UK authorities ‘failed to stop sex abuse of children’ on British territory of St Helena

UK authorities ‘failed to stop sex abuse of children’ on British territory of St Helena

  • UK ‘failed to stop St Helena sex abuse’ says former head of health
  • Child abuse on the island was routinely ‘ignored’ as long ago as 2002
  • In some cases of child sex abuse, perpetrators let off with a fine of £50

By Francesca Infante

Published: 19 January 2015

The UK authorities ‘failed to act’ to save children from sex abuse on the British territory of St Helena and took 12 years to order an independent inquiry, according to new claims.

The Government was told child abuse on the South Atlantic island was being routinely ‘ignored’ as long ago as 2002 and that men who abused youngsters were in some cases let off with a fine of £50.

But the Foreign Office disregarded warnings that the island simply ‘couldn’t cope’ with the scale of the problem.

The UK Foreign Office disregarded warnings that child abuse was being routinely ‘ignored’ on St Helena and that men who abused youngsters were in some cases let off with a fine of £50

The UK Foreign Office disregarded warnings that child abuse was being routinely ‘ignored’ on St Helena and that men who abused youngsters were in some cases let off with a fine of £50

The explosive claims come from Ivy Ellick, a retired head of public health and social services on the island.

She claims she told the British government that the South Atlantic Island did not have the resources to protect children there.

But nothing was done and in the years between her warning and the start of the inquiry last year at least another 20 children were sexually abused on the island of 4,500 people.

Mrs Ellick, who was awarded an OBE in 2004 for her 46-year career in the St Helenian government claims, numerous abusers evaded justice because of the slowness of the authorities.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, she said: ‘They [the Foreign Office] were aware that we didn’t have the resources to cope with it because we’ve been pointing it out ever since. I said they were unfair to expect us to do it without the resources.

‘We did have some convictions of child abuse but some of them didn’t reach conviction because we didn’t have the resources to do proper investigations. The police weren’t equipped enough, they didn’t have all the tools that were necessary.

‘People were actually brought to court but once they were before the judge the case got thrown out on technical points. It happened on a couple of occasions when I was in the health and social services department.’

It wasn’t until 2014 that the British government launched an inquiry, headed by Sasha Wass, the QC who prosecuted Rolf Harris, after whistleblowers detailed abuse and an alleged cover-up by the island’s government and the Foreign Office.

Last night, a Foreign Office spokesperson said: ‘We take all measures of child abuse very seriously. Where we could act, we believe we have.

‘In recent years, we have sent police to provide training, investigate cases and look at the effectiveness of policing on St Helena.

‘In 2013 the FCO sent a child safeguarding NGO to St Helena to investigate child protection and there have also been visits from other child safeguarding experts. The FCO has also dedicated extra resource to child safeguarding.

‘However, we know from the current allegations that there is more to do to make sure that children on St Helena are given the right level of protection.’

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