#FreeJersey: A Small Island Fights For Its Democracy

The Jewel Of The Channel Islands

Almost everyone has heard of New Jersey, but few people have heard of “old” Jersey — the 5-by-9-mile island just off the coast of France that belongs to the British Crown and is best known for its wonderful Jersey cream, cows and potatoes.

What it is less known for: Jersey stows more tax-shelter money than any other offshore financial center on the planet.  (That’s right, more than the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Guernsey, the Isle of Man, the British Virgin Islands, you name it.) In fact, name any global bank or quote-unquote paragon of finance and it will almost certainly have some kind of presence here.

For hundreds of years, Jersey was torn asunder by the territorial pissings of England and France — an accident of geography, really, since the island lies in the English Channel between the two countries. As a result, its roads all have very long, ornate French names, but the people of the island speak the Queen’s English.

Another result: the island has an institutional memory of war, not excluding its status as a major base for Germany in WWII (which regarded Jersey as a great jumping-off point for the final showdown it was planning with Britain). Because of this, Jersey has learned to be extremely wary of outsiders.

Jersey: Tiny, But Complicated

Jersey is a self-governing, parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy with its own financial, legal and judicial systems. Its currency is pegged to the British pound, but it prints its own money, votes for its own senators and makes its own laws. Indeed, Jersey has an extremely polished external image that has earned it a very high ranking among the world’s tax havens, but internally its democracy appears to be foundering.

As someone who fell in love with Jersey when I was living in the UK, I have friends on the island and found myself looking into the problems there. A flashpoint in my research was the scandal surrouding an orphanage called Haut de la Garenne, where unspeakable violence, abuse and possible murder took place against children for decades — and yet the government did not stop it. An investigation finally undertaken in 2008 was shut down and the chief of police was suspended — twice – which seemed gratuitous. Those who stood accused largely went untried, but when the island’s health minister objected to this — and would not stop objecting – he was jailed. Also twice. Some of those who were labeled “priority suspects” by the island’s police are now working in high-level government positions in health and education where they continue to have indefensible access to children.

Jersey’s Campaign

Exactly one year ago today, I was banned from the UK as a result of my research into these events. I have continued my work from the U.S. and have had many outstanding supporters in the UK who have kept me going. Among them are Deputy Trevor Pitman, a member of Jersey’s Parliament, who put up a petition today in support of my return. If you believe in the power of the press and the right of even a very small, insular island to stand up for its democracy, please sign this petition (ten seconds) and spread the word. My ability to do my job in this case depends on it.

Today, my travel ban will expire due to the efforts of UK Member of Parliament John Hemming. But I will not be able to work safely until my UK visa is restored. Hence, the reason for Deputy Pitman’s petition (which, if you haven’t signed it yet, again, here it is: http://chn.ge/QCp7qy).

In addition, a group of Jersey citizens — including bloggers, current and former elected officials and concerned residents of the island — have issued a statement of solidarity this afternoon. It is their hope that by joining forces online, where they can best reach the international community for help and support, they can make a stand in defense of their island’s democracy. Featured on the Web site of Neil McMurray, one of the lead bloggers, I have posted their statement here:

Jersey’s Citizen Solidarity

Today is not a day to focus on right-wing versus left-wing politics, but the difference between right and wrong.

When a democratic government abuses its substantial legal, legislative and financial powers to crack down on journalists’ freedom of speech, force policemen and elected officials from their jobs and systemically dismantle its own checks and balances so as to deny each of its targets due process, clearly it is a government that has lost its way.

Jersey, the jewel in the crown of the Channel Islands, may be one of the world’s leading offshore financial centres, but it has begun to use its clout against its own people –and it is keeping the rest of its population in the dark about it. This is now a place where court and legislative records – those that are public anyway – can now be redacted. This is an island where secret trials are now allegedly taking place and elected officials are forced to debate key issues in secret. Web content is banned and journalists booted out. This is not the way a democratic government is supposed to be run.

Again, this is not about politics. It is about standing up for truth, honesty and integrity. It is about restoring the good name of our beautiful island whose reputation has been dragged through the mud by those attempting to cover-up the facts surrounding some of the most heinous crimes known to man – crimes of violence against children. Crimes the vast majority of islanders would never defend, yet most of those who stand accused of committing them have not been brought to justice and continue to walk among us and our children. Worse, these alleged perpetrators remain entrenched in some of the very highest echelons of Jersey’s government –working in departments that focus on children. It is beyond comprehensible.

On an island where children in need of care have been let down by the government for decades – and continue to be let down – we cannot afford to ignore or repeat our mistakes. More broadly, challenging the government’s current decisions, particularly when not made in the best interest of the public, should not require bottomless financial resources and friends in high places. We are supposed to be a democracy, right?

With our checks and balances hamstrung, the international and independent media may be our last chance at reclaiming our democracy and re-establishing rule of law.

Today, Jersey politician Deputy Trevor Pitman launched an e-petition on Change.org in support of the return of U.S. investigative journalist and author, Leah McGrath Goodman, to the island to continue her research into decades of child abuse at Jersey’s state-run “care”homes and allegations of cover-ups in the wake of the government’s removal of the chief of police and shut-down of the investigation.

One year ago today, Ms. Goodman was banned from the UK and Jersey for two years after revealing to the Jersey Customs and Immigration Service during a voluntary meeting that she was writing a book on atrocities against children at Haut de la Garenne. According to the UK Border Force, she was flagged by Jersey Immigration authorities for removal upon her next border crossing – and that is exactly what happened. After the intervention of UK Member of Parliament John Hemming, the ban was reduced to one year and it expires today, 11 September 2012. That said, the UK and Jersey have so far declined to restore Ms. Goodman’s visa or allow her cross the border to continue her research. In order to do so safely, she will need to have her Tier -1 visa status fully restored – hence, the reason for Deputy Pitman’s e-petition.

Leah McGrath Goodman should be permitted to complete her work in order that there is an accurate record based on the available facts and evidence. Jersey needs to confront the failings of its past so it can redress them and, most of all, ensure the safety of our children’s future.

We ask readers who care about the island’s children, who care about the island’s reputation, who believe in a free press and who want the truth to be told to sign Deputy Pitman’s e-petition. We also ask fellow bloggers to copy and paste this blog onto their own Web sites so that we may show the world that Jersey wants the best for its future and its children. It is time to leave our island’s culture of secrecy behind and demand the kind of free and open society our island deserves. Those who would do otherwise are not representative of the majority of islanders.

Please spread the word and sign this petition. The Internet is the one thing Jersey authorities have not been able to lock down. For those who tweet this campaign, please use the #FreeJersey hashtag.

While Jersey may try to keep journalists out, it cannot keep us for letting the truth in.

 

Comments

  1. Leah, and Deputy Trevor Pitman.

    Thank you for giving the voiceless a VOICE

  2. Hi Leah,

    Thank you for showing an interest in the cover-up of decades long abuse in the Jersey Care Homes. The Jersey Bloggers have stood fast in exposing the malfeasance in public office of the ruling elite.

    We do this with zero protection. We do this because we care deeply about what happened to the defenceless children and our beautiful island.

    We will not stop. We need outside investigative journalists taking a look at our plight

    Thank you for not giving up

    Rico Sorda (Jersey Blogger) Part Time Investigative Journalist

    Child Abuse Cover-Up

    • Leah McGrath Goodman says:

      Rico – right back at you.

    • where unspeakable violence, abuse
      minor punishment and hazing
      and possible murder
      No evidence whatsoever
      took place against children for decades
      If you are referring to decades of murder, I am curious about the lack of even one bone and the lack of any disappeared victims.

      • Leah McGrath Goodman says:

        Foolsgold: I publish your comment out of fairness only. For the record, you can find plenty of reports on the bones — for instance, with Jersey’s police department. The fact investigators have had troubling tracking “disappeared” victims should not be that surprising, seeing as these children have DISAPPEARED. That said, there are records of vanished children who were sent to Haut de la Garenne, with many of them claiming the children ran away. On an island surrounded by ocean where no one bothers to lock their car because said car will be found in a manner of hours, it seems to me unlikely a child could get very far. Remember, even when Jersey was occupied by the Nazis, residents of the island realized they could not escape and remained there even to the point of starving.

        • Jersey Resident says:

          As a Jersey resident who’s family have lived on the island for several generations – your comment regarding the Nazi occupation is rather insulting. If you knew any Jersey history you would know that the Germans took over all of the beaches on the island, building defences and not allowing the local people access. Jersey residents including my family had no choice when the Germans occupied the island – our family farm was taken over as German Officers moved in. The people were left with nothing. If you tried to escape, you were shot or sent to prisoner of war camps. This was a truly terrible time in our history and before you comment on it so flippantly, you should get your facts straight! There is a large difference between not getting off the island during an occupation compared to times of peace. Growing up in the 80’s on the island I can inform you that it would have been perfectly easy to ‘escape’ as you put it.

          • Leah McGrath Goodman says:

            I can very much appreciate the horror of the German Occupation. I’ve been to the war tunnels in Jersey and have stayed in a number of the buildings formerly occupied by the Nazis on the island. I am not sure what facts you are challenging here. Perhaps you can elaborate? Bottom line, whether trapped as a child or and adult, any occupation is painful. That goes for orphans in children’s homes as well as your family under the Nazis. Even so, I would be most interested in talking to you when I return to Jersey. I would think you could provide a unique viewpoint as someone with personal knowledge of the island’s history.

  3. I live in Guernsey (sister island to Jersey) and have followed the various blogs since Stuart Started blogging, at first I was sceptic of his allegations, but as time passed and more facts came to light I realised things were far worse than I had originally considered a possibility.

    I have also been shocked at times by how many States members have voted in a rather perverse way, and shocked at how the local “accredited media” seemed to ignore the facts and questions that truth seeking media would normally chase after.

    My local paper the Guernsey Press is owned by the same shareholders as the Jersey Evening Press, but seemingly unlike the JEP, it will challenge and often take Guernsey government to task, the none investigative or bad journalism appears to be contained to the JEP.

    I have also seen how the Channel TV have at times given Guernsey politicians a hard time, for issues lower down the scale of public interest, I find myself muttering “why did you not question X in the same manner”!! I guess they do it believing it to counter criticism, but it seems odd because is safe stuff.

    I’m glad your not giving up and hope you can gain a very wide audience for what is happening, especially to Stuart.

  4. I wish to offer my support, and as a retired journalist, mother and grandmother from New Zealand, If there is anything I am able to do to assist you to further this investigation, please let me know.
    “May the wind be always at your back”

  5. clive broadhead says:

    Companies operating in the UK and Jersey should not be allowed to do business in the EU unless they comply with the EU financial services regulations. The social and child care services provided by any public sector bodies operating within the EU also need to comply with the provisions of the relevant EU regulations.

  6. Hi Leah.

    Good interview with Max K. Good to see so many people from so many different countries signing the petition. Many of those people will simply not believe the extent to which our own media has either been cowed or bought and sold by those who view our island as a private ‘club’ for the wealthy and powerful ‘elite’. Thank you for helping us get the message out. We are, I’m afraid, ‘the island that democracy forgot’…

    Regards

    Trevor

  7. Maureen Pinwill says:

    I hope none of you stop digging as it is so very important that the cover-up is seen for what it is. I am only a housewife with limited means I wish there was something I could do. All I can do at the moment is support you all.

  8. I am pleased to see that the banner for democracy has finally awakened more supporters. For many years former senator Stuart Syvret was banging his head against a brick wall, people thinking he was a nut case. But at long last, there are now others taking up the baton such as yourself Leah and Deputy Pitman. Thank-you for taking the time and trouble to apply investigative journalism along with our local bloggers. Truth will win in the end doesn’t matter how long it takes.

  9. As an islander who loves Jersey but no longer lives there, I am horrified at this attack on free speech. Even if Leah McGrath Goodman is totally wrong, she should still be allowed to investigate and write her book. How can we accuse the Vatican of hushing things up on their abusive priests, if we are doing the same. If this had all been dealt with when it first came to light a few years ago, Jersey would by now be on the road to recovery (or not, but purged).

    As it is we face another possible Hillsboro situation. Twenty three years after the original event – the scandal of the cover up is heaped upon the scandal of the disaster at the stadium, making this ten times worse!

    Jersey risks the same. The truth NEVER fades away. There will always be someone ferreting away at it -this time from across the Atlantic!

    It all breaks my heart! For those of you who have never visited, Jersey is the most beautiful of islands full of warm-hearted and decent people who do not deserve this.

  10. anne de gruchy says:

    I do hope you come to Jersey Leah, that way you can find out the truth for yourself. Neither Deputy Pitman or Stuart Syvret speak for the people here; they only speak for a tiny minority of conspiracy theorists. There is a good reason while Stuart Syvret is an ex-senator, simply, the people did not vote him back in. Please open you eyes when you come here.

    • Leah McGrath Goodman says:

      Anne: Perhaps if Jersey let me in, I could come to Jersey and see for myself. Right now, Jersey Immigration is doing its best to be difficult. (They advised I get a Writer’s visa, for example, but say there is no form for such a visa.) That said, I am very attached to the island and its people; I have wonderful friends there and nothing will change that bond. (Btw, I have to ask, are you in any way related to Jersey’s large estate-management firm De Gruchy & Co.?)

      • Anne de gruchy says:

        Sadly not! I do manage an estate of sorts….. But it’s a one bedroom flat! Good luck with your visa. The problem with bloggers is they can pretty much say whatever they want. Every time things get disproved its perceived to be all part of the conspiracy. We even had a comment on a site last week that suggested the queen was in on it! Amazing !

        • Leah McGrath Goodman says:

          True, there are definitely issues with information being indiscriminately crop-dusted across the “blogosphere.” I believe conspiracies to be very rare, corruption all too common. Time will tell what this is. It does not seem at this juncture, though, there is any need to cast aspersions on the Queen.

          Please keep in touch. I would like to hear as much as I can from islanders who are watching this unfold and have opinions about how things on both sides are being handled. For example, did you see this (see link below) Friday? The comments section underneath makes for interesting reading.:

          http://www.thisisjersey.com/news/2012/10/19/%E2%80%98stop-damaging-our-reputation-abroad%E2%80%99/

  11. It’s not the crime, it’s the coverup… It may take years before we know who banned McGrath Goodman, and why they did it… but these things seem to have a way of coming out in the long run. Someone had to specifically tell someone else to ban her, and someone had to put her name on a list somewhere. All of that leaves tracks, trails, evidence. What were they trying to hide?

    Now that Savile has come out, and been linked to Jersey, and Haute, and the Welsh child abuse inquiry has been revealed as somewhat lacking in thoroughness, the speculation runs rampant in the mind. If someone in Jersey government told someone else to ban McGrath Goodman, were they doing it because they knew something about the child abuse? Were they trying to protect someone? Who were they protecting? Were they simply following orders – and whose orders?

    It is no longer a conspiracy theory. We now have the data. Data by the hundreds. We know that Savlie lied. And we know he lied about being in Jersey. And about being at Haut. Who brought him to Jersey? Why did he go there? Where did he hear about the place? Who were his sources?

  12. I still wonder why the bars in jersey are more famous then others, I guess the service, the environment and the big screen live sports, singing events and competitive price are the reason, are they? I can say one can find the finest breweries here!

  13. truly, the jersey island is the jewel of English channel islands, this is the most southern island there, I have returned from there after 20 days holiday, I thank to all locals who helped us to explore this place also I found good doctors in jersey when I had a mild fever.

  14. SEan swasey says:

    It is disgusting, the abuse of power that goes on in so called free democratic states. This is not an isolated incident where children are abused by people in high ranking government positions. This is the dirty little secret that most “affluent members of society” participate in. I think it is heroic of you to expose this and hopefully open the eyes of society at large as to what goes on in the dark. Hopefully this sparks more investigation world wide into this type of activity. Just think of how many children go missing never to be heard from again and end up in these “high class” child sex rings. This is an epidemic. Keep up the awesome work. You are a crusader.

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