If you had forgotten that we had colonies and did not know that they were a dangerously dysfunctional check out this report by Sasha Wass QC re St Helena, our colony in the middle of the Atlantic. Imagine if somebody wrote such a damning report about a community in mainland UK which has a population of 4,000.....Unsurprisingly this report came out on 10th December and a new Governor was announced on 20 January
The report is here but here is a taster...
b. The administration of the St Helena Government and that of its departments have
failed to establish management practices, procedures and guidelines to ensure
c. There is a lack of continuity when managers are replaced. There is a failure of overlap
on handovers or a failure to create best practice manuals to ensure that incomers
learn from past experience and benefit from prior reports.
d. Some of those responsible for directorial oversight were found to be inexperienced
and ignorant of best practice. This has resulted in their inability to question front-line
professional staff and hold them to account.
e. The existence of previous reports and recommendations ought to provide a
touchstone for newly arriving staff; instead, new recruits appear to be unaware of
them. Consequently, lessons need to be relearned at regular intervals through the
intervention of yet more costly investigations, studies, reports and inquiries.
14 The Wass Inquiry Report
f. We saw one example of employment gaps in Social Services whereby the only
qualified social worker on St Helena left her post in May 2012 and it was not until
June 2012 that the St Helena Government even started advertising for qualified social
workers to work on the island. Claire Gannon was appointed to take up the post in
early 2013. St Helena Social Services had been without a qualified social worker on
the island for a period of nine months. Claire Gannon was presented with a chaotic
and unmanned Social Services Department on her arrival on St Helena. Her lack of
recent experience in front-line social work meant that she found herself completely
out of her depth. Although this cannot excuse the unprofessional behaviour she went
on to exhibit, it should be recognised that Claire Gannon was not properly briefed for
the task that confronted her when she arrived on St Helena in February 2013.
1.49 In addition to the systemic failings, the Inquiry did find that, during the current
incumbent’s tenure, Governor Capes’ attention was specifically drawn to matters which
required urgent consideration by an email from Viv Neary, the Child Protection Coordinator
for British Overseas Territories, in March 2012. These included the lack of a formal
arrangement for fostering children on the island; and the fact that the only qualified social
worker was due to leave in May 2012 with no replacement ready to take over.
1.50 Neither of those two matters was resolved by the Governor, and his failure to heed
the warnings given to him directly impacted on the complications that arose during the
Child F adoption case in late 2013 and early 2014. The full facts of that case are addressed
in Chapter 8.
1.51 The Inquiry Panel was disappointed to learn that one of the legitimate complaints
made by former Police Constable Anderson in his letter of November 2012 remained
unresolved at the time of the Inquiry Panel’s visit to St Helena in March 2015. Mr Anderson
specifically complained about a case in which a sex offender had been convicted on
Ascension Island and sentenced to a community order by the Ascension Island Magistrates’
Court. The man in question was deported to St Helena, where he breached the community
order. He was brought before the same Chief Magistrate who had sentenced him and who
was now presiding over the St Helena Magistrates’ Court. The legal position was that the
St Helena Magistrates’ Court had no power to deal with the breach of a community order
which had been imposed by the Ascension Island Magistrates’ Court. In giving his judgment
in October 2012, the Chief Magistrate made it plain that this matter required urgent action
and that the passing of an Ordinance would resolve the matter quickly. Despite the fact that
former Police Constable Anderson had specifically drawn attention to this legal anomaly,
the St Helena Government had failed to deal with it by March 2015, when the Inquiry Panel
visited the island. We can find no excuse for this oversight.