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96-year-old Jerseyman jailed for child abuse might be Britain's oldest inmate

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A 96-YEAR-OLD Jerseyman is thought to be the oldest serving prisoner in the British Isles after yesterday being jailed for abusing two girls in the 1950s and 60s.

Gaston John Pinsard – a former resident of Haut de la Garenne – was sentenced to 18 months in prison in Guernsey on Thursday after pleading guilty to nine historical counts of indecent assault.

He was charged in January after his two victims, who are both from Guernsey, reported the sexual abuse to police. The pensioner pleaded guilty to the charges and described himself to the officers as a 'filthy devil', adding that he was ashamed by his urges.

Guernsey's Royal Court heard how Pinsard had regularly assaulted his first victim between 1951 and 1955, when he was aged between 32 and 36, before going on to abuse his second victim between 1964 and 1969 in his mid to late 40s.

His victims, aged between five and nine when they were abused, were said to be regular visitors to Pinsard's home in Guernsey, which he shared with his wife and her parents.

When officers arrived at his home earlier this year Pinsard said he had been expecting them after seeing news reports about historic child abuse.

In handing down the Royal Court's sentence judge Russell Finch told Pinsard that a younger man could have expected to serve seven to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to such crimes.

The court had heard that Gaston had been the victim of sustained abuse while growing up at the former Haut de la Garenne children's home.

Gaston John Pinsard entering Guernsey's Royal Court. Picture Channel Television

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Advocate Amy Richardson, defending, said that her client's childhood experiences had had a profound effect on the way he viewed sex and relationships.

She told the court that Pinsard, who was born in Jersey, had spent time in Haut de la Garenne because his single mother had to work.

'This was an environment where emotional, physical and sexual abuse of children was the norm, not only from adults on the children they were meant to protect, but also the children themselves,' she said.

'It was a culture where the sexualisation of children was the norm.'

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Advocate Richardson said Pinsard, who was born in Jersey, went on to return to live with his family in Guernsey after leaving the care home, but was left isolated as they spoke French and he did not.

'His formative years were blighted by every kind of abuse imaginable,' Advocate Richardson told the court.

She also explained that Pinsard would need extra care in prison and would not be able to take part in the institution's regular programme of activities.

Judge Finch said the court faced a difficult task in deciding on the appropriate sentence for the pensioner and that a number of considerations would have to be taken into account.

Acknowledging the defendant's age, the judge added that the assaults amounted to a case of prolonged abuse and a breach of trust, something which he said all right-thinking people would view with disgust.

'Your victims have had to live with this their whole lives,' he added.

It has also emerged that the now grown-up victims of Pinsard's attacks did not want their abuser to receive a prison sentence.

After remaining silent about the abuse for years the pair spoke to each other about the assaults at a funeral last year and realised they had both suffered at the hands of Pinsard.

The then deputy police chief, Lenny Harper
  • 2007 – Towards the end of the year the then deputy police chief, Lenny Harper, announced that the States police were investigating alleged historical child abuse at former States children’s homes. An appeal for information was also launched and the investigation was overseen by police chief Graham Power.
  • 2008 – Arrests relating to the abuse investigation began to be made at the end of January. Later, Mr Harper, the senior investigating officer, revealed that his team was excavating the former children’s home at Haut de la Garenne and that they had found what appeared to be a fragment of bone. The announcement led to a swathe of lurid headlines in national newspapers, which carried stories of child torture and possible murder. In August Mr Harper retired and was replaced by David Warcup and towards the end of the year Mr Warcup and the investigation’s new senior officer, Detective Superintendent Mick Gradwell, said that after a review of the evidence gathered, no child murders took place at Haut de la Garenne. They also concluded that no bodies had been hidden or burned. At the same time police chief Graham Power was suspended for his alleged poor handling of the abuse inquiry, but a report later found that he had been removed without proper evidence of incompetence.
  • 2009 – In May, the fragment of material said to potentially have been part of a child’s skull was sent to botanists at Kew Gardens at the request of Det Supt Gradwell. The report that followed confirmed that it was, in fact, a piece of coconut. Also, Islanders arrested and convicted of abuse offences as part of the investigation began to be sentenced in 2009 as well.
[figure caption="The world's media gather at Haut de la Garenne" title="BRITAIN Jersey 4" align="none" url="/?attachment_id=1157465" id="1157465" size="100"]
  • 2010 – The Wiltshire Constabulary’s report – an independent review of the handling of the Haut de la Garenne investigation into child abuse – was published in 2010. It levelled strong criticism at former police chief Graham Power and his deputy, Lenny Harper, for their handling of the investigation. The Roya l Court secured convictions against the last people involved in the abuse investigation. Following this, the victims of child abuse received a formal apology from the then Chief Minister, Terry Le Sueur, who said that they had been let down by the system. In June, 40 people who claimed they had suffered abuse while in States care made compensation claims. The year 2010 also saw a report into the financial management of the abuse investigation published in July. It found that public funds had been misspent on expensive meals, accommodation and first-class travel. It also emerged that the total police costs for the three-year investigation had reached £7.5m.
  • 2011 – Following a proposition brought by Senator Francis Le Gresley, the States agreed to hold an inquiry into allegations of historical child abuse after the Haut de la Garenne investigation.
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  • 2012 – After a former Islander’s book was published, making claims of abuse at the former Grouville Girls’ Home, the police confirmed that six women had made complaints about the home to the force during the course of the historical child abuse investigation. However, the police said that there was too little evidence in relation to the claims to mount a prosecution. 2012 also saw Jimmy Savile linked to Haut de la Garenne after pictures of the disgraced BBC star surfaced and were published in newspapers and online.
  • 2013 - It was hoped that the public inquiry into historical child abuse would get going in 2013, but half-way through the year Sally Bradley QC, the States-appointed chairman of the Committee of Inquiry, suffered a stroke. The inquiry was delayed while a new chairman was found. A few months later Frances Oldham QC, a senior lawyer with extensive experience in dealing with cases involving sexual abuse, was appointed to lead the inquiry, joined by abuse inquiry panel members Alyson Leslie, who has led serious case reviews into child abuse, and Sandy Cameron CBE, a former director of social work in Scotland. In one of the last States sittings of the year, it was revealed that 64 per cent of claims for compensation for historical abuse had been settled. Chief Minister Ian Gorst said that 131 claims had been received, 84 offers of compensation had been accepted, with 47 cases still under consideration.
Professor Sandy Cameron, Frances Oldham QC and Alyson Leslie of the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry
  • 2014 – In April, Ms Oldham opened the inquiry and set out the terms of reference for proceedings. Hearings began in September and so far the independent Jersey Care Inquiry has heard evidence from 150 former residents of States-run children’s homes including Haute de la Garenne, Sacre Coeur, La Preferance, and more recently, Les Chenes, plus family group homes and foster care. The inquiry has dealt with the evidence from the 1940s and is currently working on the period from the 1990s onwards.
  • 2015 – The Chief Minister, Ian Gorst, last week lodged a proposition with the States asking for an extra £14m to bring the inquiry’s budget – which was originally £6m - up to £20m. The inquiry expects to have heard evidence from all witnesses who have so far come forward by early March. The inquiry will then move on to hear evidence from alleged abusers, those working in children’s homes, whistle-blowers, foster parents and Children’s Services. It will then hear evidence about the 2008 police investigation into child abuse at Haute de la Garenne, known as Operation Rectangle, and decisions made by the Law Department in respect of prosecutions following the investigation.

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