When Journalism Works

One year ago, a group of financial and political journalists put their heads together to tackle a very onerous task: raise awareness about what is happening on the highly influential island of Jersey – the largest of the Channel Islands, a global tax shelter of some stature and a so-called “peculiar possession” of the British Crown known for its sailing and golfing, as well as hiding money and committing unspeakable crimes against children.

The goal was threefold: restore my U.K. visa, eliminate a travel ban initiated by Jersey to keep me off the island and, most importantly, see to it that the children who were victimized for decades at the Jersey children’s home Haut de la Garenne – nearly 200 of whom are still alive to tell their tale – were no longer willfully ignored.

Today, I am very happy to report that all three of those objectives have been reached, thanks to a group of intrepid journalists whom I am honored to call colleagues.

Because of them, I have just returned from my first trip to the U.K. and Jersey since my 500-day travel ban and warmly welcomed by U.K. Parliament.

Journalists from The Guardian, BBCSunday Express and VICE magazine, in addition to Jersey’s Team Voiceled by citizen journalist-cum-bloggers, Neil McMurray and Rico Sorda, contributed to my pieces on this blog and in CNN/Fortunepaving the way for the first glimmer of real hope for Jersey’s victims and the start of what may soon be some palpable changes on this idyllic island – a place that, while living in London, was my home away from home.

Politicians in both the U.K. and on the island also have put in long hours to bring these issues to the forefront.

Journalists for Jersey

Right after arriving in London on my visit, I was able to meet and personally thank the Member of Parliament most responsible for restoring my visa, John Hemming. Because of him, I received the first “writer visa” to be issued by Great Britain in years.

While the reasons for my travel ban remain under investigation (this is rather awkward, as it consists of the U.K. government effectively investigating itself) the MP and I had a chance to catch up at the Palace of Westminster, sit out on the back terrace overlooking the Thames and film this. 

My trip to Jersey brought me a still warmer welcome. Many of the islanders stopped to ask questions, the politicians had news to share and, dining out, some of the restaurant owners came by my table to shake my hand. It was a truly humbling experience.

Hope For Jersey

As for the promising changes on the island of Jersey: this week, members of Jersey’s parliament voted unanimously for a senior U.K. judge to lead a £6 million Committee of Inquiry into the island’s legacy of atrocities against children. The significance of this cannot be overstated. One year ago, it looked as though the inquiry would never get off the ground. The fact that Jersey’s legislators were unanimous in casting their votes after years of infighting and objections means they finally realize the island must give this matter a proper airing.

The reason the inquiry has taken some time is somewhat understandable. Jersey’s economic position is delicate…The island is almost completely dependent on inflows of private wealth. As a tax shelter, the buttoned-down image the island presents to the world is of utmost importance. If Jersey is seen in an unflattering light, it runs the risk of driving its persnickety, white-shoe clients away. And that would be devastating for all who live there.

While on the island, I worked closely with a team of journalists from the U.K., interviewing victims, meeting with various officials and piecing together not only how the island became synonymous with private wealth, but also how it became a destination for those seeking to prey on children. A culture of concealment among some of the island’s top bureaucrats, with assists from the U.K. mainland, appears to have acted as a buffer against bringing many of the major offenders to justice.

Predators Over Children?

To this day, high-ranking officials in Jersey’s government, judiciary, church and police force stand accused of participating in, abetting, or ignoring instances of appalling crimes against children and the island’s most vulnerable. Some of the worst offenders still walk the streets in plain sight of their victims. What happened in Jersey happened quietly and it happened to its most defenseless, but that does not make it any less deserving of redress.

I purposely refrain from using the term “child abuse” here, because it does not even begin to describe what happened to these children. These children were subjected to acts unimaginable, on par with the war crimes of the Balkans, Rwandan genocide and the Holocaust. These children were not merely raped; they were subjected to horrendous torture on a daily basis, their bones crushed, skulls cracked, bodies burned, souls broken. If they lived through it, they were sorry to have lived, because it only brought more of the same. For many, suicide was the only escape – and a welcome one.

The Committee of Inquiry has been given unprecedented powers to question what took place on the island and why. The judge approved by Jersey’s parliament this Tuesday, Sally Bradley, has 35 years of experience in family law and has worked on cases involving severe harm to children for the past 12 years. Bradley was chosen in consultation with a prominent victims’ group on the island, which observers in Jersey take to be a good sign.

That victims’ group, the Jersey Care Leavers’ Association*, is led by Carrie Modral, probably the greatest single asset to the plight of Jersey’s hundreds of victims – and a victim of years of abuse on the island herself. Carrie’s herculean efforts to rise above her own crippling pain to embrace the cause of all the victims is a testament to the strength of the human spirit. One person wrote to me of Carrie, “[Her] work for the abuse survivors has been tireless and unending.”

(*NOTE. The term “care leavers” is a reference to people who grew up in care homes, usually as children, and have now left the system. In Jersey, it is worth noting that the “care leavers” association doubles as a victims’ group. In other words, if you went to a Jersey government-run care home, you likely suffered at the hands of child abusers. Not a minor point, really.)

Jersey’s Opportunity To Heal

Jersey now faces an important moment in its history. Until now, it has been buffeted by scandal, fearing permanent damage to its reputation and the livelihood of its people if the truth should come out. In 2011, the year of my banning, the island’s top power broker and de facto foreign minister, Sir Philip Bailhache, openly lamented on his blog in a piece entitled My Manifesto: “The reputation of the states in the Island has seldom been lower.”

That fear was reflected in the statements of the victims we interviewed, who wondered if they would ever wake up to an island home capable of hearing them, believing them and not covering its ears to their suffering. “If they could only acknowledge that it happened, it happened and apologize, I could be free,” one said.

For the better part of a century, the island has weathered wars, heartbreak and strife. It is not in need of more battle anguish and bullying. It is in need of healing and relief. For the islanders to use this moment as a way to inflict more pain on one another would be to squander an opportunity to bravely face what has happened, forgive each other and themselves.

The Committee of Inquiry affords the island a chance to do so.

Jersey cannot undo what has been done. But it can draw a line in the sand that puts its dark past behind it so it can reach out a conciliatory hand to the victims and lay the groundwork for redemption and rebirth.


18 thoughts on “When Journalism Works”

  1. Leah.

    When the Child Abuse Inquiry (Operation Rectangle) was closed down we were still left with MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS

    We are hoping that Sally Bradley QC will be able to get some of these answers but she will have a fight on her hands due to our secret impenetrable Law Office that is the true power in Jersey.

    Jersey needs to be able to move forward, and as you say, draw a line in the sand. If Sally Bradley QC is able to conduct her investigation without too much hindrance, as an Island, we can begin to heal.

    As you are aware some abuse victims/survivors are STILL being treated, by our government/Law Offices the same as they were when being abused and trying to report their abuse by being called liars and worse.

    I’m not sure the victims and survivors can ever fully recover from their ordeal and treatment, but they do have a growing number of people supporting them as more people become aware of the evidence published on local blogs which is covered up by our State Media.

  2. Leah.

    Your readers might be interested in the official “Summary Report” involving the excavation at Haute de la Garenne which details the finds of the juvenile remains unearthed at the home as mentioned in your posting. It used to be available on the states of Jersey Police website but has since been removed.

    It is a chilling read and can be read HERE

  3. Hi Leah,

    As you know, Team Voice have spent many years uncovering the cover-up of the cover-up. This has been a lonely journey for most of the time until some very grounded Jersey Politicians joined the struggle. Without team work, none of the above regarding the Committee of Enquiry could have been possible. It was great meeting you and the team of Journalists.

    Giving the victims of horrific abuse a voice and a chance to share their experiences to a committee of enquiry is so important. Believing and listening to the victims has also been so very important on this journey.

    On a personal level I have learnt that you can stand up and be counted. Show no fear. Believe in what you are doing and trying to achieve and never give up. I have taken 4 years out of my life to this struggle and every single second has been worth it. The journey isn’t complete. There is still much to do. But I thank you to the bottom of my heart for taking up this horrific story – this goes to every outside journalist who has shown the courage to get involved.

    Team Voice will never stop until the complete story has been told and the victims of horrific abuse can start rebuilding their lives.

    <A HREF="http://ricosorda.blogspot.com/"<http://ricosorda.blogspot.com/

    There will always be those who choose not to believe. Their minds cannot be changed but this story will be told.

  4. The above quote by indy journalist Rico Sorda, says, “There will always be those who choose not to believe. Their minds cannot be changed but this story will be told.”

    The fact that the well evidenced story will be told is very much to the credit of the excellent Jersey bloggers, a few politicians in Jersey and the UK, Stuart Syvret, the courageous survivors and Leah McGrath Goodman. Those who chose not to believe may not change their own minds but their children will know the accurate, thoroughly documented history which will leave no room for doubt. Respect to all who refused to give up.

  5. Leah.

    This is wholly unsubstantiated rubbish. I’m certain children have been abused in Jersey by twisted weirdos, as with everywhere else, yesterday and today. Your cause would be helped by focusing on that, with evidence, as opposed to this first year university sensationalistic, content free tripe. You sound like a fool.

    1. LMG has over a decade of experience working in some of the most rigorous journalism beats on the planet. Her book, the Asylum, was disliked by a few very wealthy very powerful people, but they couldn’t do anything about it because she could back up everything she wrote and she knows what she is doing. I’m wagering that she doesn’t say things without evidence or reason.

    2. It looks as though THOMAXI hasn’t read one of the links I supplied earlier so would encourage him to do so if it is evidence of children’s remains he is looking for. To include bones that were “fresh and fleshed when burnt and buried” and a whole multitude of others. The “evidence” is the Official police Summary Report that also documents “Enquiries at this time are suggestive that the human remains were deposited in this area and covered with top soil in a deliberate act of concealment.” And “The EVRD alert indications were confirmed by intrusive archaeological excavation and sieving. A significant number of bone fragments and teeth have been recovered which have been corroborated as human.”

      Please read the Summary Report HERE

  6. I’m sorry to say this but I smell potential for another partial or full whitewash. They will let a few dominoes fall, just like they have in the UK, but those close to the real top are always going to be ignored or let off the hook by any “official enquiry”. Sorry if this sounds negative. I have more hope for and about Leah’s own investigations.

  7. I wish the enquiry every success and hope that it’s the first effective step along a path to expose the deep corruption in the UK

  8. Congratulations Leah! Getting the Committee of Inquiry established was a major accomplishment by you, along with the courageous politicians, other reporters and bloggers of Jersey and the UK who have been working to expose the wrongs that were committed. Now the pressure has to be kept up to make sure that all the facts are uncovered and the atrocities made public.

    1. Thank you! It is a good first step. And yes, it has been the result of many people looking to see this happen. Believe me, it is clear it will be all uphill, but the island is worth it.

  9. Many thanks to Leah, for not giving up. We will never forget the wrong doings done to us, whilst under the so called care of the States of Jersey. Yet they still hide the facts. But sincerely believe, the truth will never be exposed. We were not believed then and sure won’t be believed, in all what we try to tell, as so many doors are shut tight.

    1. Robbie, it is wonderful to hear from you. I have heard these sentiments from many during the course of my interviews. And I tell everyone the same thing: you are already believed. Please just focus on the healing. We will do the rest. On a personal note, I am deeply sorry for all you and your brothers experienced. I read your book in the summer of 2010 when I was in London (frankly, it was the only place I could buy the book, as when I tried to buy it in Jersey the booksellers in St. Helier told me they had been forbidden from selling it). I find that rather strange, although it seems the book is available now.

  10. You were not allowed into UK because you had the wrong visa. Stop leaving out the facts

    1. Thank you for this, Mr. Smith. Just to catch you up: The UKBA recorded that I entered the U.K. multiple times on the same visa doing the same work as a writer — no issues. The UKBA also confirmed it was Jersey that took the unusual step of blocking me (after I disclosed my research into Haut de la Garenne). I am assuming you have some other facts to counter what is being expressed in the link below? If so, please feel free to share them. Reputable sources of information and credible links, as always, encouraged and appreciated. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2013-14/344

  11. Jersey is so fascinating because it is a microcosm demonstrating what is going wrong in most democracies with their polity, media and business interests.

    Much remains secret in Jersey because the ruling cliques keep it behind closed doors and “in house” will not allow a functioning FOI [Freedom of Information] law. In spite of this, we are given an unusually clear view of “how it works” because the cliques have been historically untouchable which has bred a brazen overconfidence, which has led to breathtaking carelessness.

    Controlling/owning the local media gave them the confidence to cover up literally anything, but to do it so poorly and incompetently that it is obvious to the remotely ‘intel’ possessing even a snippet of background.

    Most cover-ups unravel immediately unravel upon outside scrutiny while they lie through their teeth.

    I hope you will allow a brief aside/background on one of the main ‘movers and shakers’ in Jersey.

    First it is worth viewing this 2 minute video:

    It is a minor scandal by Jersey standards but Jersey MSM [mainstream media] is doing its best to ignore and manage “Bailhache-gate” which is currently across many of the Jersey Blogs. […]

    1. Re: HIDS at JULY 23, 2013 AT 9:30 AM
      What a profoundly descriptive statement about the overconfidence of those who have been exposed along with their cover-ups in Jersey. Some may have been expensive and elaborate cover-ups, as with the new police regime brought in after Graham Power’s suspension to assist with an elaborate spin display of demonstrable falsehoods, but even that has been unraveled almost completely by bloggers. The Jersey cover-ups I’ve observed appear to be extremely amateurish, yet arrogant, with responsible authorities responding to most questions of accountability with lofty indignation. This is complicated by the fact that local mainstream media outlets seem to take actual offense at most attempts to speak truth to power. These media representatives have shown themselves to be downright anti-journalistic in principle, as seen in the Visa/banning example, the BBC refusal to disclose documented evidence contrary to demonstratively untrue official statements and the remarkably unprofessional contempt they publicly show for opposition politicians and even bloggers and other citizens who ask questions about government accountability.

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