming forward to Operation Rectangle and saying ‘yeah, I can tell you my story but i have been trying to tell you for 20 years and no-one will listen’. We did not start off against a positive climate."

On the suggestion that a senior States employee - Paul Every - was tipped off about a child abuse images investigation (Every was eventually convicted of an offence and left the States)…

"I think that some inquiries were made but I do not think there was an investigation launched. As I understand to he had technical skills which enabled him to install evidence elimination software on his computer but there had been some additional things - him wiping the computer two days prior to his arrest. I am told that it was not untypical for him to wipe the computer. It was one coincidence too many. It created an uncomfortable feeling. He was a senior person in the public sector. He was well connected. He knew a lot of local people on a personal basis. It was a worrying development. This man was being starred to go on to hold one of the senior positions in the islands public sector. At some stage I spoke to the AG and repeatedly spoke to the chief executive because I wanted. I said look, if my boys come in and want to go through his work computer, no one’s going to get in their way? Bill Ogley was very good and provided full support, throughout the investigation."

On reports that a retired head of CID (former Inspector John de la Haye) was contacted by a suspect in the sea cadets abuse case for advice…

"During the course of the investigation into the abuse of a sea cadet a text was found between one of the suspects and a retired senior detective which seemed to be asking for advice on a police investigation and expecting to get some advice in return. It was potentially a criminal offence. There’s not the least faintest shadow of doubt that was a matter that required thorough investigation as part of the investigation into the abuse of that cadet."

On attempts by civil servants and politicians to try to unseat Senator Stuart Syvret as Health Minister…

"During a full Corporate Management Board (senior civil servant board) meeting the mood was very much look at what this horrible man Syvret is saying about us, we need to bring this to an end. We need to sort him out because he is trouble. I did not like the tone of that. To my surprise Bill Ogley said I would like the following people to remain behind. He named me and other people. and we all had responsibility for agencies that had featured in a serious case review. Quite honestly I do not think the interests of vulnerable children got on the radar at all during that discussion. It was about 'what do we do about Stuart Syvret and how do we protect the reputation of the Island against the horrible things that he is saying'. We were told by Bill Ogley that the Chief Minister wanted rid of Syvret as Health Minister and the way to do this was to begin with a vote of no confidence in the Council of Ministers. And because of that, the Chief Minister wanted support. He wanted support from us as heads of the relevant agencies and also from the Child Protection Unit, and if he had could go to a meeting with the Council of Ministers and say 'I want to do this and i have support from the professionals'. It is not entirely accurate to say that we were asked to put our hands up. We were asked to say we did not have confidence and that we would support the Chief Minister."

How Graham Power responded to that approach…

"I said that he was entitled to ask difficult questions and that police and civil servants should not be involved in unseating a minister. I thought 'I can’t believe I'm listening to this', 'what am I doing involved in this?'. I said look, I’m not having this. It's his job. People have to be held to account. It is what he is supposed to do is challenge people in power and say I want you to explain yourself. They just wanted him gone. They hated him. They hated him. in general there was a lot of history. Stuart was for a lot of the time a one-man-party opposition. He made them work, he challenged them and he was all for transparency and accountability and they were all for secrecy. This was a massive clash of political attitudes and cultures that was going on here and I was not getting involved in this group of individuals who were trying to drag me into it. How dare they? How dare they try and get me into this? It is fair to say that at this point I was detached from the core gang and the team in that way, that there was a feeling between us of a degree of distance. It moved forward along the sliding scale at a later date."

As the political pressure started to build against the historic child abuse investigation and politicians and civil servants started making that clear…

"I am not having having my people suspended by a Minister because they are asking the wrong questions. Frank Walker featured at some point but it was also through Bill Ogley and people in the civil service. Sometimes the purpose was an innocent one. They had got so acclimated to the language of States departments but I was saying look, we are the police service not the security service and they would say ‘I’m sorry I didn’t realise that’. It would also be Frank. It tended to be in the form of derogatory comments about Lenny Harper."

On the then-Bailiff, Sir Philip Bailhache and his response…

"I had one early meeting with the Bailiff and he was critical of Lenny Harper. I said we are past the tipping point, there is only one way out of this and that is get to the point where you can say that everything possible has been done and then close it down. You have got to get through the pain barrier and doing everything that you can and revealing everything that needs to be revealed. He was not enthused about that. he felt the whole thing was unfair."

On whether people were willing to protect Jersey’s reputation even if it meant covering up child abuse…

"That is a big question and I suppose my answer, based on my panoramic view of the whole thing, is yes. Yes. It is for other people to come to that conclusion not me, but I think that is what I believe. That is what I believe based on all that I saw and heard."

On briefing Bill Ogley and Frank Walker when Operation Rectangle began, before it went public...

"I did not doubt that it would be controversial and there would be some UK interest. I confess I did not anticipate the scale. And there have been comparable inquiries since, where they started off and exceed all expectations. It happens, and yes it caught me out a bit. I was the one that kept going to them and pushing them and say this is where we are, this is going to break, have a plan. The response was not warm, but it was not overtly hostile. I did not get the impression that the importance of it was registered. Few questions were asked and I did not get a sense of urgency at all."

When political controversy intensified when the investigation went public…

"They said that they were co-operating fully and nothing had been hidden and "these are allegations, lets see if anything has been proved". It was not unreasonable, I suppose, what they were saying. Stuart was saying “you have been covering this up for years, all of these failings in child protection I have been telling you about, it’s going to come out now”. It was a political debate. Stuart was being very outspoken and very critical over what he saw as an establishment cover-up.

On the level of political support as the inquiry went public...

"Yes, I think some political figures were supportive.  We sometimes got ‘critical friend’ support in the sense that people were supportive but not totally supportive. But at different times Deputy Bob Hill came into the picture and was supportive of the investigation. And to be fair frank walker and others did visit the scene and say words of support. Nobody at the time was saying overtly ‘we want this to go away’. You sense that there was that feeling. I was picking up from (then Home Affairs Minister) Wendy Kinnard what they were saying in officially and openly… in private they were hostile, and they wanted it to go away, and they would love to find a way to bring it to an end. All of these sorts of things. They wished the whole thing was shut down and forgotten about. Certainly all of her ministerial colleagues were all of that state of mind."

On a review of previous abuse cases that did not lead to prosecution, including Maguires and Victoria College…

"[The review by current Attorney General Robert Macrae found] they were within the range of reasonable decisions, based on the evidence which was in the files. What did they have on their desk when they take a decision? That’s not the same as whether they could or should have had on their desk, that’s a different thing. [The review found that] more could and should have been done about Victoria College, but it was too late then. There was no basis for a criminal investigation."

On the culture in the 1990s of investigating abuse cases and dealing with victims…

"It was less sympathetic and less supportive than now. Otherwise, we would not be now investigating things that happened in those times. It is true and fair to say that standards were different and the unreliability of witnesses, we would now say with hindsight, was too readily seized upon as a reason for not taking action. The criminal justice system has progressed, and ways have been found of dealing with that issue that were probably not as evident at the time."

On his attitude to prosecutions under Operation Rectangle…

"It was that these cases should go to court if at all possible, that the matter needed investigation. No-one wants to criticise anyone else, but I’ve seen reports where people have described historic abuse allegations as ‘believable and true’. I don’t think that we ever said anything like that. I am very sure that I said as investigators, we have a duty to thoroughly investigate – it might come to something and it might come to nothing, we will give it our best effort."

On claims of organised abuse, and that policemen socialised with abusers at the yacht club…

"What I recall is that I was told that a group of police officers, senior officials and people who were subsequently associated with paedophile activity used to meet as a group at the yacht club, and socialise together – that they were seen as a group who interacted with each other. I think that Lenny Harper and some people tried to get hold of the register of the club for that period to see who was in on what days and who they were with, and that sort of thing. I don’t think the officers were serving at the time of Operation Rectangle. They were doing the usual sort of graft in terms of who was associated with who, and that was a worrying feature, and it needed to be investigated. I think that it came to an end because it was not possible to evidence it through the entry register at the club."

On allegations against former Education Director Mario Lundy…

"Mario Lundy was named as a suspect but had not been suspended. He was probably named through blogging or the rumour system or whatever. The allegations, as I understand it, I think it’s fair to say in relations to Mario was of physical abuse, heavy-handed and violent control of difficult young people, I have no recollection of any sexual abuse by Mario Lundy, and it’s right that I should say that."

 

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Posted by Dave Mathews on
A lot of this evidence will be disputed and no doubt rejected by others in Authority back then. The Wiltshire Report further shows a lot of failings by Messrs Harper and Power that cannot be taken lightly. On the subject of Stuart Syvret, this man has been found guilty of Data Protection offences, motoring offences plus contempt of Court since in which he's been imprisoned twice. So his reliability if only for a stable approach to this subject is flawed. The whole testimony to me sounds very angry but he was suspended from the Force so fell out with all those he attacks.
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