After decades of silence, islanders of Jersey rise up in protest at their political masters

The Royal Square in Jersey's capital, St Helier, is one of the most visible signs of the island's proud history of self-rule. The cobbled, pigeon-filled square stands at the site of the Battle of Jersey – France's final, disastrous attempt in 1781 to recapture an island that had been a British possession since William the Conqueror arrived in 1066. On the north side of the square stands the States of Jersey, the island's parliament, where 12 senators, 12 constables and 29 deputies vote on all matters pertaining to the island other than defence and foreign policy, which is decided in Westminster.

The battle is re-enacted each January to celebrate Jersey's heritage and independence. But today Royal Square will host a very different crowd – protesters angry at the way politicians are running the island and dealing with the child abuse investigation that has shaken the community.

Ever since police found fragments of a child's skull at the former Haut de la Garenne children's home while investigating child abuse allegations stretching back four decades, Jersey's political elite has struggled to cope with the scrutiny of the world's media now encamped on the island.

Last night, the latest revelation to emerge was that specially trained dogs have found blood spots invisible to the naked eye on a bath inside an underground chamber at the former care home.

Last week, the chief minister, Frank Walker, accused his political rival Stuart Syvret of "trying to shaft Jersey internationally" for highlighting recent child abuse scandals in care homes and detention centres. The off-hand remark outraged some islanders, who felt their leader cared more about Jersey's international reputation than the victims.

This week, the Health minister, Ben Shenton, caused further embarrassment with a leaked email in which he mocked the officer in charge of the inquiry. Mr Shenton compared Lenny Harper, the island's deputy police chief, to the comic Lenny Henry, saying: "My wife keeps referring to Lenny Harper as Lenny Henry – I don't think she's far wrong."

Mr Harper described the email as "childish and bizarre", saying he could not understand why "the very man responsible for children's welfare on this island would wish to sabotage the investigation". Mr Shenton said his remarks were taken out of context and has since apologised.

But many of those behind today's protest say it is time to reform Jersey's political system and, in particular, the way the chief minister is chosen by his fellow senators in a secret ballot.

"The protest is going to be an opportunity for people to finally speak out at how our island is run," said Montford Tadier, one of the organisers. "Your average person in Jersey looks upon the island's political system, particularly over the past two weeks, as a total sham. The way they have reacted to Haut de la Garenne is just revelatory. We are ruled by a government that is totally incompetent."

Since the investigation at Haut de la Garenne began, more than 160 victims have come forward to police and up to 40 potential suspects have been identified. Mr Syvret, a former health minister, has accused the government of operating within a "culture of concealment" by covering up the abuse allegations, a claim that the States of Jersey vehemently denies.

But Mr Tadier believes the inquiry has encouraged islanders to be more vocal in their criticism of politicians. "I think the abuse scandal mirrors our political scandal," he said. "For years, people have kept quiet but now they are speaking out."

Martyn Day, a Jersey-born student, runs the Facebook discussion group "Vote Frank Walker Out Of The States", which already has more than 1,000 members. He said the abuse investigation had made islanders more determined than ever to seek some sort of political reform. "It is certainly a good time now for the people of Jersey to try and speak up," he added.

In a statement, Jersey's Council of Ministers criticised the rally organisers for their "political undertones" and said none of its members would be attending. Mr Walker, meanwhile, refused to say whether he thought the island's political system, including the secret election of the chief minister, was in need of reform.

An ancient regime independent of Westminster

*Jersey is not a part of the United Kingdom or the European Union. It is constitutionally a dependency of the British Crown, with the Queen as head of state.

* The island, 12 miles off the coast of France, has its own legislative and taxation systems, which are a blend of Norman and English methods.

* Jersey (population 88,000) jealously guards its independence governing rights of residency. It is also reluctant to accept controls over its thriving financial services industry.

*It does not have a formal party political system.

* The legislature is called the States of Jersey and has 53 elected members: 12 senators (elected for six-year terms), 12 constables (heads of parishes elected for three years), 29 deputies (elected for three-year terms); the Bailiff and the Deputy Bailiff (appointed to preside over the assembly) and three non-voting members (the Dean of Jersey, the Attorney General, and the Solicitor General) who are appointed by the Queen.

* Senators have an island-wide mandate; deputies are elected for their local area.

* The British Government is responsible for the island's defence and global affairs.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Dynamics CRM Developer (C#, .NET, Dynamics CRM 2011/2013)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Dynamics CRM D...

Web Developer (C#, ASP.NET, AJAX, JavaScript, MVC, HTML)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Web Developer ...

C# R&D .NET Developer-Algorithms, WCF, WPF, Agile, ASP.NET,MVC

£50000 - £67000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# R&D .NE...

C# Developer (Web, HTML5, CSS3, ASP.NET, JS, Visual Studios)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor