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MPs call for Jersey abuse inquiry


The UK government is being urged to hold an independent inquiry into alleged child abuse in Jersey.

MPs, led by Labour's Austin Mitchell, have said the political authorities have been "seriously compromised" by repeatedly failing to act properly.

However, the States of Jersey's Chief Minister, Frank Walker, has denied any cover-up in tackling the allegations.

A sniffer dog working at the site had shown "an extremely strong reaction" in one part of a basement.

The island's Deputy Chief Police Officer, Lenny Harper said the indication given by the dog was similar to when a child's skull was discovered on Saturday.

"We've been able to send our forensic examiner in there for a very brief and quick look," Mr Harper told journalists.

"I would stress that, whilst I'm confident that the dog has found something, that there could well be an innocent explanation for what the dog may have found."

A group of MPs in Westminster, have tabled an Early Day Motion accusing island officials of "concealment" in failing to deal with the problem.

It urges the Lord Chancellor to take steps to ensure that independent judges and prosecutors are appointed to deal with any civil or criminal cases that arise out of the investigation.

Investigators have been focusing their attention on a bricked-up cellar of the Haut de la Garenne home, which now serves as a Youth Hostel, after the remains were discovered at the weekend.

A builder who worked on the conversion of the former children's home into a youth hostel in 2003 has said builders found a set of wooden stocks for feet in the roof space above the kitchen.

He also told the BBC they found a chair under a trapdoor, in an unspecified area of the building, but did not find "shackles or restraints of any kind".

Former residents of the home have also been giving details of the regime at the home, which was first used to house children in 1900.

One, Cyril Turner, 48, claimed children would be "locked in a dark room with just bread and water".

Mr Turner said he managed to escape the abuse at Haut de la Garenne by climbing through a window, and that he was sent to the home because he was a "trouble-maker".

'Dark cloud'

He said: "We were quite often given dead arms and dead legs by the staff," he said.

"If you were bad, you would get locked in a dark room with just bread and water."

Mr Turner, who still lives on the island in St Clement, was a resident at the home for several weeks and said that when children went missing, they were told they had "run off and emigrated".

On Tuesday, Mr Walker told island senators that anyone who abused children or colluded with abuse would be pursued.

In a statement made to the States of Jersey - the equivalent of the UK's parliament - Mr Walker, the island's leading politician, spoke of a "dark cloud" hanging over it, following news police were investigating 27 cases of child-abuse.

Mr Walker and other leading members of the Jersey government have been criticised by former island Health Minister, Senator Stuart Syvret, who accused them of mishandling previous instances of child abuse.

"The overriding concern of the establishment is the image of Jersey - to prosecute people would be apocalyptically bad for the Jersey establishment," said Mr Syvret.

Special helpline

Six more "sites of interest" have been identified by police at the site of the children's home.

Police were alerted to the site during their investigation into child abuse allegations stemming from the time when the building was a home for children with behaviour problems.

Jersey's deputy police chief, Lenny Harper, has said so far his officers had uncovered "no evidence of a cover-up of any Jersey government".

In 2006, Jersey Police began investigating allegations of abuse in the 1960s, 70s and 80s of boys and girls aged between 11 and 15.

Police say it is vital that any alleged victims still unidentified contact the incident room as soon as possible, on 0800 735 7777.

There is also an NSPCC helpline on 0800 169 1173 within Jersey, or + 44 (0)20 7825 7489 from outside.

2008 Feb 27