The retired Londonderry police officer who in 2007 launched the high-profile investigation into historical child sexual, emotional and physical abuse within the Jersey care system has told the inquiry set up to look into the matter that he believed there was a high-level cover-up of a powerful paedophile ring on the island.
Former Jersey Deputy Police Chief Lenny Harper, giving evidence to the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry this week, said: “I was hugely concerned there was a cover-up happening in Jersey and I was concerned that a lot of evidence was going missing and that witnesses were being intimidated.
“There was a clear story emerging in my mind and whilst I may not have used the term paedophile ring, my view there was certainly a culture emerging in Jersey of systematic child abuse.”
Mr Harper launched Operation Rectangle into allegations of child sex abuse at the former Haut de la Garenne children’s care home in St Martin, Jersey, and other locations in 2007.
Operation Rectangle went on to report and record a total of 553 alleged offences between September 2007 and December 2010.
Mr Harper told the inquiry, however, that there were times his officers had been put under pressure not to follow up leads.
“A former senior detective where his credibility and integrity were questioned by two paedophiles. Others where a police officer on another case alleged that he was obstructed and intimidated throughout the investigation,” he said.
He told the Inquiry: “It was a group of individuals who were involved in a number of cases. It was the involvement of police officers that concerned me, with allegations by junior officers that led me to believe that some senior officers were involved in the cover up of abuse of children.”
He also told the inquiry there were claims children were ‘loaned out’ to sailors.
“There were allegations, including several police reports about allegations involving members of the yachting fraternity and children from homes, children in effect being loaned out to people and taken on yachting trips. There were a large number of allegations of child abuse taking place which on some occasions didn’t appear to have been dealt with properly,” he said.
Jersey Police are not commenting whilst the Inquiry deliberates.