A ten-week consultation on the future of the building has been launched – almost ten years to the day since the States police first revealed details of a major child abuse investigation focusing on the site.
The move comes after the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry recommended that consideration should be given to demolishing the former residential home, which it said served as a ‘reminder of an unhappy past or shameful history’.
It is estimated it would cost about £750,000 to demolish Haut de la Garenne, which was built in the 19th century, and return the site to a field.
Chief Minister Ian Gorst, who has developed an action plan to implement the inquiry’s recommendations, said that the results of the consultation would be presented to the next Council of Ministers following May’s general election for a decision to be made later this year.
However, although the views of Islanders will be considered, the results of the consultation will not be binding and the decision on the building’s future will ultimately be made by the States.
In 2007, the States police began investigating allegations of abuse at the home. The investigation – named Operation Rectangle – was made public in February the following year, leading to journalists from across the world descending on the island. By the end of 2010, more than 300 allegations of abuse at the home had been reported to the police.
The force also received allegations that children had been killed at the home, but no evidence of murder was ever found. Since 2011, the site has been the home of the Jersey Accommodation and Activity Centre.
Senator Gorst, who yesterday appeared before a children in care Scrutiny panel set up to review the government’s response to the inquiry, said: ‘I fully acknowledge and apologise for the history of abuse and neglect perpetrated against children living at the home. This should never happen again.
‘Before we determine the future of this building, it is vital that all members of our community have the opportunity to share their views. Understandably, many Islanders already have a clear view about what we should do. I would like to encourage every member of the community to actively engage with this process and to listen to one another, respecting the sensitivities associated with the site, its history and current use as a hostel and outdoor activity centre.
‘I therefore welcome the launch of this public consultation, which will ensure that every voice, however quiet, is heard and afforded the attention it deserves.’
He added: ‘It is important we have a really broad cross-section of Islanders who complete the consultation, particularly those who were at Haut de la Garenne, whether their experience was positive or horrendous and abusive.’
The consultation will run until Sunday 22 April and a report on the consultation is expected to be submitted in July.