ISN News

JERSEY Speech 2007 by Stuart Syvret

Dark Secrets of a Trillion Dollar Island: Garenne

A Storyville documentary that examines the repercussions of the child abuse scandal that erupted on Jersey in 2007 and the role played by two bloggers in forcing the island to confront its past.

Available to watch on BBC iPlayer

‘SWOPSIES’ – Islington and Jersey children had exchange holidays between homes now known to have been centres of child abuse.

“We thought we were in our beds and they were in ours”

Jersey Survivor

“We did swopsies”

Islington Survivor

If you’ve seen BBC 4 documentary Storyville this speech will be of interest as it is the one Stuart refers to when he was forbidden from completing the speech and speaking about child abuse on the Island. The documentary has high relevance for the Islington child abuse scandal as so many Islington children in care were taken on ‘holidays’ to Jersey including staying at Haut de la Garenne children’s home. There were ‘swops’ when children from Haut visited Grosvenor Avenue children’s home for holidays in London.

In a witness statement to the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry a survivor of Haut de la Garenne children’s home wrote of exchange visits to a children’s home in Islington, when age about 11. The trips were one or two weeks long and happened about the time when the Jaws film came out (around 1975). Two children went from each group in Haut de la Garenne. The witness spoke of having photographs of soldiers on horses and boats on the Thames and that their social services file had some record of the trip although parental permission was not obtained.

In July 2008, Liz Davies visited Jersey when invited by the Jersey Care Leavers Association. She met survivors and campaigners. One Jersey survivor described her stay in an Islington children’s home and spoke of a large old house with big steps up to the front door and nearby a sign saying London Borough of Islington. She said the boys went to a football match at Arsenal against Oldham. 2 girls and 4 boys from Haut de la Garenne stayed at the Islington home. Because the 6 from Jersey were from different residential groups in Haut de la Garenne they feared for the Islington children exchanged with them as they thought they would be separated from each other. The Jersey children in London visited Buckingham Palace, Harrods and had a boat ride to London Bridge. They also went to Whipsnade zoo and remembered the Jaws movie having been newly released. The survivor remembered being told that a group had also been to London in the previous year.

11 Islington Survivors (9 men and 2 women) have given evidence to ISN of holidays in Jersey from 4 Islington children’s homes – Gisburne House, Grosvenor Avenue, New Park House and Sheringham Road. Some of these were exchange ‘holidays’ with children from Haut de la Garenne children’s home in Jersey where serious crimes against children took place over many years.

It is unclear how many times Islington children were taken to Haut de la Garenne to stay either in the children’s home or to camp nearby, although ISN have learnt of at least 20 trips between 1972 and 1986.

In 2007, I went to meet Jersey survivors and heard of their
visits in the mid to late 70s to an Islington children’s home
which corroborate Islington survivors’ accounts of what they
describe as ‘swaps’ from Grosvenor Avenue children’s home
when Islington children were sent on holiday to Haut de la
Garenne children’s home in Jersey. I wrote about this in the
media but there has been no investigation.

Liz Davies report to Sarah Morgan QC 18.2.18:13.5 

Christmas 2007 – Father of the House Speech to the States Assembly

by Senator Stuart Syvret

Sir, Your Excellency, fellow members – but especially the people we are here to represent,

As Father of the House, it is customary for the senior Senator to lead the seasonal exchange of greetings with which we end the year.

In these addresses, it is common to reflect upon the year past – and to contemplate the coming year. And it is the birth of Christ that we mark with these reflections and which we celebrate in this season of goodwill. 

Christ taught many things in the course of His life. Amongst His teachings was the virtue of honesty.

For even though I am an ordinary, fallible person, with no particular religious convictions, still, I could not stand here and falsely claim that the past year has been an episode upon which we, as an assembly,  could look back upon with satisfaction – or even self-respect.  This has not been a year in which we have displayed wisdom, compassion or even basic common sense.

As is now public knowledge, we as a society – Jersey – this community – have begun the awful task of facing up to decades – at least – of disgraceful failure – and worse – towards children.

I will not refer to my personal experiences of 2007; perhaps I will speak of such things on another occasion.

Instead, I wish to speak of the children, the victims, the innocent – the many – who have been catastrophically failed by the edifice of public administration in Jersey – year in and year out. Decade after decade.

We like to imagine ourselves as being some kind of model community; a safe, well-governed and happy group of people. Whilst I cannot speak in detail of individual sufferings now; nor of the many betrayals – I can say this: that as far as I am aware the coming months and years are going to require the most painful reconsideration of our communal values, our competence – and our collective ethics.

Indeed, I am not aware of a more wretched and shocking example of communal failure in the entire 800 year history of Jersey as a self-governing jurisdiction.

How much worse could things be than the systemic decades-long betrayal of the innocents?

As we approach the birthday of Christ, we should reflect upon his words. When on an occasion, some little children were brought  to Jesus,  Jesus’ disciples became angry and rebuked those  who had brought the children into Christ‘s presence. Scriptures then tell us, “But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them “ Suffer  the little children to come unto  me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.”

Jesus is also recorded as saying, “And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name received me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea”

I would hope that these simple words – that place children and their welfare at the heart of human values – could be accepted by any decent person – regardless of their particular religious thoughts or beliefs.

Greater minds than mine have said that we may gauge the quality of a society by how it treats its children. Having learnt what I have learnt in the course of this year I have to say that our smug self-satisfaction as a charitable and civilised community in fact conceals a festering canker. For though it would be bad enough for us to have amongst our midst’s the abusers that are to be found in all societies – the victims in Jersey have been doubly betrayed – betrayed with indifference, betrayed with contempt, betrayed with the naked and idle self-interest of an administration that should have been protecting these –  the most vulnerable of the vulnerable.

Sir, some people seem to enjoy being  politicians. This is not a view I ever understood. My 17 years as a States member have, to me, been a fairly consistent period of struggle; on some occasions so Kafkaesque, so dispiriting that many times I just wished to cast it all aside and seek a civilised occupation instead. But nothing – nothing – nothing in those 17 years even begins to approach the sheer existential bleakness of  this year; of trying to contact, to listen to, to help so many people whose childhoods and lives were wrecked by abuse – often abuse at the hands of the States of Jersey and its employees – and doubly wrecked by the  conspiracy of cover-ups engaged in by public administration.

A few brave people – front-line staff, victims, and whistle-blowers began to bring these failings to my attention. As my understanding developed, I took extremely high-powered specialist advice on child protection issues – and I think this assembly should acknowledge with gratitude the involvement of Chris Callender, Andrew Nielson and their leader, Frances Crook of the Howard League for Penal Reform. The support and guidance of the Howard League was a great source of strength to me and those whom I was working with in Jersey.

Likewise Professor June Thoburn, who agreed to bring her world-renowned expertise to the post of Chair of the Jersey Child Protection Committee.

In particular I believe we should acknowledge the bravery, integrity and unshakeable commitment to child welfare exhibited by Simon Bellwood. He alone – amongst the entire panoply of the child “protection” apparatus in Jersey – said that the way we were treating children in custody was simply wrong. He alone took a stand against the appalling ill-treatment of children who needed care – not abuse. That he was sacked for his efforts really speaks volumes, and illustrates well the ethical void within the system we are responsible for.

Sir, I repeat, we must focus upon the victims – and the friends and families who suffered along with them.

For a period of many months, I investigated these issues – and the more I investigated – the greater became my alarm and anger at what I was learning from people throughout our society. Jersey being the kind of place where many people know other people, the chains of contacts which developed – the networks of victims and witnesses simply grew and grew. Sometimes new revelations occurred – almost by the hour.

As I met, and spoke with people of all ages – young teenagers to retired people – it became clear to me that what we were facing was something far worse than occasional, isolated instances of abuse. What Jersey had tolerated in its midst was a culture of disregard, abandonment and contempt for children – especially those children in need; the vulnerable; the defenceless.  During these dark days, when I contemplated how people could treat children in these ways, I was often reminded of the words of Sartre, when he said “hell is other people”.

But, the strength and bravery of the many victims was a source of strength to me as I contemplated several years of bitter struggle against the Establishment, who were clearly going to use the predictable range of oppressions against me in an effort to keep the truth concealed.

So when the States of Jersey Police Force took me into their confidence and gave me a comprehensive briefing about the work they were doing – it was as though a great burden had been lifted from my shoulders. I had been steeling myself for years of struggle to expose the truth and to seek justice for the victims. The realisation that I was not going down this road alone was a tremendous release – to me – and to the victims. So I must pay tribute to the leadership of the Police Force. This time – finally – there is no hiding place.

During my work I have had conversations with people – teenagers, parents, young adults and older people. People from all parts of society and all backgrounds. Many of these people – victims and witnesses – naturally enough found speaking about their experiences extremely difficult; and many of them were, and are, reluctant to become identified. Likewise the many brave front-line staff who still contact me regularly – notwithstanding the blocking by management of e-mails sent to me by Health & Social Services staff from their work computers.

Such is the climate of fear that victims, witnesses and decent staff experience, that very many of the meetings I have taken part in – have had to be arranged in great secrecy. For example, one brave employee who gave me very important information, made initial contact with me via a text-message sent from her daughter’s mobile phone.

I went about the back-streets, the housing estates, the tenement blocks, the foul, overcrowded and exploitative “lodging houses” in which the poor in Jersey often dwell. And I listened to people opening up; often for the first time in their lives speaking of what they experienced – what they saw – and how they had been failed by everyone. For many of these people, I was the first person in authority they felt able to speak to about what happened to them.

I listened to things – things sometimes said through tears – that I hope never to have to hear again.

As time passed, I found myself moving from these dark rendezvous with witnesses – going amongst the soaked and blackened streets – experiencing encounters with victims – and clandestine meetings with brave whistle-blowing front-line staff.

In the early stages of this odyssey – this drizzle-soaked sodium-lit quest amongst the night roads and back alleys of St. Helier – in the unspoken underbelly of Jersey – I realised what I was seeking – and finding – were ghosts.

Shades and spectres – the vaporous trails of long-departed children – still haunting the outer shells of people I met. Sometimes you catch a glimpse of these ghost children – in eye – or word – or gesture – and you want to reach out to them – but these burnt and vanished phantoms disappear into the scars, the tattoos, the needle marks, the self-harm lacerations, the haunted faces and the wrecked lives.

Although many of the people I met are in their twenties, thirties, forties, fifties and sixties – I cannot but see them as children still. And many of these children have passed through the hands of the States of Jersey ‘system’ – I cannot bring myself to use the phrase “care”. Some of these children ended in custody for minor offences – and such was the cruelty, abuse, neglect and violence they suffered – many went on to become habitual criminals. When many of these people explained their criminal life-styles, they did so with humility, many candidly use the phrase ‘we were no angels’, and they have said they were not proud of the things they have done. But as a States member – I cannot look at these people – these victims – and not ask myself the awful question: “had these vulnerable, confused and angry children been treated with love and respect and care by the States, perhaps they would have avoided criminal life-styles; perhaps they would not be – in many cases – alcoholics, drug addicts – often broken and shattered beings, wrestling with mental health issues.”

Could I – could any of us – say with confidence that our failures have not contributed to, or led to, such tragic outcomes for so many people?

No, we cannot say that. We must, at the last, admit the awful truth that many of our regular inmates at La Moye Prison are there because of what we – the States of Jersey – did to them as vulnerable children – in the time in their lives when they most needed love, care, support & nurturing.

Amongst our victims have been many many children who had not misbehaved; children who had to be taken into “care” for their protection; or children who had to be taken into the States-run institutions because of the death of their parent. I have met with siblings who’s mother died of cancer when they were little children. I have met with several of the victims of this particular States-run institution. But when I met with the brother & sister – now adults – and listened to their experiences – all I could feel were two things: shame – that the States of Jersey allowed these things to be done to them – and anger that upon the tragedy of the death of these young children’s mother from cancer – we – the States – heaped violence, cruelty, battery and abuse upon these already bereaved children who needed our care, support & love.

Towards the end of my conversation with them – they embraced tearfully, and the brother repeated a vow that no one would ever harm his sister again.

That meeting took place in a room in this building. And I confess at that moment I seriously considered walking from the door and never setting foot in this place again.

Another, older, man I met explained his experiences of being a resident in Haute de la Garenne in the mid-nineteen sixties. Even for the “standards” of the day, the treatment of the children there was barbaric & cruel – at best; for worse things happened.

What really struck me about my meeting with this man was that he was not especially bothered at the treatment he received. I was touched and moved that his overriding concern was – and still is to this day – the fate of his best friend in that institution. He gave me the name, and some details, such as he could recall, from these days far ago in his childhood.

I was able to look into what happened to this boy who was in our care in Haute de la Garenne in the mid-sixties. Little information was available, but the Office of the Deputy Viscount was able to supply me with the following facts:

Michael Bernard O’CONNELL

  • Aged 14 years
  • Died on 7th or 8th October 1966, by hanging from a tree, off Rue des Haies in Trinity.
  • Inquest held on 17th October 1966. 

The memory of this young man is kept alive by his friends – children – people who had similar experiences and who – in the midst of their own struggles with their lives – keep the flame of their friend burning.

But let no one imagine that the things of which we speak are confined to the past; an age of dark and sick attitudes. No – today we have the very same problems.

Recently, I made the appointment and accompanied a young man to the police station so he could add his experiences to the present investigations. This young man had fallen foul of the law in some very minor ways as a young child – and thus he suffered the awful fate of falling into the maw of the so-called youth “justice” system of Jersey. Such was the counter-productive barbarity of the treatment meted out to him – and others like him – that his behaviour became more angry, bitter and lawless. At various stages he passed through Les Chenes and then Greenfields. This young man was, at one stage, held in near complete isolation for two months – passages of solitary confinement which went on for weeks. Having induced – unsurprisingly – a complete mental collapse in this child through this solitary confinement – the response of the institution to his needs was to send a “councillor” from CAMHS to speak with him – for half-an-hour – once-a-week.

As I listened to him recount his experiences over about 2 hours to the police officers who were conducting the initial interview, I kept looking at the vast cross-hatchings of self-harm scars which make his left arm look like a road map of New York, and I listened to him explain how he lay bleeding from these wounds alone in his cell and untended – as a child – I looked at him and I thought “we have done this to him”; “we have wrecked his life”.

It is striking just how many people who passed through the hands of the States of Jersey as innocent children emerged from the other side of that experience, bitter, angry, contemptuous and lawless. Former inmates – current inmates – and those about to become inmates – many many of them are our victims.

Society has a low regard for those who break the law, and that view is routinely echoed in this chamber. So it is not often a member asks us to reflect upon those who have crossed the law and to consider that amongst these people are many – far too many – children who were broken and betrayed in so many ways – especially by the States.

For amongst these people who find themselves imprisoned, these adults cast adrift – within them linger still the ghosts of the children they were – and the spectres of what they should have been.

So Sir – today – the expression of seasonal goodwill, the greeting, the recognition and the charity I stand to offer goes, from me at least, to all the victims of abuse, all those who have suffered – and all those whose childhood experiences have led them to become prisoners. Those who have languished in La Moye – or who are still there now – I want them to know that if their lives are wrecked, their actions driven by the nightmares of their childhoods – some of us understand. Some of us recognise them as victims – tragically and shamefully – often victims of the States of Jersey.

I wish to finish by quoting the final verse of a song by Mary Chapin Carpenter:

Somewhere in a dream like this
The light of love leads us home
Broken worlds will not be fixed if
Vengeance take us as thy own
We’re just like beggars now
On our knees we hear our names
God forgives somehow
We have yet to learn the same.

Excerpt from Dead Man Walking by Mary Chapin Carpenter

Senator Stuart Syvret

Christmas address to States of Jersey

2007

More information on these networks can be found in this article by Eileen Fairweather, Daily Mail, 2nd March 2008.


Children’s homes scandal: care abuse victims to get payout

Islington Tribune, 12th March 2021

SURVIVORS who suffered sexual, physical and mental abuse while in Islington Council’s care are set to receive a compensation payment more than two decades after the children’s homes scandal was first exposed.

It could involve as many as 2,000 individuals who were abused over a 30-year period, according to Town Hall estimates.

It is understood to be the first time in British history that such a scheme has been proposed. The payments made will be up to £8,000.

The Islington Survivors Network (ISN), an advocacy group for those who were abused in care, have broadly welcomed the plans but have questioned why the families of abuse victims who have since died will not be allowed to access the payments.

Dr Liz Davies, a former council social worker who blew the whistle on the scandal and helped set up ISN, said: “There are loads of people who have died. There are families out there who should have some route to apply. It’s the least they could get for all their suffering.”

She added: “We welcome in principle the fact that the proposed ‘Support Payment Scheme’ is a further acknowledgement by Islington of the prolific abuse of children in the care of the council.”

Dr Davies and the roughly 200 survivors that ISN represents have campaigned for years to force the council to set up a payment scheme.

It will be considered at an executive meeting next Thursday, and is set to cover children who were in council care homes between 1965 and 1995.

Town Hall leader, Cllr Richard Watts, has previously apologised to the survivors, describing it as “the darkest chapter in the council’s history”, and adding that there was “systematic failure all the way through the council through all those years”.

To access the £8,000 payment, claimants will have to make an application to the council proving that they were placed in a care home and suffered abuse there.

Survivors are still able to pursue the Town Hall through a civil legal claim. Last summer one woman was awarded £35,000 in compensation after she was sexually abused by members of staff and other children at Gisburne House – a large children’s home run by Islington Council in Watford.

The council hope the Support Payment Scheme will allow some victims to get some kind of payment without “the need to relive past trauma” in court.

However, ISN is concerned that the council is not covering children who suffered “neglect” or those who were placed in foster homes, boarding schools, secure units and care homes not run by the Town Hall.

Leigh Day Solicitors’ Alison Millar, who is representing ISN, said: “It is good that Islington proposes to set up this scheme to make a further public acknowledge­ment of its past failures, which truly were the ‘darkest hour’ in the council’s history.”

Apart from the Support Payment Scheme, the Town Hall considered a “full redress scheme” similar to that being implemented in Lambeth where thousands of children were sexually and physically assaulted over a period dating back decades further.

In Lambeth, victims can receive up to £125,000 in compensation.

Islington’s council officers have recommended that this idea is rejected as it is “unaffordable”.

The Town Hall also intends to establish a database containing information on “known perpetrators”.

A consultation on the Support Payment Scheme will run for roughly two months, with the final proposals set to be implemented in September.

In a statement, Islington Council said: “The council will consult with survivors, the Islington Survivors Network (ISN) and other key stakeholders on the proposed scheme, and any comments or suggestions will be carefully considered before the scheme is finalised.

“The leader of the council has apologised to victims of child abuse in Islington care homes for the council’s past failings. The council today is a very different organisation from in the 1960s-1990s, and today protecting children from harm is its top priority.”


Survivors of abuse in Islington children’s homes to receive support payments

Islington Gazette, 22nd March 2021

People who suffered emotional, physical and sexual abuse in the council’s children’s homes between 1966 and 1995 will be able to access a support payment scheme approved by the Town Hall last week.

It will enable abuse survivors to receive financial support without having to bring a claim for compensation, with the aim of avoiding the risk of re-traumatisation because of lengthy processes.

Eligible survivors will get £8,000 each, with a consultation on the scheme set to take place with stakeholders including the Islington Survivors Network (ISN).

The plans have been “broadly welcomed” by the ISN, which has long campaigned for justice for survivors of child abuse in the council’s children’s homes and foster placement.

A spokesperson for the network said it would be pressing the council to address the extension of the scheme to include those subjected to neglect, those who suffered harassment or violence from other residents, those placed in non-Islington homes or foster homes, and the families of those who have died while waiting for the scheme to be announced.

They added: “The general feeling is that this will get a payment to a lot of survivors who otherwise would have nothing.” 

Council leader Cllr Richard Watts was questioned by survivors during the meeting at which the scheme was approved.

One attendee spoke on behalf of a survivor who was in a children’s home for a number of years along with two siblings, one of whom has committed suicide.

Watts was asked: “Will this scheme include people who have committed suicide, for the family? Because they did not survive, and in some ways they are worse off than the people who did survive.”

He replied: “It is not proposed at the moment that the scheme does cover that. That is an issue that has already been raised with us by the ISN and others as well, so clearly I would urge you to make a submission to the consultation about that.”

The council leader repeated his apology to victims of child abuse in Islington care homes for the past failings of the local authority, calling what had happened the “darkest chapter” in its history.

The consultation will run for six weeks until April.


Proposed £8,000 payout for Islington care home survivors

Islington Gazette, 12th March 2021

Survivors of abuse in Islington care homes are set to receive thousands of pounds as part of a proposed payment scheme.

Islington Council has outlined its plan to give the sufferers of emotional, physical or sexual abuse in the authority’s care homes from 1966 to 1995 an £8,000 sum as part of a support payment scheme (SPS).

A 2019 report commissioned by the council – Historical Child Care Data, London Borough of Islington – estimated some 2,000 people were living in Islington’s care homes over the critical 30-year period. 

A document drafted for a meeting of the council’s executive on March 18 says it would not be a compensation scheme and will not determine fault, negligence, or legal liability in terms of civil claims which the survivors may bring in the future.

The payment would, however, be deducted from any final compensation amount potentially awarded by the court.

If the proposals are accepted, they would be subject to a six-week consultation. 

This comes after council leader Richard Watts admitted the authority’s “culpability” in 2017, apologising for what he called “the darkest chapter in the council’s history”.

Campaign group Islington Survivors Network (ISN) has largely welcomed the proposals, but plans to raise “several issues” in the consultation. These include the exclusion of victims of neglect, people affected by bullying by other residents, those placed in foster homes and the estates of people who have died.

The group wants clarification around a proposed database of previous claimants and applicants, and what confidentiality safeguards will be in place.

A spokesperson for ISN said: “We welcome in principle the fact that the proposed SPS is a further acknowledgement by London borough of Islington of the prolific abuse of children in the care of Islington Council.

“The scheme will be a process that will spare survivors of abuse the need to repeat in a legal setting the trauma of what happened to them and we welcome that.

“However, there are matters that still need to be worked through, particularly the extension of the scheme to survivors of other categories of abuse, and we will be pressing for these to be addressed.”

These proposals have been in the making since November 2018.

The report reads: “Whilst nothing can compensate for the traumatic harm caused to and which still affects survivors/victims of historic abuse, a full remedial support offer which has practical support, a financial element and recognition and acknowledgement by the council of the abuse that they suffered, is important to survivors/victims and can be part of a survivor’s journey that helps them to heal and to move forward from their experiences.”

Two alternative options are put forward in the council paper. The first is to offer no financial payment whatsoever.

The other is a “Lambeth-type redress scheme”, which would see all residents of the borough’s care homes in the time period receive a “harm’s way payment” of up to £10,000 and all eligible survivors of abuse receive compensation of up to £125,000.

The former was not recommended by officers because the council “will be seen to have ‘failed’ survivors” and the latter because it has “already paid for several tens of millions of pounds of insurance cover to meet the cost of civil compensation abuse claims” and would be “unaffordable”.

Leigh Day partner Alison Millar, who represents ISN with solicitor Andrew Lord, said: “Whilst we and ISN will have points to make on the proposed scheme during the consultation period, it is good that Islington proposes to set up this scheme to make a further public acknowledgement of its past failures, which truly were the “darkest hour” in the council’s history.”

An Islington Council spokesperson said the payment application process would be as “straightforward and quick to access as possible…minimising the need to re-live past trauma”. 

They said: “The scheme would become part of the council’s existing support offer for survivors which includes trauma counselling, specialist advice support and assistance for care, housing, appropriate welfare benefits, access to further education and employment and support to access care records.”

If the proposals are approved, Islington Council said any comments or suggestions arising from the consultation will be “carefully considered”. 

The spokesperson continued: “The council today is a very different organisation from in the 1960s-1990s, and today protecting children from harm is its top priority.”


Press release from ISN and Leigh Day solicitors

Islington Survivors Network welcomes in principle Islington council’s proposed Support Payment Scheme

Islington Survivors Network said the further public acknowledgement by the council of the ‘darkest hour’ in its history was good, however they will be raising several issues during consultation on the proposed Support Payment Scheme.

If approved, the scheme may see payments potentially totalling millions of pounds being made to survivors of abuse gravely harmed whilst in the local authority’s care. There are proposals for payments of £8,000 each to eligible survivors, which is welcomed in principle by Islington Survivors Network.

Leigh Day solicitors, who represent Islington Survivors Network, says a payment to survivors under the proposed support payment scheme would not shut out legal rights or impinge on their right to separately bring a civil claim for compensation against Islington Council if they should choose to do so. If successful in a civil legal claim, the fixed support payment would be treated as a payment on account and deducted from any final compensation award.

Papers released on 9 March 2021 by London Borough of Islington provided details of their proposals for a Support Payment Scheme for survivors of non-recent abuse suffered when resident as children in the council’s homes.

This is important recognition by Islington Council of its need proactively to reach out to survivors of the Islington children’s homes scandal. Islington Survivors Network is pleased that the Council has recognised that there is a need for a process which is straightforward and quick and seeks to avoid the retraumatisation which can be associated with formal legal proceedings. 

The recent papers show that the Council recognises that that child abuse can be properly described as “hidden”, in the sense that there are seldom any contemporaneous records of abuse, and Leigh Day solicitors are heartened to see that the survivor’s own account will be the key material in relation to providing credible information that abuse took place.

Islington Survivors Network has an enormous amount of expertise amassed from working with hundreds of survivors over five years, and this ought to be put to use in assessing applications too, in particular establishing that a survivor was in care or at a given children’s home.

The Council intends to consult on its proposals and there are points that Islington Survivors Network and Leigh Day will want to make in response in due course. These points include, but are not limited to issues such as:

  1. Why Islington Council will not make payments to those subjected to neglect, even where the survivor may have suffered quite extreme neglect in the Council’s care or the neglect may have lasting consequences for the survivor.
  2. The exclusion of those survivors who have suffered “purely ‘peer on peer’ abuse”, i.e. harassment or violence from other residents, even though there may be strong arguments that the system of care was deficient to protect the survivor.
  3. Foster placements appear to similarly be excluded despite recent legal cases proving that a local authority can be held liable for civil claims arising from abuse by a foster carer.
  4. If someone has died, even where this happened whilst they were waiting for Islington Council to announce this Scheme, their estate will not get any Payment.
  5. Seeking further information on the local authority’s proposals regarding support, particularly for those survivors who are vulnerable and may need significant support in navigating the scheme, including the proposed automatic review stage.
  6. Seeking further clarification around the council’s intention to establish a database including details of previous claimants and applicants, and what safeguards shall be put in place to ensure the confidentiality of this information.

A spokesperson for Islington Survivors Network said:

“We welcome in principle the fact that the proposed Support Payment Scheme is a further acknowledgement by London Borough of Islington of the prolific abuse of children in the care of Islington Council. The scheme will be a process that will spare survivors of abuse the need to repeat in a legal setting the trauma of what happened to them and we welcome that.

“However there are matters that still need to be worked through, particularly the extension of the scheme to survivors of other categories of abuse, and we will be pressing for these to be addressed.”

Leigh Day partner Alison Millar represents Islington Survivors Network with solicitor Andrew Lord from the law firm’s abuse team.

Alison Millar said:

“At last Islington Council has announced details of its proposed Support Payment Scheme for children who suffered abuse in its homes. Whilst we and Islington Survivors’ Network will have points to make on the proposed Scheme during the consultation period, it is good that Islington proposes to set up this Scheme to make a further public acknowledgement of its past failures, which truly were the “darkest hour” in the Council’s history.”


Islington Council Survivor Support Payment Scheme

10th March: Islington Council announced a proposal for a Non-Recent Child Abuse Support Payment Scheme

Islington Council have provided 5 documents relating to this proposed scheme

The Scheme is for survivors who ‘suffered emotional. physical and sexual abuse whist resident in the council’s children’s homes from 1966-1995. The proposal will enable survivors to receive a financial support payment without having to bring a civil compensation claim. It has been designed to enable eligible applicants to receive a payment more quickly than having to go through the trauma of the lengthy civil compensation claims process’

Islington Survivor Network received these documents on 10th March, held an initial meeting with council officers and consulted ISN Directors and our legal team at Leigh Day solicitors. The proposed scheme will be presented at the Council Executive meeting on 18th March and is open to consultation over the next 6 weeks. ISN will of course respond in detail to the proposals. This is the first scheme of its kind and is different from the redress scheme which ISN proposed over 3 years ago based on the Lambeth scheme. Since that time ISN has continually campaigned on this issue on behalf of over 200 survivors.

We broadly welcome this new proposal which suggests payments of £8000 as a flat rate payment to survivors of abuse in Islington children’s homes. The proposal gives important recognition to survivors harmed in Islington’s care and restates the council leader’s apology in 2017, when he also admitted the council’s culpability.

In applying for payment, the survivor’s own account will be the key material used to establish that abuse took place – as well as having been a resident in an Islington children’s home. ISN know of 48 children’s homes and now await the publication of the council’s own list.

ISN have a number of key points to make as part of our submission to the consultation. In particular we will argue strongly for the inclusion of neglect as a category of abuse and the inclusion of survivors abused in Islington foster placements. We will also seek to clarify the suggested process of application for the scheme to ensure easy accessibility and sensitivity to all ISN survivors.

When the scheme is finalised, ISN will provide advocacy, at every stage of the process, for survivors wishing to apply for payment.

In 2017 the Islington Councfil Leader said:

‘This was the darkest chapter in the council’s history.’

‘There was systematic failure all the way through the council through all those years.’

We are desperately sorry – children were subjected to terrible physical and mental abuse.’


15.7.2020: Leigh Day solicitors press release

A Member of Islington Survivors Network successfully sues local authority for abuse in children’s home. Claire, not her real name, spent her childhood in living in care at Gisburne House – a large children’s home run by Islington Council in Watford.

Gisburne House, 95 Gammons Lane Watford, Hertfordshire ; The site of physical, sexual & psychological child abuse and neglect. ISN survivors and also former staff tell of a violent Pin Down regime which some reported to management. 54 survivors have come forward from this home – just one of 48 LBI childrens homes from the mid 60s to the 90s. (ISN image)

Claire, not her real name, spent her childhood in living in care at Gisburne House – a large children’s home run by Islington Council in Watford.

While there she was subjected to sexual abuse by members of staff and another child resident.

The Superintendent of the home, Geoffrey Wylde-Jones, now deceased, was one of those said to have committed a number of serious sexual assaults upon Claire.  

Other survivors of abuse have previously named him as a perpetrator.

23.4.85 Islington Council minutes show how Wylde Jones resigned on 31.1.84 from his position as Superintendant of Gisburne House. A 10 year reign of terror 1974-1984. Survivors cite him as also having worked in 4 other LBI children’s homes. (ISN image)



Islington Council initially sought to reject Claire’s claim, putting forward a repudiation.

Leigh Day solicitors pressed ahead with obtaining medical evidence and supportive witness evidence from former Islington social workers. Settlement was eventually agreed at £35,000 and Claire has also requested an individual apology from the Council.

Leigh Day is bringing compensation claims on behalf of a number of former care leavers of Islington’s children’s homes.

The law firm also represents Islington Survivors Network (ISN) in its fight to have a comprehensive redress scheme established for former Islington care leavers affected by the Council’s past failure to protect vulnerable children.

The Islington child abuse scandal was first exposed in the early 1990s in a series of reports by the Evening Standard. 

In September 2017, Cllr Richard Watts, the Leader of the Council, admitted that the local authority was culpable for abuse in its children’s homes and spoke about righting the wrongs of the past.  

Thanks to the efforts of ISN, support for their members was put in place by way of the Islington Survivors’ Trauma Service and Islington Survivors’ Support Services, however, as of yet, a full redress scheme has still not been established, meaning that for those members who wish to obtain individual recognition and / or redress then bringing a civil legal claim may be the only option. 

Islington Council has spoken of a “financial support scheme” being offered to survivors of abuse, but this has not yet been clarified or materialised.

An article in the Islington Gazette in July 2019 quoted Cllr Watts as saying that the scheme was “legally complex”. In a further article in the Islington Gazette in May 2020, Cllr Watts stated that they were working hard on a scheme and that he was himself “frustrated by how long it’s taken”.

Andrew Lord, associate solicitor in the abuse team at Leigh Day, said:

“Claire had to fight hard against the barriers put up in her legal claim. Whilst I am pleased that she will receive the compensation that she so rightly deserves, it is utter nonsense that she was put through the stress of such an adversarial process given what has been reported about abuse in Islington’s children’s homes and the public apology made by Islington Council.

“I would echo ISN’s call for Islington Council to promptly establish a redress scheme for survivors of Islington’s care system to provide a route to redress that is quicker, simpler and less re-traumatising for survivors. 

“Given its public admission of culpability, acknowledgement of past systemic failures, and its promises of financial support, the council’s delay in this regard is doing nothing to help survivors heal from their experiences in care.”

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

Read a blog about Gisburne: The Horrors of Gisburne House

Report #6 Organised abuse the Islington evidence. Section on Gisburne House

Islington Gazette 3.11.17 Survivors accounts about Gisburne. How Gisburne House in Watford may hold key to abuse Inquiry … ‘superintendent Geoffrey Wylde-Jones allegedly led a military style regime where children were regularly manhandled’ ‘ I was really terrified. I felt I had no power there: no one cared’ ‘Wylde Jones was never prosecuted’ ‘Extreme neglect was the norm, children in a highly sexualised environment..’

1977 World in Action programme – Wylde Jones featured speaking about the ‘pioneering’ work of Gisburne House with young offenders – but Gisburne was a childrens home not a secure unit and also very young disabled children lived there as well as young teenage girls with their babies. The reasons and rationale for admission of a child to this home are unclear.

Survivor’s remember the Gisburne song – here is part of it;

Come to Gisburne
Come to Gisburne
It’s a place of misery
There’s a notice in the doorway
Saying ‘ Welcome it’s a treat’.
Take no notice
Take no notice
It’s a load of bloody lies
If it wasn’t for Jonesey
It would be a paradise
Build a bomfire
Build a bomfire
Put Jonesey on the top
Put the rest of them in the middle
And burn the bloody lot!