Retired Londonderry officer says Jersey abuse probe has lost its way

editorial image

The retired Londonderry police officer who in 2007 launched a high-profile investigation into historical child sexual, emotional and physical abuse within the Jersey care system, says the independent inquiry appointed to look into a number of ‘unresolved issues’ relating to the abuse has lost its way.

Former Jersey Deputy Police Chief Lenny Harper, who is giving evidence to the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry this week, says the inquiry appears more interested in his conduct of Operation Rectangle, which looked into allegations of historical abuse at the former Haut de la Garenne children’s care home in St Martin, Jersey.

Operation Rectangle went on to report and record a total of 553 alleged offences between September 2007 and December 2010.

Of these, 315 were reported as being committed at the Haut de la Garenne children’s home. Eight people were prosecuted for 145 offences and seven convictions secured. Police identified 151 named offenders and 192 victims.

One victim said she was abused by Jimmy Savile at the home. The late entertainer and suspected child abuser initially denied ever having been there but was forced to retract the denial when a photograph emerged of him in the home’s grounds.

Mr Harper, a former RUC officer who is from Londonderry and whose wife was also born here, announced that police had found human remains, including children’s teeth and bones during an excavation of the home’s cellars in 2008.

But this was later retracted by Jersey police and Mr Harper eventually moved on.

Speaking to the website Exaro, Mr Harper said he believes the inquiry is more concerned about his handling of Operation Rectangle than the victims of abuse.

“The victims of abuse not only suffered physical and sexual harm at the hands of some of those given the responsibility for looking after them, but were also further abused by the actions of those agencies tasked with seeking justice on their behalf,” he said.

“This fact seems to have played second fiddle at times to eagerness among some to criticise the running of Operation Rectangle.

“I am tempted to speculate that it is an attempt to distract attention away from victims, or to further discredit them through discrediting myself, in an attempt to deflect criticism of historic actions by a number of agencies when victims had previously reported abuse.

“The inquiry has allowed an open-season in terms of attacks on victims and on me.

“It has also focused on aspects of Operation Rectangle, which earlier inquiry statements revealed were not part of the inquiry’s terms of reference.”