Advertising

States 'have only themselves to blame' if abuse inquiry costs £50 million: You say - cap the spending

News | Published:

  • Latest from inquiry - woman says she was 'let down' by prosecutors
  • The results of our online poll over the cost of the inquiry
  • The JEP's view: It's time for compromise
  • Care leavers blame States for spiralling costs

THE States have only themselves to blame for the spiralling costs of the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry, according to the body that represents local care leavers.

Carrie Modral, from the Jersey Care Leavers' Association, criticised External Relations Minister Sir Philip Bailhache for saying on Wednesday that the final bill for the inquiry could reach as much as £50m, branding his estimate as 'scaremongering'.

However, she said it was important for checks and balances to be carried out as the costs of the inquiry, which has been tasked with investigating abuse in Jersey's care system, continue to spiral.

The inquiry has so far received:

  • 181,606 pages of documentary evidence
  • 103,000 of those are from the States of Jersey
  • 27,000 are from the States of Jersey Police.
  • The law officers department is expected to disclose a minimum of 71,000 pages of documentation.

She also said that the costs would not be so high had Jersey's government listened to the concerns of victims earlier.

Former Deputy Bob Hill, who was heavily involved in getting the inquiry passed by the States, agreed and said that the rising costs were in part down to the 'lax' attitude shown towards the inquiry by ministers from the start.

Advertising

He also welcomed a move which, if approved by politicians, will mean that the inquiry publishes its ongoing costs online every month.

Chief Minister Ian Gorst this week lodged a proposition with the States asking for an extra £14m - from States reserves if necessary - to bring the budget of the inquiry up to £20m - more than three times its original £6m estimate.

We asked if the States should cap the spending on the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry.

Advertising

79% said yes.

21 % said no.

However, ministers have accepted that the final bill could be much higher, with Treasury Minister Alan Maclean saying that it was impossible at this stage to put a figure on it.

He added that raiding States reserves and taking out a government loan were both being considered as possible funding options should the costs go above £20m.

Ms Modral said that had politicians listened to the concerns of care leavers earlier - both at the time that complaints were made and in 2008 when an inquiry was first promised by the States - the costs would not be so high because people's memories would have been fresher, collecting evidence would have been easier and there would have been fewer suggestions of cover-ups.

She also urged people not to blame the victims for the rising costs.

'There should not be a blank cheque but this is fundamentally important to Jersey,' she said.

'It has been a blight on Jersey for so many years and it has got to be seen through.

'I realise that Jersey is in economic decline at the moment but it is not the care leavers' fault that Jersey is in the financial situation that it is.

Several witnesses have come forward to talk about their experiences at former children's home Haut de la Garenne, which was the subject of an intense investigation in 2008

'If the powers that be hadn't dragged their heels for so long the amount of money would be half if not less than what they are spending now.'

Mr Hill said he hoped that Senator Bailhache was wrong about the £50m estimate.

'We have got to try to play the old balancing act of trying to get to the truth without going to ludicrous expense to get there,' he said.

'The Council of Ministers has been lax, I think it is all part and parcel of their lack of interest. They didn't want the inquiry in the first place, they were hoping it would go away and now they are left in the embarrassing position of having to go to the States and ask for more money.'

AN abuse victim claims she was let down by Island prosecutors – alleging that a well-connected businessman received a lenient sentence after attacking her.

The woman, now aged in her 50s, and her sister were sexually abused by shop owner Roger Horobin in the 1970s when they were children, the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry heard on Wednesday.

Horobin was jailed for one year after pleading guilty to a series of sexual assaults – a sentence which the woman claims was deliberately lenient because of his connections.

The woman, known as Witness 45, also alleges that she was physically abused by her carer while she was staying at a family group home in St Helier. Horobin was not connected to the home.

Witness 45 said that she and her siblings were beaten by Witness 279, who ran the home.

Two further statements were also read to the inquiry, from two of Witness 45's siblings, with her brother claiming that no physical abuse occurred.

Witness 45, whose evidence was read by inquiry counsel Patrick Sadd, said: 'The abuse I received from Witness 279 during my time there was perpetual and brutal, often for no reason or explanation.

'Witness 279 would use any equipment to hand to beat us with, including broomsticks, belts and a hard plastic cricket bat and a green marble-effect hairbrush.'

The witness said she was also abused by shop owner Horobin, who she claimed was a member of a 'big association' – the name of which was removed from the record – on a regular basis and that on one occasion he pointed a gun at her.

She said: 'He manipulated me into being compliant. He was sometimes an aggressive man if I did not do as he asked and perform sexual acts on him and allow him to perform sexual acts on me.

'I tried to stop him from sexually abusing me and he threatened that if I did not do what he wanted, he would get my sister and do to her what he was doing to me.

'I told him that I would go to the police if he ever hurt my sister. He became very angry and pointed a gun to my head, saying that he would kill me if I ever told the police what he had been doing.'

She added: 'Horobin was arrested, charged and convicted for some his crimes against me.

'I remember being told be a policeman that he had been sent to prison.

'I later found to my horror that he had been imprisoned for just one year.

'I now feel that I was seriously let down by the police and the Law Officers' Department.

'I do wonder if Horobin's connections helped him get a lower sentence.'

Her sister, who was referred to as Witness 214, later claimed that she had also been abused by Horobin.

She said: 'I remember that I did not tell the police all the details, as I was terrified and I more or less just agreed to their wording.

'All I wanted was for it to be over.'

PUBLIC inquiries have a habit of costing millions more than estimated and, when all is said and done, leave few people happy with the result.

The Royal Commission in Australia into institutional child sex abuse is expected to cost at least £260 million and the Saville Inquiry into the deaths of 13 people on Bloody Sunday cost £195 million.

Some might think that those figures have little relevance in a Jersey context. Let's hope they are right.

Today, Senator Sir Philip Bailhache is reported as saying that the cost of the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry could be at least £50 million, many times more than the estimate of £6 million put before the States when Members voted in favour of a public inquiry.

The States must now decide whether to cap the cost of this inquiry. They are damned if they do and damned if they don't.

Handing over a blank cheque could wipe out savings in the Strategic Reserve which have been built up over decades. The alternative – to borrow the money – is equally unappealing for a community with an innate dislike of public debt.

Senator Bailhache wants to hear Islanders' views on what the States should do – and whether the cost should be capped.

This is an issue which could affect all of our futures and the voice of the community should be heard.

Former Senator Francis Le Gresley was right to call for an inquiry to give victims an opportunity to tell their stories and to give the community its best opportunity to draw a line under a dark chapter in our Island's history.

To cut the panel's work short could be an injustice both to victims and the accused who have yet to respond to allegations.

It would also be a gift to the national media and could cause huge reputational damage to this Island.

But with a new hospital, education and an ageing population to pay for, not to mention a huge black hole in the Island's finances, we cannot afford a blank cheque.

A workable compromise must be found to enable the costs to be capped. There is a real danger that the inquiry's biggest legacy will simply be to line the pockets of lawyers – and that is in no one's interest.

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.

Advertising

Top Stories

Advertising

More from the JEP

UK & International News