Monday, 1 October 2012
Guest Posting From Abuse Survivor and JCLA Chair Carrie Modral.
I have been invited by VFC to submit a guest posting of this past week’s events to which I am grateful as the Blogs seem to be the only place to get the FULL TRUE story out.
Firstly, I would like to clarify that the Jersey Care Leavers Association (JCLA) do not represent or indeed speak for all abuse survivors, our views may not necessarily be the views of others and indeed, we are acutely aware that some abuse survivors have different thoughts on how they would like to see the Committee Of Inquiry (COI) into the “Historic” Child Abuse in Jersey run and we respect that.
On Monday 24th September, myself and two other members of JCLA along with our trusted JCLA Administrator Jill, attended a meeting with the Chief Minister (CM), Ian Gorst, Chief Executive Officer Mr Richardson and Mr Williamson. Copies of both the Verita and Williamson reports were handed to us at that meeting. As it happens, I did get chance to read both reports ahead of the meeting and duly arrived armed with my trusty hand written notes. It was clear from the outset that the CM is in favour of a full COI and that the problem lies with the Council Of Ministers (COM). To say that the meeting went smoothly would be an understatement. Did I lose it, I don’t think so but something snapped inside of me and I was fed up with “pussy footing” around the issue and after a heated discussion, I asked Mr Williamson to withdraw his report. When he declined to do so, I made it clear to the CM that I wanted it formerly noted that I had made that request.
So we go onto this week’s mainstream media reporting. Both CTV and BBC seem to have turned over a new leaf and have produced some very fair reporting particularly with VFC being allowed to air his thoughts on radio without interruption from Mathew Price, this has to be a good thing! And so we go to the JEP. Firstly, my letter in yesterday’s edition of the JEP was in fact an e-mail that I sent to Ben Queree on Wednesday 26th September following his article published in the JEP on the same day. To be fare to Mr Queree, he did come back to me and apologised if there was any misleading impression from the article and offered to write a clarification in the next edition. I could not trust him to do that and therefore asked him to publish my e-mail in full with an apology for the hurt that may have been caused to the abuse survivors.
Now we turn to the editorial published on Thursday 27th September which can be read HERE giving a glowing reference to the Williamson report without a single reference to the Verita report and at the same time implying that the abuse survivors will never be satisfied no matter what!. JCLA sent a “right to reply” letter to the JEP on Friday 28th September and it remains to be seen whether or not it will be published. VFC has kindly agreed to publish the JCLA letter on his Blog this coming Tuesday.
So finally we come to Saturday’s edition of the JEP. You could have knocked me down with a feather when I read Mr Querees’ article. I must give credit where credit is due and thank him for his excellent piece of work which almost could have been written by any one of the Bloggers and is in total contradiction to Thursday’s EDITORIAL. I reproduce The full script of Mr Querees piece which I have typed up myself and apologise for any grammatical errors.
I end this guest posting with a quote from Mr Queree which just about sums all this up.
"Get it wrong, and the inquiry will clear up nothing, establish nothing, and achieve nothing"
By Ben Queree JEP 29th September 2012
INQUIRY MUST BE FREE TO DO ITS JOB
“There are serious questions that merit a serious answer in relation to historical child abuse”
There will have been some people who read this week’s stories on the proposed new tack for the terms of reference of the Committee of Inquiry into historical child abuse and not really understood the significance, turned the page, and read something else.
That’s Ok. Over the few weeks we’ve had a strange run of stories that seem at first glance quite complicated but essentially not that important – turning the ports from the States department to a States owned company the differences between economic forecasts and reality, rows over the difference between shop prices and freight costs.
The story about the Committee of Inquiry terms of references is entirely different – in that it may not have seemed it but it’s actually very important. It’s a simple and horrible truth that some children were physically or sexually abused in Jersey care homes, that they were abused by the people who were trusted to look after them, and that not enough was done by the people running various States departments to make sure that they were run properly and by decent people.
That’s not new information and it’s not in dispute.
It’s certainly not new to the victims of abuse, some of whom have been living in their abusers’ shadows for decades. But the significant work for the Committee of Inquiry is to go beyond those established facts and look at what went so badly wrong in the Management and policing of these homes that was allowed to happen and find out who was responsible. And it’s precisely this point that the established facts start to fade, and things start to get more insubstantial.
It’s certainly true to say that more should have been done to look after those in care and that it appears that complaints were ignored, hushed up, or concealed. And indeed, you don’t have to look too fare online to find a vast literature of those who say that they know exactly what happened, and exactly who was responsible.
But that’s not enough.
No community – Jersey or anywhere else can afford to leave questions like this open, or to imagine (as former Chief Minister Terry Le Sueur appeared to do) that a formal apology in the States Chamber and a compensation scheme to victims would bring the matter to a close. These are serious questions that merit a serious answer. And given the years of mistrust and suspicion over the legacy of abuse – some of it reasonable, and some of it not – they are answers that are going to have to be provided independently, by someone with no links to the Island, no history here, and no axe to grind.
A Committee of Inquiry, whatever its terms of reference, is the perfect mechanism for this – it has the power to demand the attendance of witnesses who don’t want to talk, and to demand the production of files and papers.
For the avoidance of doubt, those powers are incredibly unlikely to be used to summon victims of abuse to give evidence in public if they don’t want to – they are far more likely to be used to call the abusers or those responsible for the management of the homes.
And given the suspicion that exists, and given the depth of feeling, and given the importance of the subject, the suggestion of social work consultant Andrew Williamson that the work be divided up, and the Committee of Inquiry effectively limited to events before 1994, was just not right.
Any attempt to limit the timescale of the inquiry by the States – however well intentioned will leave its ultimate findings subject to being dismissed, most importantly by the victims and survivors of abuse, but also by those who seek to make political capital from the subject.
The proposal by Mr Williamson undermines the spirit of an independent inquiry by seeking to set out what evidence it should look at.
And it’s for that reason that getting the terms of reference – essentially, the questions that the committee will set out to answer – correct, is the key to the whole exercise.
The point of an independent committee is to hand over control, and the only way to truly do that is to not bind their hands.
Only then can everyone on all sides commit to the process, rather than waiting for the outcome and seeing if it matches their preconceptions.
Get the terms of reference right, and the committee could bring an independent, authoritative voice that will establish firmly what happened, and bring some measure of closure and justice to the victims of abuse.
Get them right and the committee will have the credibility to earn the trust of those who were so badly let down by the committees of the past, and will have the authority to release its findings, no matter what they are, and no matter what they say.
Get them right and the whole Island community can get clear answers to the questions that are simply too big to continue to leave hanging.
Get it wrong, and the inquiry will clear up nothing, establish nothing, and achieve nothing. END