Monday, 15 September 2014

Jean Neal Update.

Back in April 2012 VFC exclusively broke the story of a little known "care" home in Jersey by publishing a Guest Posting from a resident of the home, and Abuse Survivor, Jean Neal.

The Jersey Home For Girls, or Grouville Girl's Home, had not received any State Media attention during the Child Abuse scandal and there were those saying that the institution never existed. That was until we published documented proof, in Jean's Guest Posting, to include official records and photographs of the home. Jean's Guest Posting can be read HERE.

We then exclusively interviewed Jean, nine days later, when she came to Jersey and spoke of the Girl's Home, the abuse she suffered there, the book she wrote about her childhood and later years, and how "good can come from bad." The Interview can be viewed HERE.

Regular readers will be aware that we now have a public Child Abuse Inquiry taking place, which unfortunately Bloggers have been marginalised and banned from the media room under spurious grounds as reported HERE. Despite the banning of Bloggers, (Jersey's only independent media) by the Committee of Inquiry, VFC continues to be of assistance to the Inquiry by supplying it with evidence and witnesses to include Jean Neal.

After listening to an extremely brave witness give live evidence to the Committee of Inquiry, VFC made contact with Jean, and told her of the witness and her evidence. The witness was a resident at the Home For Girls and spoke of the punishment, and regime, at the home. When asked by the Committee's lawyer if she knew of any others who suffered the same treatment as her , at the home, the witness replied in the negative.

VFC DID know of a former resident at the home (Jean Neal) who HAD suffered the same abuse, and to cut a long story short VFC was able to reunite the witness with Jean Neal after 60 plus years and now Jean is also giving evidence to the Child Abuse Inquiry as a direct result of VFC being present at the public hearing, and being so researched on the Child Abuse atrocities.

We interviewed Jean, Friday just gone, and talked to her about the ongoing Committee of Inquiry and how she doesn't feel she is believed by the Inquiry. She speaks of her recent experiences with the Jersey Archive who, she says, are not as helpful with supplying her with documents as they once were (pre Child Abuse Committee Of Inquiry). Records, we are told, have "gone missing."

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Deputy Nick Le Cornu Responds To Offensive Tweet.

The online community, and now possibly the whole of Jersey, are talking about a tweet sent out by Deputy Nick Le Cornu which has been reported as a personal attack on fellow Deputy Kristina Moore.

The tweet has caused outrage from across the political divide and by a vast number of the general public. The State Media has gone into overdrive in reporting this story from its perspective and we now offer the story from the perspective of Deputy Le Cornu himself.

Deputy Nick Le Cornu, in an in-depth, and exclusive, interview with VFC, explains, why he, like a growing number of politicians, and the general public, does not trust the local State Media and wanted to give this interview exclusively to VFC in order that his words/motives/intentions would not be distorted.

We offer the interview unedited and invite readers/viewers to draw their own conclusion(s) after watching the interview.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Jersey's Lawmakers, Victims' Group and Operation Rectangle Cop Publicly Decry Blogger Ban.

As a continuance of our PREVIOUS POSTING where we reported how Bloggers were banned from the media room at Jersey's Independent Care Inquiry and all State Media had been granted accreditation, and able to use the media room in the same ruling.

There have been some kind of developments to this but it is still very unclear as to what these developments are and as soon as we get a straight answer from the Inquiry Team we will inform our readers.

We have been contacted by a number of witnesses/victims/survivors, and potential witnesses,victims and survivors who, as a result of the Blogger Banning are reconsidering their decision to give evidence to the Inquiry. Some have threatened to withdraw the evidence they have already submitted.

Of course this is a decision that can only be made by those involved. The banning of Bloggers has caused an amount of distrust in the Inquiry and we are hoping a resolution can be made between Bloggers and the Inquiry very soon.

In this Posting we would like to share with our readers some of the support we (Bloggers) have from key interested parties in the Jersey Child Abuse scandal. This includes the former Senior Investigating Officer of Operation Rectangle and former Deputy Chief Police Officer Lenny Harper. The Chairperson of the Jersey Care Leavers Association, Ms. Carrie Modral, prominent local lawyer, Advocate Philip Sinel, and a number of local politicians who have all written to the Chair of the Committee Of Inquiry, Francis Oldham QC expressing their concerns of our banning and have warned how damaging this could prove to be to the Inquiry itself.

Below are a few of the letters of support and we thank those who have written them.

20th August 2014

We are writing to express our concern regarding the fact that two local bloggers have now been excluded from using the media room facilities available for the Committee of Inquiry, having been granted access from the outset to these same facilities until last week.

Bloggers have been very instrumental in supporting all abuse victims, uncovering many facts which would otherwise have remained hidden from the public. Voice for Children have never published any material that has been challenged or factually incorrect, whereas the MSM have been very economical with their facts, and in some instances been damning of the whole abuse investigation from the outset as clearly demonstrated in the bundles of newspaper clippings submitted to the inquiry team and which has been upsetting for the victims.

Bloggers as an increasingly recognised means of alternative media should be afforded the right to work alongside those of the MSM especially in something as high profile as this. We perhaps need to say that we have read Robert Hall’s comments published on the COI website and his concerns about bloggers being able to use the media room. Having witnessed him attending the hearing on the Tuesday hearing day prior to that when both VFC and Bob Hill were informed that they can no longer use the media room, we can only assume that the legal team for the COI have allowed themselves to be influenced by a well-known journalist from the BBC who happens to be also well connected with Jersey having started his career as a reporter and presenter at Channel Television in the Channel Islands in or around 1977.

Indeed, VFC and other bloggers have also persuaded some victims to come forward and give evidence to the Committee of Inquiry who may well not have done so initially, through fear or scepticism. Furthermore, this decision could jeopardise further witnesses from coming forward and could even result in some of those that have come forward to retract their statements and walk away.

We also feel that, given Mr McMurray’s disability, he is unable to function properly in the hearing room given that he is unable to balance his tablet on his lap and type at the same time with the use of only one arm and it seems unreasonable to expect him to do so.

Finally to conclude, we would ask you to perhaps re-consider your decision. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to these people for all the good work they have done and will continue to do, and would ask that they are permitted to do so with the proper resources available.

Yours sincerely
Jersey Care Leavers Association

14 August 2014
As the former senior investigating officer of the Jersey Historical Abuse Investigation, Operation Rectangle, I have a strong interest in your inquiry being able to get to the truth and reveal the facts about the manner in which children were abused within the Care System and its off shoots in Jersey.  To do this, you are going to have to win the trust of those who suffered and whose previous attempts to find justice have been crushed by the Jersey Government, those working within its so called care agencies and criminal justice system, and the state controlled official Jersey Media.  It is these groups who have labelled the victims "criminals and people with disturbed minds", a description enthusiastically recirculated and repeated by the media in Jersey.  It is essential that you succeed in doing what myself and my team had to do - win the confidence of these victims so that they will come and talk to you and give you their story, knowing you are not in the pocket of the Jersey government.

It was with some alarm therefore that I heard you have withdrawn the authority to use the media facilities from Neil McMurray of the Voice for Children Blog, and Bob Hill the former member of the States.  These two individuals are two of a very few people who are trusted to tell the truth by those who have suffered abuse in Jersey.  I will speak more about that below.  I believe that the action has been taken in response to a rather unreasoned and bitter series of attacks launched by another blogger, Former Senator Stuart Syvret, from the very media room in the last day or two.  Now, everyone knows that Mr Syvret has been fighting a battle for some years, and has been unremitting on his attacks on the behaviour of the government and their treatment of himself and abuse victims.  Not everyone approves of the manner in which he behaves, and the sometimes wild and random nature of his written attacks, but there is some understanding of the way in which the corrupt behaviour of the Jersey establishment has driven him to the point where he feels that he has nothing else to lose.  Notwithstanding, I do understand that some of his comments yesterday cannot be tolerated or accepted.

However, it must surely be possible to prevent Mr Syvret from having access to the media room and thereby the opportunity to abuse the facility, without taking a scattergun approach and banning the two people from whom the abuse victims look to for truthful information.  They will not get it from the Jersey media. Even tonight, the Jersey Evening Post is continuing with its campaign to discredit victims and the investigation.  Victims will NOT want to engage with your inquiry if they believe that the truth is again going to be suppressed - and that is exactly what the Jersey media are perceived to have as their main agenda.

I know that VFC and Mr Hill applied for Accreditation and were told it was not necessary.  Then, after Mr Syvret's attacks, both of them are banned in what a number of the victims have already said to me is an attempt to suppress the truth again.  I do not believe that Mr Syvret applied for an accreditation.  Surely, rather than run the risk of alienating victims who rely on the other two individuals, it would have been easy to exclude Mr Syvret, either because of his intemperate behaviour or his lack of application for accreditation?  It hardly needs pointing out, and the victims are only too aware, that it was Mr Hill and VFC who were among the main reasons, with one or two others, why the Jersey government reluctantly agreed to this inquiry, and why victims have come forward to talk to you in the first place.  Furthermore, Mr Hill played no small part in making sure the Terms of Reference were not totally ineffective.

In closing, who you allow into your media room is a matter for you.  However, if you wish to gain, or retain, the trust of victims, and indeed, people like myself, then restricting reporting of your proceedings to the blatantly corrupt and conflicted Jersey mainstream media, is not the way to do it.

Yours faithfully,

Lenny Harper"

01 September 2014

As one of the key political proponents of the Committee of Inquiry, and an originator of some of the terms of reference, it is with some reluctance that I write to the Committee, as I had wished to simply be an observer of proceedings, letting your body continue in their complex task unhindered from political interventions.

I am, however, moved to write to you to make representations on the recent decision to debar bloggers from the media room on what appear to be questionable grounds.
It is not necessary for me to go over arguments that have perhaps already been made by other parties, however, I would be grateful if the Committee would reconsider their decision and adopt what I would consider a less draconian and more liberal approach.

I am also concerned that one of the bloggers, Mr McMurray, without whose tireless and exacting reporting (in stark contrast to some of the 'official' media) the inquiry would not have gained the momentum to have happened, is being prejudiced, given his disability, by not having adequate facilities to be able to make notes, , as any other member of the public, because electronic devices seem to be banned from the public area (is this correct?).

It seems paradoxical that the journalists who command the most respect and trust from the care leavers themselves are the ones being denied adequate facilities to be able to report.

Your sincerely,

Deputy Montfort Tadier

Dear Mrs Oldham

29 August 2014

I have been consulted by Neil McMurray who as you are aware writes the Voice for Children blog spot. It is a popular, respected, widely read and long established blog.

In Jersey the position for a long time has been that the blogs are the only media trusted by a large portion of the population, this notwithstanding the disparity in resources and the fact that the blogs have no backing from any national or international organisation and that they produce no revenue and carry no advertising.

It is not in a way of exaggeration to say that without the activities of bloggers in Jersey there would never have been an enquiry at all; the remaining media have historically have been complicit in endeavouring that the truth was shaded or buried.

I am instructed that Mr McMurray and indeed Mr Hill (of Bob Hill's blog spot) applied for media accreditation back in April of this year. However no media were provided with accrediation. The blogger in conjunction with other media were simply afforded the use of the media room.

Arbitrarily on 12/13 August Mr McMurray and Mr Hill were informed that they were not allowed to make use of the media room but simultaneously accreditation was granted to other media representatives. In one case this was done by prearrangement with Eversheds staff. Additionally the BBC were allowed to swamp the room.

The effect upon the credibility of the enquiry of the this development cannot be overstated. Many Islanders were cynical before the start, this does not help. I therefore ask that you address this matter immediately and that Mr McMurray and  if he so seeks it, Mr Hill, are granted accreditation before the enquiry restarts on 3 September 2014.

Yours sincerely

Advocate Philip Sinel"(END)

For reasons of brevity we have not posted all letters of support for Bloggers to Francis Oldham QC, as we believe there are more to be written and we will look to post them in a part 2.

Readers of our PREVIOUS POSTING will be aware that the Inquiry Panel is able to work with lightning speed when it was able to make a ruling, almost overnight, to ban Bloggers, get that ruling in place and published on its website within days.

All correspondence to the Committee of Inquiry is supposed to be published on its own WEBSITE but the letters of support for Bloggers have not made it on there yet. If only they could act as quickly copying and pasting a few letters as they did with an overnight ban perhaps the Inquiry Team might get a little more credence?

Monday, 25 August 2014

Bloggers Excluded by Jersey Child Abuse Inquiry.

Bloggers (Jersey's only independent media) have been excluded from reporting from the Jersey Child Abuse Inquiry at 11-15 Seaton Place St Helier.

Regular readers will know that the Inquiry Team came up with the idea of "Media Accreditation" when it published its protocols earlier this year which can be read HERE. The Inquiry Team then decided to scrap the media accreditation after only receiving 5 applications. So rather than act in the positive and accredit the applicants which were three State Media and two Bloggers (VFC and BOB HILL) the team decided not to accredit anybody and give us all the same access to the media room at Seaton Place.

During this time the inquiry team were being made aware that the majority of the abuse survivors, and potential witnesses, to the inquiry, do not trust the local State Media who stand accused of  complicity in the Jersey cover-up. The team were also made aware that the latest local social survey showed that sixty per-cent, of those surveyed, do not trust the local State Media. In contrast the majority of Abuse Survivors DO trust this, and Bob Hill's Blog, as do a growing number of islanders. The inquiry team were also aware that VFC have not broken a single protocol or breached any Press Release Embargoes and the same can't be said for the Jersey Evening Post (JEP) who breached an embargo and the BBC who were, contrary to the protocols, filming inside the hearing's building, at the bottom of the stairs where any unsuspecting victim/witness would, and in one case was, confronted with a BBC camera, pointing at them when attempting to leave the building.

Tuesday 12 August 2014 was a usual public hearing where Bloggers, and State Media, were sharing the facilities in the media room as had been the case since the hearings begun back in July. It had become a little cramped in the media room due to the BBC having, at one point, five employees in the room, to include a camera man and a national BBC reporter, who was on holiday here, not reporting on the hearing.

The BBC Reporter was Robert Hall who, as part of his original application to the Inquiry Team for accreditation wrote;

"In closing I’d like to thank you once again for the way in which you are dealing with media interest, and close with one thought; I note from local web activity that some non-accredited interested parties are eager to gain accreditation.
Should space be as limited as you fear, I foresee difficulties on busy days if such accreditation goes beyond recognised media organisations......just my view...."(END)

All applications (including Mr. Hall's) can be viewed HERE. 

So the BBC crowds the room with five of its employees, at least two of which had no place being there, and the Inquiry Panel make a ruling to EXCLUDE the only two Bloggers who applied for media accreditation and have been using the facilities from the start without incident. All State media who applied for accreditation were granted it with the same ruling.

The ruling was made almost overnight with those being granted accreditation (State Media) being informed of their accreditation on Wednesday 13 August, the night before the next public hearing. The two Bloggers (VFC and Bob Hill) who had been refused accreditation were not informed of the ruling and had to suffer the humiliation of being turned away from the media room on the Thursday morning. (Humiliation is a subject I will come on to further in this posting.)

But the real reason for banning Bloggers overnight could have more to do with former Health Minister and anti Child Abuse Campaigner, Stuart Syvret, who was in the media room, for the first time, on Tuesday the 12 August. Stuart was tweeting from the room that was challenging the competency of the hearing and its questioning (or lack of) of the witnesses. The Inquiry Team would not have taken well to his criticisms, which in fairness could have been communicated a little less robust, but were perfectly valid observations that need addressing. This gave the Inquiry Team the excuse, we believe it has been looking for, to exclude Bloggers from the media room. It was a typical knee-jerk reaction from the Inquiry Team to ban Bloggers which will ensure the State Media (who don't question anything) have exclusive rights on reporting from the Inquiry building.

So we know the Panel can react with lightening speed in excluding Bloggers, in making a ruling overnight, yet when this Blogger attempts to appeal the decision, e-mails and questions are ignored. Since the day of the banning I have been attempting to find out how to appeal the decision and have all but been ignored.

Back to Thursday 14 August, at the hearing, after suffering the humiliation of being turned away from the media room, I was sat in the public hearing room. The public are not allowed to have any electronic appliances (Tablets/ipads/iphones/laptops phones etc) switched on in the room.

I have never mentioned my disability on this Blog as it is something I don't talk about but there comes a time when it has to be mentioned and this is the time.

Some years ago I suffered a horrific accident where my dominant right hand was wrenched from my arm and has left me an amputee and coming to terms with my disability is something I still struggle with on a daily basis. I can barely write with my left hand and I certainly can't write at any speed that would be legible, indeed when not writing at speed it is barely legible. 

So there I was sat in the public hearing room feeling absolutely useless and humiliated. I could not even pretend to be writing something down on a pad as I didn't have a pen, or pad, as I had no idea the ruling had been made to ban me (and Bob Hill) from the media room and indeed I don't even carry a pen and pad because of my inability to write (at speed anyway).

Sat next to me, in the public hearing room, was a member of the Jersey Care Leavers Association, (JCLA) and good friend of mine, Jill Garcia, who said that the JCLA have a room in the building where, just like the media room, it has a video/audio feed to the public hearing room and I am welcome to use the room, where I could type up any notes on my ipad, if the Inquiry Team agreed.

We asked, a very helpful Tina Wing, if it was OK and she saw no problem as I was a trusted associate of the JCLA and its members. This was a great relief as it got me out of the public hearing room where I was, as mentioned above, feeling humiliated and embarrassed. 

I spent the rest of the morning/hearing in the JCLA room where I was able to use my electronic devices and make notes. The hearings stopped for lunch and I popped out to get a sandwich, and can of pop, which I could take back and eat/drink in the JCLA room during the lunch-break.

Upon my return to the hearing building I had to ask to be let back into the JCLA room as the doors need a pass card held by the Inquiry Team. It was at this stage I was told, by a not so helpful member of the Inquiry Team, whom I believe to be, Ms. Natalie Minott  that I am NOT allowed in the JCLA room because it is for "interested parties" only. As spurious and unconvincing as the explanation was, of course I had to adhere to it. This is after being told that there was no problem being in the room only an hour or so before by Ms. Wing.

I was stood in the main reception with my sandwich in my one hand, and can of pop secured in the joint at my inside elbow and bicep on my right arm. I asked, as there was no-one around, in the rooms, could I just go in the JCLA room with JCLA member Jill Gracia, who was eating her lunch in there, and eat my lunch with her? To which Ms. Minott refused, so I asked, as it was lunchtime and no-one around, could I eat my lunch in the media room, or even the public hearing room? Again Ms. Minott refused. So I asked am I to be made to go and eat my sandwich in the street, (bearing in mind I can't physically enjoy my sandwich and drink at the same time unless I have somewhere to put one of them down) to which Ms Minott replied "there are plenty of establishments who have seating areas in town" (or words very similar.)

This was even more humiliating for me, than having to sit in the public hearing room, not being able to write up notes. Now this "care" inquiry team is forcing me to go on the street and eat my lunch rather than allow me ten minutes to do it in the building where others were eating their lunch.

It was at this point that I began to suspect the banning of Bloggers from the media room was not a decision made on any professional grounds, it was made on personal grounds. For reasons only known to Natalie Minott, or the Inquiry Panel, they want to make life for me, at the building, as difficult as they possibly can. Why would a team investigating "care" act so callously towards a disabled man?

Since attempting to come to terms with my disability this experience has got to be one of the most humiliating I've ever suffered.

If this is not a personal issue on behalf of the "care" inquiry team then one has to question the real motives behind excluding the only people (Bloggers) who have been a voice for victims and uncovered the truth that has been, and is being, buried by the State Media from media accreditation? Notwithstanding the Inquiry Team is aware that a number of witnesses have only come forward because of this Blog and that of RICO SORDA. Witnesses who WOULD NOT have come forward if VFC and Rico Sorda had not convinced them. Indeed there is a strong argument to suggest, if it wasn't for the Bloggers, there would be no Inquiry at all. We (unlike the State Media) HAVE questioned "The Party Line" and supplied official documents to the few brave politicians who speak out against the Child Abuse cover-up. We have strongly lobbied those former, and present, politicians to keep this subject in the political and public arena. We have been instrumental in the formation of the TOR's the Committee of Inquiry are now working to. It also seems ironic that Bob Hill should also be banned, because if it was not for Bob's amendments to P19/2011 it is almost certain that there would not be a Committee of Inquiry. P19/2011 and its amendments were covered, in-depth, by VFC HERE.  

The "care" inquiry know how trusted the Bloggers are and it knows how untrusted the State Media is yet it bans the trusted Bloggers.

We asked (although we knew the answer) back in March this year if the Bloggers were going to be marginalised by the Inquiry in a Blog posted HERE. The answer is a clear "yes" and if one looks at that link they will see why, if anybody should be excluded from media accreditation, it should be the State Media. The question readers should be asking is why has the State Media got exclusive rights and the Bloggers silenced if the "care" inquiry wants to get the truth out there?

In light of what appears to be an undisclosed, if not nonexistent, appeals process, this blog stands as a challenge to the Inquiry Team to stop banning those who seek to inform the public on the proceedings of what is meant to be a "public" Child Abuse inquiry.

Reasonable minds can certainly agree that to politicise access to key facilities needed to cover these landmark hearings harks back to some of the most concerning problems plaguing the island and, again, shows a terrible insensitivity to the victims, as the "accredited" news organisations approved by Inquiry Judge Oldham have repeatedly denied the extent of their abuse.

It also calls into question the direction of what the island has been repeatedly promised is supposed to be a neutral and independent inquiry. VFC awaits a response as to why it and other independent news sources have been banned and will publicise this matter until it is properly rectified. This inquiry has already struggled to get victims to trust it and to come forward. If it wants the island to truly believe it represents the public interest, it will stop playing politics with news coverage and focus on doing its job.