Jersey abuse inquiry 'lacked leadership'

Senator Ian Le Marquand at Press conference
Image caption The Home Affairs minister said policing matters were over politicised

A report into the handling of Jersey's historic abuse inquiry has criticised a lack of management and £7.5m costs.

Wiltshire Police were asked to examine the handling of the inquiry into ex-children's home Haut de la Garenne.

Among 19 criticisms they made, senior police were found to have lacked leadership skills and to have worked ineffectively with the media.

Of the £7.5m the service was found to have spent more than £1m on travel, meals, hotels and entertainment.

The report focused on suspended chief of police Graham Power, who said he has always maintained the inquiry could have been handled differently.

Restaurant bills

Mr Power, who was suspended in November 2008, is due to retire next month.

Police in Jersey began a covert investigation at the former children's home in 2006, which became public in November of the following year.

Last week the Home Affairs Minister, Senator Ian Le Marquand, said disciplinary proceedings against the 63-year-old had been dropped, as there would be no time to complete them before his retirement.

The Wiltshire Police report into Operation Rectangle [the States of Jersey police abuse inquiry] stated Deputy Chief Officer Lenny Harper should not have been senior investigating officer when he had not led an investigation of that kind for 16 years, and was not supervised.

Mr Power neglected to establish a media strategy, particularly when releasing information that partial remains of a child had been discovered, the report found.

What was found was eventually established to be coconut shell.

The police report found the travel and expenses policy had not been adhered to.

As part of the report, an investigation by accountants BDO Alto Ltd found hotel accommodation came to £881,476 and travel to £302,000.

Among the expenses claimed by the then Deputy Chief Officer Harper were almost £3,000 in bills for Michael Caine's Shepherds restaurant in London.

On one weekend, in April 2008, police officers were joined for dinner at Shepherds, at the request of the deputy chief officer, by a News of the World reporter and they remarked they felt uncomfortable with the documents and discussions being held in front of her, the report said.

It also recommended officers be seconded to UK police services to ensure they maintained skill levels and that an independent advisory group or police authority, based on the UK model, should be established.

'Politicisation of police'

Mr Power told BBC Jersey: "What we have now is effectively the prosecution case which has been put out as if it was uncontested.

"We haven't seen the defence case and it's very unsatisfactory that after £1m has been spent we haven't had a fair hearing and we haven't had a chance to put forward our defence."

Senator Le Marquand said: "We've got a serious issue in Jersey which actually Mr Power highlights in one of his statements and, I agree, of politicisation of policing matters.

"It's hopeful that by means of having a police authority dealing with matters, with the minister therefore being withdrawn from that but still having oversight for policy and so on, that we may move away from this."

Frank Walker, who was chief minister at the time of the Haut de la Garenne inquiry, said he always thought the structure of the home affairs department needed to be changed and agreed that the relationship with the police needed to be examined.

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