Monday, March 16, 2009

Back to child abuse and Jersey

In November of last year I complained that British newspapers had ignored the publication of the Howard League report on youth justice in Jersey:
It seems that if there are no cellars or shackles in the story the press does now want to know.
I also asked, back in March 2008, why so many children had been in care there.

So respect to Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy for returning to the subject in a Guardian article last Saturday:

The alarm had been raised in 1979, following the death of a two-year-old at the hands of a foster parent. Two years later, visiting social workers David Lambert and Elizabeth Wilkinson, concerned that none of the proposed improvements had been put in place, launched a full-blown inspection.

Their confidential report, taking a broader look at Jersey society, concluded that while the island was reinventing itself as a haunt for jetsetters, there was a neglected group afflicted by a "high incidence of marital breakdown, heavy drinking, alcoholism and psychiatric illness". These problems were exacerbated by a small island mentality that demanded everyone "conform to acceptable public standards".

Children rebelled in small ways: dropping litter, swearing, facing down the police, having parties on the beach. On Jersey, all of these "offences" were, according to Lambert and Wilkinson, often sufficient to get a child into serious trouble. And once children had come to the attention of the police, it was almost inevitable that they would enter Jersey's care home system.

Without any provision for children to be bailed, most were incarcerated on remand, placed alongside children taken from their families, often for such reasons as "giving the mother a break".

In this rural backwater, one in 10 children had been in care, a ratio far higher than on the mainland

That is an extraordinary figure which, on its own, suggests there is something very wrong with the childcare system on the island.


Bognor Regis Herald said...

This issue is one I think 'some' would wish would disappear - a feature it has in common with all abuse scenarios where power, privilege and abuse walk hand-in-hand. There was a story some years ago in the Daily Mail - where did that get us? Senators sacked from ministerial office, police investigations rubbished, links to the mainland, social worker sacked ... the ignoring of the Howard League Report is but one more small ommission. You would have thought that scandals such as in North Wales would mean that editors would jump at this one. But, no. Instead amazing, and if it proves even to be 25% true, craven and suspicious silence from the fourth estate.

We live in an era where it is more fashionable, and sells more copies, to highlight the misdeeds of the young and to moan where has it all gone wrong, bring back Discipline. Well, if nothing else is true about care in Jersey, one suspects that there was an ample sufficiency of that, a no namby-pamby liberal, wishy-washy do-gooders to poke their unwanted noses in.

There are those urging Jack Straw to convene an inquiry (independent if you please). But what of the ancient privileges (of the privileged) of Jersey I hear a mangled moan? What, indeed? Will they drown the demand for justice?

Oh I forgot, there is this "child protection industry" decried recently in some quarters - you know, 'Licensed to Hug' and the like.

dreamingspire said...

Review bid over Jersey abuse case

A hearing seeking a judicial review of the handling of the Jersey child abuse investigation is due to begin at the High Court in London later.

The application has been brought by Jersey senator Stuart Syvret and UK Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming.

They claim the Lord Chancellor Jack Straw and others have "failed" to "enforce the rule of law" in Jersey.