February 24 2008

– Prison-like on its hilltop above Jersey’s east coast, Haut de la Garenne must have seemed a frightening prospect to the children sent to live there.

And it seems that for many troubled youngsters, their fears were all too well founded.

Today it has been modernised and refurbished, but thousands of young residents must have quaked as they approached its austere Victorian walls.

The full extent of the unbearable acts children – many with special needs – reportedly had to endure until its closure as a home in the mid-Eighties is still not known.

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Haut de la Garenne children's home in JerseyTwo further ‘punishment rooms’ have been discovered in Haut de la Garenne, police said today

As police search for bodies in the house and grounds, some former residents claimed to have been raped and assaulted.

Others say solitary confinement and other ‘dubious practices’ were among the appalling hardships endured by children in desperate need of care.

Last night one local described the alleged abuse as the ‘worst thing that has happened on the island’.

Haut de la Garenne was built in 1867 as the Industrial School for ‘young people of the lower classes of society and neglected children’.

It was meant to reduce juvenile delinquency by taking neglected children from their homes and placing them in a boarding school.

According to historians, poor behaviour led to severe punishments, with flogging or solitary confinement reserved for the worst offenders.

During the occupation of Jersey in the Second World War, the Germans used it as a signal station.

After the war, it became a school, an orphanage and then a children’s home housing up to 60 boys and girls with special needs, before closing around 20 years ago.

Jersey Senator Stuart SyvretSenator Stuart Syvret: Has spoken to alleged victims

More recently it featured as a police station in the television detective series Bergerac.

Senator Stuart Syvret, Jersey’s former minister for health and social services, was sacked after voicing concerns about children’s services on the island.

He claimed violent and sexual abuse in various children’s homes had been going on for 60 years and a culture of concealment had ensured it did not come to light.

Senator Syvret says he has spoken to two alleged victims of assault at Haut de la Garenne and they knew of others who claim to have suffered sexual abuse.

He said: ‘I have seen documents that show children were kept in solitary confinement for days and sometimes weeks on end and one child was kept in solitary for two months.

‘I have spoken to two victims from Haut de la Garenne, they told me of being flogged by canes, locked in cells in solitary confinement and I have been told of sexual abuse at that home.’

Today Haut de la Garenne, which is on Jersey’s list of historic buildings, is the island’s first youth hostel.

A £2.25million refurbishment transformed the two-storey building into a 100-bed hostel, which opened in 2004. But the house’s new identity cannot disguise its past for those who lived there when it was a care home.

In September last year, just before the police investigation was made public and when attention was focusing on a different children’s home scandal on the island, a social worker named William Emslie wrote to a website.

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Haut de la Garenne children's home in JerseyMore then 100 people have come forward to say they were victims of abuse at the care home

He had been a graduate social worker during the Eighties at a home on Jersey looking after youngsters who had lived at Haut de La Garenne before it closed.

His words give an insight into life in the home, which he described as ‘monolithic’ and run by ‘mainly untrained, unqualified staff’.

He said: “There, solitary confinement, corporal punishment and many other dubious practices were rife.

“On its closure, young people deemed ‘workable’ were farmed out, leaving us with damaged, institutionalised adolescents.”

But Mr Emslie added: “I like to think that we broke the mould.

“After two years, we had a small community of ‘unplaceable’ children who had a real investment in their home. Most are leading productive lives with decent jobs and families. All have stories to tell.”

Some of those stories from Haut de la Garenne will doubtless be of interest to detectives.

– Beth Hale & Arthur Martin


About Jumpin' Jack Cash

Deep connections are the most important aspect of my existence. I don’t care if people don’t know what they want. I love books. I’m cynical of love stories, although I’m romantic. I adore gardens. I like women who challenge me. I love the rain as an excuse to stay inside and dream. I'm furiously impatient. If I ask you a question best to tell me the truth as I'm likely to already know the answer. I'm a carnivore. I continuously underestimate the magic of fresh flowers in my home. I love warm rain in the summer. My mood elevates to epic proportions when the sun shines. Tell me not to do something and I'll do it twice and take photos. Running is my antidepressant. I loathe lies. I rarely forgive a lie. Loyalty and honesty are my most noble virtues, and I value them more than anything in other people. I love to love, and am able to fall in love very quickly, although it's only ever happened once. I understood myself and fixed myself only after destroying myself. My greatest excitement comes from deliberately getting lost in foreign cities. I can be extremely loud and frighteningly silent. I hate insinuations. I love storms. Justice for all. I'm a proud man, but welcome the influence of the feminine soul. I have two sisters. I’m a dreamer. I’m a deep thinker. Don’t deal with guilt trips or drama that well. I'm extremely stubborn and persistent. I'm brilliant at keeping secrets. I love driving. I become absolutely and completely lost while watching a burning fire. When the toast pops from the toaster I’m never ready and shit myself. I play the guitar, but require much improvement. Solitude and warmth of the sun are perfect together. I’ve been married once and now divorced. I’m a music junkie. Chocolate mousse is the shit. I curse too much. I find it difficult to make friends. I spent four years as a firefighter. I’ve run my own company since 1991. Bright lights, big cities. I’ve been an executive producer of a feature film. Some people don’t care, and that’s the biggest let-down of the human race. There are cures and solutions for many evils, but no remedy for the worst of them all - the apathy of human beings. The sound of the Italian language being spoken is as good as my favourite music. I hate corrupt cops. I relentlessly and passionately pursue anybody and anything that sets my soul on fire. I'm a dog lover, and all my dogs are considered family members. I have an obsession with photography. I have some close friends who are household names, but shall always remain anonymous. I’m crazy but not lazy. Losing a soulmate has hurt me badly. My two young sons are the nucleus of my universe. I love airports. I love freedom. If you are dishonest or disloyal, I can erase you from my life and memory immediately and permanently. I yearn to explore, dream about and discover as many friendships, deep connections and places, one possibly can in a lifetime.
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