‘Holidays’ on the island of Jersey
12 Islington Survivors ( 10 men and 2 women) have given evidence 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. Survivors describe staying in a big white house but it is not known where this was or why children stayed there. Nicholas Rabet the children’s home manager who took children from Grosvenor Avenue came from Jersey and would have known it well. The residential staff, as was generally the case, took the lead and the fieldwork social workers or managers did not seem to question the finance and organisation of these ‘holidays’ – sometimes not even gaining parental consent. There was a rule of optimism – that any holiday must be a good thing for a child. What we do know is that these ‘holidays’ certainly took place and that there has been no statutory investigation or inquiry to examine the connections between the Jersey and the Islington child abuse networks.
More information on these networks can be found in this article by Eileen Fairweather, Daily Mail, 2nd March 2008.
BBC Four Storyville documentary – Dark Secrets of a Trillion Dollar Island: Garenne
‘SWOPSIES’ – Islington and Jersey children had exchange ‘ holidays’ between
homes now known to have been centres of child abuse.
“We thought we were in their beds and that they were in ours“Jersey Survivor
“We did swopsies”Islington Survivor
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 described 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. Liz Davies wrote in the Guardian about the ‘holiday exchanges’ and about the need for an investigation.
We must support the Jersey survivors
The island’s care leavers have a great deal to say. All they need now is a place of safety in which to speak, writes Liz Davies
How should Jersey address the crisis that is unfolding around the police investigation into allegations of child abuse on the island?
Last weekend, the Jersey Care Leavers’ Association invited me, Fay Maxted of the Survivors Trust and Valerie Sinason of the Centre for Dissociative Studies to meet its members and to address a public meeting on the issue. The meeting was attended by care leavers and survivors, lawyers, police, social workers, psychologists, trade unionists and politicians…
We heard first-hand accounts of care leavers’ traumatic childhoods. Some spoke in whispers, exploring carefully whether we could bear to listen….
The UK experience of investigating serious crime against children in the context of institutional abuse is well documented in policy and procedure, and there are definite links with the UK in this investigation. We heard accounts of “holiday” exchanges of children between UK children’s homes and Haut de la Garenne, and it is known that UK children were placed there.
It is imperative that a joint police and social work investigation is set up in the UK to identify which children were sent, and to trace them as adults.
Questions need answers. Which residential staff took the children to Jersey? Who approved the financing of these trips? How were children selected for these holidays? Which authorities placed children in Jersey children’s homes? And how did they monitor the care of the children? Individual children’s records may or may not exist, but there will be financial sources of crucial information. It is not so long ago, and there will be staff in the authorities who remember aspects of these events…
It is time now for UK authorities to contribute to the investigative process, and for officials to reach out to the many care leavers and survivors who have not yet come forward. But first and foremost, those who are already speaking out need support.
Full article from The Guardian, 1st August 2008
Islington Survivors Network list of evidence from survivors
|Jersey Holiday Dates||LBI Children’s Home||ISN survivors reporting on Jersey holidays||Comments|
|1968||Gisburne House||1||Took flight to Jersey. Camped in field near sand dunes. Nick Rabet RSW in Gisburne was there. he came from Jersey.|
|1972||New Park House||1||Remembers 1 other child on this holiday|
|1972-77||Grosvenor Avenue||1||Stayed at Haut de la Garenne for 2 weeks and then at a large white house with 6 rooms on a hill near St Helier with a driveway. About 200 metres from the road. Worked in the fields for 2 months picking grapes|
|August 1973||Grosvenor Avenue||1||This was an exchange holiday. The survivor stayed at Haut de la Garenne. The children were taken to WW2 tunnels. Staff from Jersey went to Islington. The survivor went 3 times with the 2 Managers of 114 Grosvenor Ave|
|1.9.1973||Grosvenor Avenue||1||Camping. Took ferry to Jersey. Has passport dated July 73. Boys went to Jersey to a campsite and the girls got a helicopter to France. The survivor remembers 4 other children who were on this holiday.|
|1974-76||Gisburne House||2||Went scuba diving and visited WW2 bunker and an underground hospital. Took ferry from Plymouth or Portsmouth. The Superintendent of Gisburne House had a boat|
|1974-76||New Park House||1|
|1974||Sheringham Road||1||Postcard sent to social worker|
|1975-77||Haut de la Garenne||1||Jersey survivor is a witness in the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry and writes about an exchange holiday to Islington.|
|1975||Haut de la Garenne||Jersey survivor reported on an exchange trip with Islington. ISN think this refers to 114 Grosvenor Avenue.|
|9.8.77||Grosvenor Avenue||2||Went to Guernsey, stayed a night in Boulogne. Visited a prison on a rock out to sea. Went by coach and transit van. Social worker told by Superintendent that there was no need for parental consent|
|1978||Grosvenor Avenue||2||Survivor sent postcards to his father Camped in Guernsey with day trip to Jersey with 114 Grosvenor Avenue manager|
|2.9.81||Grosvenor Avenue||1||Survivor has photographs of campsite|
|1986||Grosvenor Avenue||2||Camping in an old lorry park and stayed at a house with 114 Grosvenor Avenue Manager|
A passport was not necessary for a trip to Jersey thus making it more easy to bypass parental consent. Although one child did have a passport for the trip.
Islington Tribune October 2014 reported on an Islington survivor who was taken to Jersey from Grosvenor Avenue children’s home. He had two postcards of Jersey dated 1978 which he had sent to his father.
In 2007, I went to meet Jersey survivors and heard of theirLiz Davies report to Sarah Morgan QC 18.2.18:13.5
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.
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