Lenny Harper set to accuse inquiry of losing its focus and becoming ‘totally distorted’
By Mark Conrad | 11 January 2016
“I am tempted to speculate that it is an attempt to distract attention away from victims” – Lenny Harper, Jersey’s former deputy police chief
Jersey’s former deputy police chief is set to accuse the island’s inquiry into child sex abuse of losing its focus when he gives evidence tomorrow.
Talking to Exaro ahead of his evidence session, Lenny Harper said that abuse survivors are playing “second fiddle” in the inquiry.
The inquiry, he said, had been distracted by criticisms of his high-profile police investigation into allegations of child sex abuse at Haut de la Garenne, a former children’s home in Jersey.
He told Exaro: “The inquiry’s focus has become totally distorted. My concern is that these are distractions from the actual abuse allegations.”
“I have been dismayed at the unfolding of Phase Two of the inquiry evidence, at how the specified focus of this has been shifted by a small number of witnesses away from those who have suffered horrific abuse to an obsession with me.”
And he blames the inquiry for allowing witnesses to distract its attention away from what should be its focus.
Harper launched Jersey Police’s ‘Operation Rectangle’ in 2007 after receiving allegations by several former residents of Haut de la Garenne. The investigation covered claims against local “VIPs” such as politicians, public servants, police officers and businessmen.
It made headlines across the world in 2008 when Harper’s team excavated the site of Haut de la Garenne and discovered what they believed were children’s bones and teeth.
One of the samples was later dismissed as being fragments of coconut shell, but Harper says that it had been found to contain collagen, a protein that is only found in mammals.
The retired officer plans to tell the inquiry that it has lost its way when he gives evidence to it by video-link from Edinburgh tomorrow. His evidence session is expected to last two or three days.
Harper said: “The victims of abuse not only suffered physical and sexual harm at the hands of some of those given the responsibility for looking after them, but were also further abused by the actions of those agencies tasked with seeking justice on their behalf.
“This fact seems to have played second fiddle at times to eagerness among some to criticise the running of Operation Rectangle.”
He continued: “I am tempted to speculate that it is an attempt to distract attention away from victims, or to further discredit them through discrediting myself, in an attempt to deflect criticism of historic actions by a number of agencies when victims had previously reported abuse.”
“The inquiry has allowed an open-season in terms of attacks on victims and on me. It has also focused on aspects of Operation Rectangle which earlier inquiry statements revealed were not part of the inquiry’s terms of reference.”
The inquiry, which began in 2014, is examining wide-ranging historical allegations of physical and sexual abuse of children in Jersey’s care system.
Months after Harper’s retirement in 2008, Jersey’s then home affairs minister, Andrew Lewis, controversially suspended the island’s chief of police, Graham Power, who had backed Operation Rectangle.
Lewis claimed that Power had mishandled oversight of the operation.
Power denied the claim, and said that he was removed because he had allowed the investigation into powerful figures on the island to continue. Disciplinary action against Power was dropped when he retired in 2010.
Operation Rectangle continued until 2010, and led to the convictions of seven people. The investigation recorded 553 alleged offences, including 315 at Haut de la Garenne, and identified 151 suspects and 192 abuse survivors.
But Jersey’s establishment faced claims of a cover-up after Harper and Power left their posts.
The island’s government set up the inquiry after its then chief minister, Terry Le Sueur, promised that “unanswered questions” would be addressed.
Harper gave a statement to the inquiry in November 2014. However, he is to submit a further statement to cover his concerns that have developed about the inquiry since then.
He said: “At the time of completing my first witness statement I had no intentions of making a supplementary statement.”
Meanwhile, Exaro revealed over the weekend how the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) had taken over Scotland Yard’s investigation into a detective suspected of leaking the identity of an abuse survivor to BBC1’s Panorama.
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