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Digital copy of Michael Laing’s first statement to the Inquiry providing an account of his experiences in care at Haut de la Garenne and during foster placements. [Some details redacted].
August 12th 2014 - August 12th 2014
|Scope and Content|
Background and Home Life Refers to birth in Jersey dated 1954. Refers to removal from mother due to mother’s inability to care for him. Mentions understanding that mother had 12 children in total, and that many of the children were placed into care, either on island, at Sacre Coeur, or off island. States that father was Irish, and only visited Jersey during the summer months. Refer to lack of contact with father throughout life, and occasional meetings with mother throughout life. Institutions Refers to placement into the care of the States of Jersey between birth until the age of 21, and technical discharge from the care of Children’s Services at the age of 18. Arrived at the States of Jersey Crèche [Westaway Crèche] after leaving hospital following birth. Remained at [Westaway Crèche] until the age of 3 when he was fostered by a couple with a son. Recalls growing up for five years with the family, using their surname. Describes one of the couple as a lay preacher, and describes both parents as strict. Refers to the lack of newspapers and television in the house, as both were considered sinful by the parents. Attended Halkett Place School from September 1959 at the age of 5. Started education at Vauxhall School in September 1961 at the age of 7. Refers to day during which he was informed by [first foster parents] that his surname was Laing rather than that of the foster parents’. Recalls first foster parents moving house, necessitating Michael Laing’s temporary boarding out with another family for 3 months during 1962. Recalls happiness during stay with the second family, mentioning that although the parents were strict, his experiences were fine. Refused to return to first foster parents, and was returned by [Children’s Officer] Patricia Thornton. Began education at St John’s School upon return to home of first foster parents, and describes atmosphere at home due to Michael Laing’s wish not to return to their care. Was transferred to Haut de la Garenne by Patricia Thornton on 12 June 1962. Describes arrival at Haut de la Garenne, mentioning recording of date of birth, and visit to the storeroom to find some new shoes. Describes the layout at Haut de la Garenne, mentioning dormitories, staff accommodation, kitchens, dining room, showers and washrooms, table tennis and television room. Comments on positive experience at Haut de la Garenne, and wish that he had stayed at Haut de la Garenne throughout his time in care. States that only issue at Haut de la Garenne was the mixing of children admitted due to family breakdowns and similar with children remanded to Haut de la Garenne for misdemeanours. Comments on establishment of age groups at Haut de la Garenne, and the division of 50 to 60 boys between the ages of 8 and 16 into the Junior, Intermediate, and Senior groups. Speculates that the strict and regimented regime at Haut de la Garenne was due to the sheer number of children cared for there, and comments that staff were mostly friendly and caring. Names members of staff at Haut de la Garenne. Provides details of daily routine at Haut de la Garenne, also mentioning education at St Martin’s and Grouville Schools. Refers to Grouville School headmaster “Dick Turpin” [F J Turpin]. Refers to trips away from Haut de la Garenne and on holiday, mentioning camping trips and Guernsey. Refers to the presence of detention rooms at Haut de la Garenne. States that he did not witness staff acting in an abusive manner towards any children. Suggest claims of abuse may relate to a later period in Haut de la Garenne’s history. Comments on accident at Haut de la Garenne caused by a member of staff in the shower, leading to hospital treatment for Michael Laing. Left Haut de la Garenne on 10 April 1965 for a second official foster placement. Recalls being taken to his second foster parents’ house by Patricia Thornton. Describes second foster parents, and their house and belongings. Recalls surname changing from Laing to that of his second foster parents. Provides memories of life with second foster parents, and their concern regarding friends made by Michael Laing at school, mentioning cigarettes. Began education at Les Quennevais School in September 1965 at the age of 11, and confusion caused by changes to Michael Laing’s surname over the years. Describes injury caused when jumping off the school bus, noting stitches at St Helier General Hospital [Jersey General Hospital] following the incident on 16 October 1966. Recalls positive relationship with Sister Le Feuvre during his stay in hospital. Comments on placement on an adult ward rather than the children’s ward due to his height, and friendship with another teenager on the ward who had been injured whilst carrying some fireworks. Refers to request for a tour of the operating theatre whilst in hospital. Comments on deterioration of relationship with second foster parents following return from hospital, mentioning smoking, drinking, and drawings of a sexual nature. Refers to return to Haut de la Garenne, and distress of the second foster parents. Comments that due to past experiences Michael Laing found it difficult to show any emotion. Refers to a one of the second foster parents having a breakdown following Michael Laing’s departure from their home. Refers to transfer to St Helier Boys School, and academic improvement. Refers to visits to the family of a friend from St Helier Boys School, and introduction to his mother for the first time. Refers to mother’s remarriage and Michael Laing’s siblings since his birth. Left Haut de la Garenne around the age of 14 on 19 December 1967 to live with the family of an acquaintance from St Helier Boys School. Notes rejection of Charles Smith’s offer that Michael Laing change his surname to that of the family he now lived with. Comments on third fostering placement, describing interactions with the sons of the family, and speculating on fostering placement as providing a source of income for the family. Comments on decline in quality of school work due to experiences with third foster family, leading to a discussion with Charles Smith regarding Michael Laing’s non-attendance at school. Followed Charles Smith’s advice to give up his education. Criticises Charles Smith for not asking more pertinent questions regarding Michael Laing’s wellbeing and the differences in his behaviour between his second residency at Haut de la Garenne and his third foster placement. Left his third foster placement at the age of 16 due to atmosphere in third foster placement and sexual abuse. Requested emotional support from Charles Smith in around July 1972, and subsequently met with psychiatrist Dr [J P F] Fogarty. Recalls forms filled in with Dr Fogarty, and decision not to see Dr Fogarty after such appointments. Social Services Does not recall visits from the Children’s Office whilst placed with first foster parents. Notes that Patricia Thornton did not ask why he did not want to return to the home of his first foster parents. Comments on lack of contact with first foster parents, Patricia Thornton, or others from the Children’s Office during his first residency at Haut de la Garenne. Notes that Patricia Thornton was disliked by the second foster parents, and that Charles Smith became Michael Laing’s Child Care Officer. Refers to later knowledge of Patricia Thornton’s retirement from Children’s Services. Comments on lack of contact with second foster parents or others from the Children’s Office during his second residency at Haut de la Garenne. Criticises Charles Smith for having not noticed or acted over Michael Laing’s emotional decline during the early 1970s. Has obtained a copy of his Children’s Services file [See Exhibit ML1: C/D/AW1/A4/4/WD000004]. Abuse and Consequences Refers to physical abuse by first foster parents. Refers to notes made in Children’s Services file regarding complaints about noise from neighbours. Refers to discussions with States of Jersey Police as part of the Haut de la Garenne investigation [Operation Rectangle], and knowledge that others have named the foster parents. Refers to believe that at least one of the foster parents had died by the time of [Operation Rectangle]. Did not report physical abuse by first foster parents to anyone at Halkett Place School, to the second family he was boarded out to during 1962, or to those he would attend church with. Refers to sexual abuse by a member of hospital staff during a tour of the operating theatre at Jersey General Hospital. Did not report the abuse until many years later. Refers to sexual abuse by a teenage member of the third foster family. Did not repost sexual abuse, but notes a cousin’s knowledge about the abuse. Refers to suspicions of others of sexual abuse on Michael Laing by an individual. Recalls that the individual was arrested by Police following allegations of assault. Notes that the individual was questioned but not prosecuted over allegations. Believes the individual was later psychologically assessed. Notes that the individual left the island, and changed his name. Discovered that the individual was working with charities helping children, and reported the individual’s background to the brother of a woman named Jane, noting the brother’s employment with Social Services. Events since leaving Care Considered joining the RAF [Royal Air Force] after leaving his third foster placement. Began employment at the Tube Light Electrical Company at the age of 17 following the recommendation of a friend. Comments on ongoing employment in the electrical business, mentioning management of an electrical wholesalers and employment with the Co-op [Co-operative]. Began playing in a music band, and visited the house of [a foster placement], mentioning a later job offer from one of the [foster parents]. Refers to daughter’s familial relationship with individuals related to the individual questioned by Police regarding assault. Refers to retirement from employment due to a chronic lung condition. Comments on effects of childhood experiences, mentioning difficulties making friends and in relationships. Refers to good relationship with daughter. Mentions reporting abuse to a girlfriend from Ireland during the time that [Edward] Paisnel’s name was in the media, and the girlfriend’s query as to whether Michael Laing had abused other individuals. Comments on difficulties preventing Michael Laing reporting abuse whilst in foster care, mentioning that a service such as Childline may have helped him feel more comfortable to talk about his experiences. Contacted Police regarding the investigation into Haut de la Garenne dated 2007 to 2008 [Operation Rectangle], and Michael Laing’s wish to make clear that he had not been abused whilst at Haut de la Garenne. Provides details of experiences providing statements to States of Jersey Police, mentioning that he was later asked to sign a witness statement in a Police car that he did not agree with. Refers to unsigned 3 page witness statement produced to the Inquiry by the States of Jersey Police [See Exhibit ML2: C/D/AW1/A4/4/WD000005], confirming that the statement produced is not the statement originally shown to Michael Laing in the Police car States that he was not involved with the civil redress scheme [Historic Abuse Redress Scheme] due to the scheme not covering cases of abuse in foster care, and reflects on gladness that the Inquiry is considering abuse in other contexts. Refers to the recent submission of a Freedom of Information request to obtain access to records from the time Michael Laing was in care. States that States of Jersey did not do enough to protect children in its care, and that the Children’s Office should and could have done more to prevent abuse sustained by Michael Laing, as well as monitor his wellbeing. Queries why so many children in care appeared to be sent to Haut de la Garenne, despite there being other children’s homes available for children to be placed in on Jersey. Suggests that alongside improved communication with children in care, improved background checks should also have been completed on foster parents on the island. Refers to lack of contact with other children in care. Confirms willingness to provide oral evidence to the Inquiry if required to do so.
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