Prosecutor in Rolf Harris trial to lead official probe into claims Government covered up child abuse on remote island of St Helena
- Sasha Wass to lead probe into allegations of paedophile abuse on island
- Claims St Helena officials conspired with UK government to hide abuse
- Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond today announced independent probe
The prosecutor in the trial of Rolf Harris is to lead an official probe into allegations the Government conspired to cover up child abuse on a British overseas territory.
Sasha Wass QC will lead an investigation into claims there was widespread paedophile abuse on the remote South Atlantic island of St Helena, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond announced today.
He said the allegations involve claims relating to child abuse in the territory, police corruption and incompetence and a ‘conspiracy’ by the St Helena government, the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development to ‘cover these up’.
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told MPs a top lawyer would investigate claims of a child abuse cover up
Former employees of the St Helena government raised fresh concerns in July, which followed a number of allegations in recent years about child safety and police corruption.
In a written statement to MPs, Mr Hammond said: ‘These allegations involve claims relating to child abuse in the territory, police corruption and incompetence, and a conspiracy by the St Helena government (SHG), the FCO and DfiD to cover these up.
‘We are bound to take such allegations extremely seriously.’
He added: ‘I am pleased to inform the House that I have agreed that Ms Sasha Wass QC should lead this inquiry.
‘Ms Wass is a very accomplished barrister with substantial professional experience of dealing with these kinds of issues. I am confident that she will lead this inquiry with great rigour, fairness and sensitivity.
‘Matters of child safety require discretion and confidentiality. The issues self-evidently involve vulnerable people, whose privacy must be protected and confidences respected. I am certain this inquiry will do that. But it is also important that this process is as transparent as possible.’
Jamestown, the main settlement on the remote South Atlantic island of St Helena at the foot of Jacobs Ladder
Mr Hammond said Ms Wass will conduct an initial review of the allegations contained in various documents, including independent reports produced by others in response to specific concerns raised previously.
He said: ‘We are also providing Sasha Wass with full disclosure of the UK papers that relate to these allegations. Ms Wass will then make a judgment about the scope of her investigations, including on the appointment of a team of independent experts to help her with this task.
‘I also understand that Ms Wass will travel to St Helena once this initial phase of her work is completed.’
Mr Hammond reiterated investigations had taken place since allegations linked to child safety were first raised in late 2012.
He noted a number of arrests and convictions for child sex offences have also taken place.
Mr Hammond added: ‘More, however, needs to be done. This new Inquiry will not be quick. But it will be thorough.
‘And I am confident that the facts will be established.’
Details of the latest allegations first emerged in July following written questions in Parliament from Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming.
He asked the Foreign Office (FCO) to disclose what information it had received about allegations of child abuse and police corruption on St Helena since May 2010.
Mr Hemming also questioned what steps the department had taken to ensure the opening of an airport on the island does not lead to the ‘development of child sex tourism’ in the territory.
The probe comes after a report by UK child protection charity The Lucy Faithfull Foundation found St Helena was rife with child sexual abuse, domestic violence and sexual exploitation
He was informed that new allegations had surfaced and that former foreign secretary William Hague agreed to set up an independent panel of experts to investigate them before leaving his post.
Former Foreign Office minister Mark Simmonds also said: ‘The FCO and Dfid (Department for International Development) have been working closely with the UK police who have investigated reports into child sex abuse on St Helena and continue to do so.’
Ms Wass was prosecuting lawyer in the case of disgraced entertainer Harris, who was convicted of 12 indecent assaults at London’s Southwark Crown Court in June – one on an eight-year-old autograph hunter, two on girls in their early teens, and a catalogue of abuse against his daughter’s friend over 16 years.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2842405/Prosecutor-Rolf-Harris-trial-lead-official-probe-claims-Government-covered-child-abuse-remote-island-St-Helena.html#ixzz3JjnUzbrX
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