A grandchild’s plea halts the former detective’s jaw-dropping tale of depravity and corruption midflow. ‘I’ve left my daughter’s boy hosing moss off the patio,’ Lenny Harper explains after he puts down his mobile phone. ‘The lad’s having such a good time, he wants me to go home and join in.’
Harper, 57, who initiated the controversial Jersey child abuse inquiry, could be forgiven for putting the investigation behind him and, after 35 years of police work, embracing retirement.
He and his wife Christina help look after two grandchildren, aged five and eight. The couple’s youngest daughter was widowed six years ago when her husband, the commanding officer of the Royal Military Police in Iraq, was killed in Basra.
But despite family demands – or perhaps because of them – Harper is now speaking for the first time about his experiences on Jersey. He is determined, as he sees it, to set the record straight and show that the ‘establishment’ attacking him is not only wrong, but rotten to the core.
Harper, a no-nonsense Ulsterman, spent his last year of service at the centre of world media attention, as journalists descended on the tiny tax haven to report on the police excavation of the former children’s home at Haut de la Garenne. Inmates had described horrific abuse taking place there and of children disappearing, never to be seen again. It was thought that bodies might be found.
After Harper retired last August, a new team of detectives denounced their predecessors’ concerns, skills and findings. Even the 65 children’s teeth unearthed from the home’s cellars were, the new men suggested, left for the tooth fairy.
Controversy still rages over the provenance and date of materials discovered at the site and police now say there were no murders. None of the three men – two of them former care workers – charged with abuse has yet been tried, and the Jersey authorities have portrayed the alleged victims as compensation-hungry criminals.
Graham Power, the head of States of Jersey Police, has been suspended, accused of illegal spending on the inquiry. Harper, his former deputy, has been ordered to return to the island for questioning about the alleged theft of documents. Two weeks ago, Stuart Syvret, Jersey’s former health minister who raised the issue of abuse, was arrested under data protection laws, accused of leaking material to the media.
Harper, dressed in a crinkled cream suit, seems genuinely unfazed. ‘I’ve served in Brixton, Peckham, Glasgow – I’m used to flak,’ he says. ‘I don’t care what a few establishment cover-up merchants and their pet poodles say about me. But I do care about the victims on Jersey. I’ll keep speaking up for their sake.’
Last month, he supported an application at London’s High Court by Syvret to ensure that the trials of any alleged Jersey abusers are heard in Britain by British judges. However, the court rejected the bid.
But Harper insists the alleged victims cannot expect justice from what he says is the nepotistic Jersey establishment, where police, lawyers and politicians often socialise together or are related. He has now shared the contents of his shocking High Court statement exclusively with The Mail on Sunday. It details the corruption he claims to have uncovered on the island long before he began investigating child abuse.
‘The vast majority of cops on Jersey are honest and we owed it to them to bring to book the guys bringing them into disrepute,’ Harper says. ‘But the response of the authorities was to suppress everything.’
Harper was recruited to Jersey by Graham Power in May 2002 and learned quickly that the island had its own unique way of dealing with things.
‘I joined the States of Jersey Police as the Head of Operations in the rank of chief superintendent,’ he says. ‘Within weeks I realised that local politicians expected a degree of control over day-to-day operations that no UK police force would tolerate.’
The island operates an ancient, parallel system of Honorary Police – elected lay-people such as farmers or businessmen who can countermand the States of Jersey force. Extraordinary as it seems, only Honorary Police have the right to charge suspects.
The Connetable – the head Honorary Constable in each of the island’s 12 parishes –automatically has a seat in the States Assembly. The Honorary Police therefore appear, claims Harper, ‘hopelessly politicised’.
Custody sergeants have to consult these volunteers and advise them of all their evidence against suspects. Harper says: ‘Several times early in my posting I had to protest to the Attorney General’s legal advisers about a refusal to charge in cases where the evidence was overwhelming.’
The first serious challenge to Harper’s authority came when he tried to tackle arsenals of firearms on the island. The population of about 90,000 people held 10,000 licensed guns – and numerous unlicensed weapons including semi-automatic rifles. Yet Harper’s attempts to take action were repeatedly blocked by politicians.
‘Strenuous attempts were made to intimidate us into not taking action with allegations that we were Brits who did not understand the Jersey way of life,’ he says. ‘I was accused of trying to turn Jersey into Basingstoke.’
Some arms licences had been granted in the knowledge that the applicant had criminal convictions, and Harper launched covert surveillance of some colleagues. Following a tip-off, he raided the home of a police civilian employee.
‘I recovered a huge number of firearms lying unsecured in a bedroom, including an RPG7 rocket launcher,’ recalls Harper. ‘Among the weapons were some that had been handed into the police previously for destruction. On the floor were 7.62mm rifles, machine guns, Magnum revolvers and a large quantity of ammunition.’ A Sea Cat missile launcher – usually carried on warships – was kept outside the home.
‘The employee was eventually convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition,’ says Harper. The man was also convicted at a police disciplinary hearing of other offences, including falsifying records. But to Harper’s astonishment, he was not dismissed and the force had to take him back. Harper eventually forced him to resign.
During his investigation, Harper discovered that hundreds of people had not bothered to renew their firearms certificates and so launched a licensing campaign. ‘We started arresting those people who did not renew their licences. They included police officers, politicians, lawyers and other prominent people. Most pleaded guilty and were given tiny fines by a sympathetic magistrate.
‘Politicians met and assisted corrupt police officers and their dishonest associates to mount high-profile media campaigns locally, alleging that they had been wrongly treated.’ Undaunted, Harper pressed on.
‘One guy asked for a gun to shoot pests and got one powerful enough to kill an elk, with a range of over two miles. Another had built up a horrifying arsenal of weapons and had been granted a firearms certificate by a Connetable despite being convicted in 1992 of possessing a prohibited weapon and supplying controlled drugs.’ When police raided his house, they recovered 18 weapons and 183,000 rounds of ammunition – enough to shoot Jersey’s population. Twice.
Harper has no idea why islanders amassed such arsenals and is reluctant to speculate on the reasons.
On another occasion, Harper says he discovered three employees were using police money to buy computers for private use. Some stored pornography. The Attorney General’s department refused to take legal action and politicians defended the employees. Harper ensured two were dismissed and the third eventually resigned.
In a separate case, three detectives were discovered selling intelligence to women linked to drug dealers in return for sex, says Harper. Despite film and audio evidence, no prosecution was authorised.
Secret filming of one detective’s office showed him kissing and being massaged by a lover. She then examined confidential police files relating to international terrorism. This same detective also sent texts to another lover, a convicted criminal and drugs gang associate, when three terrorist suspects were held in custody. He was also recorded divulging almost the whole of a Confidential Criminal Intelligence Report on a local criminal to his wife so it could be passed to the offender.
The same officer also kept at home personal details of someone offering intelligence on Northern Ireland. ‘The IRA have long been connected to Jersey,’ says Harper.
‘The island is a gateway to the UK and politicians’ indifference to security was astonishing.’
A criminal file was submitted to the Attorney General. The officer later pleaded guilty to 11 disciplinary charges and was ordered to resign.
The powers that be also seemed set on protecting the many officers accepting favours, such as foreign holidays, from a local businessman.
‘Some 16 to 20 officers admitted to me that they were being paid, in kind or otherwise,’ says Harper. Given that Jersey has only 240 paid police, this amounted to almost ten per cent of the force.
‘A file was submitted to the Attorney General seeking the prosecution of the businessman and a key officer for bribery and corruption. No case was brought. I then decided to prosecute the officer for a number of less serious offences for which the Attorney General’s authority was not needed. He was charged with offences of misuse of computers and was convicted of five such charges in the magistrates court.
‘The Attorney General also agreed to charge the businessman, but he was granted a number of adjournments at court. A few days after I left the island, all charges were dropped and he was awarded costs.’
During the Haut de la Garenne inquiry, Harper received dozens of abusive letters. He still has them, signed and written on headed notepaper. One says: ‘You are CRAP at your job. Would you PLEASE PLEASE give the JEP [Jersey Evening Post] a different photo. I had 7 of those and have used them all on the dartboard. I can understand why you don’t want to go back home, at least here you are quite safe. You never hear of people’s houses being Fire Bombed or Having Cars Torched. I’m sure you know what I mean.’
Harper says: ‘The author and four corrupt ex-officers made formal complaints against me. Four out of five so far have been found to be vexatious or unsubstantiated. But it was astonishing to find politicians supporting them.’
The former police chief also discussedthe island’s culture of ‘perks’. ‘We prosecuted abusers at one school. A senior teacher told us, in all seriousness, that the children were abused only as some sort of reward for all the hard work he had put into them, like it was a teacher’s perk.’
The Haut de la Garenne inquiry developed when, as part of the worldwide Operation Ore, the commanding officer of the Jersey sea cadets was arrested in 2006 for downloading pornographic images of children. Paul Every was subsequently convicted of child pornography offences.
Harper discovered that allegations against sea cadet volunteers went back years. ‘Some of the victims were children from Haut de la Garenne, taken sailing for a treat. The victims described being taken into international waters, where guests were invited to abuse them.
‘The allegations hadn’t been investigated properly. Two senior police officers had put pressure on junior detectives not to interview the perpetrators, and were implicated in the disappearance of evidence and putting pressure on victims to retract. These officers were also members of the yachting fraternity.’
So why did police make the dramatic decision to excavate Haut de la Garenne? According to Harper’s High Court statement, the £7.5million operation began only after extensive consultation with UK experts and police.
After Harper’s departure last summer, the course of the investigation was radically altered. The inquiry has now, Harper claims, effectively ground to a halt. Before leaving the island he succeeded in charging three suspects with serious sexual offences. But nearly a year later, none has been tried.
Soon after taking over, Harper’s successors called a Press conference to attack his inquiry. He was depicted as an over-excitable and inexperienced officer.
Yet during his career Harper had run ‘several dozen’ murder inquiries, ‘more rape and abuse cases than I can count’ and won two of his five commendations for tackling terrorism in Northern Ireland. He also has a Masters degree in criminal justice.
Harper shows me professional assessments made on him only when I ask for them. In one, Sir William Rae, the former Strathclyde Chief Constable, praised him as ‘intelligent, articulate and dedicated’.
‘We worked very hard to win the victims’ confidence,’ Harper says of the Haut de la Garenne inquiry. ‘I think now they will feel that there is nothing that they can do.
‘Jersey is claiming that I left with loads of documents, unused material that could be needed in court. I think they’re saying that so that cases can be thrown out. I have offered to go to any court in the UK and answer questions about alleged unused material.’
Harper ended his affidavit to the High Court by saying: ‘With such an absence of controls, such an absence of accountability, the ordinary, decent citizens of Jersey are helpless. Intentionally or not, the system has allowed corruption to flourish to such an extent that those seeking to combat it are the ones open to scorn.’
While he is grateful for the ‘ tremendous support’ he received from many fellow officers and islanders during the Haut de la Garenne inquiry, Harper concedes there were times when personal attacks left him depressed. Some of those police officers he had prosecuted or forced to resign became active in a smear campaign, alleging that Harper himself was corrupt.
‘How come all these bent cops were able to complain about us, and their complaints were investigated at huge cost, but our investigations were closed down?’ Harper asks. ‘I’ve often wondered what it was that we were really threatening.’ Associated Newspapers Ltd