As you will be aware, St Helena has attracted considerable negative publicity recently, depicting our Island as a place where child abuse is tolerated and not properly addressed by Government agencies. This is simply not true!
As Chairman of the Social and Community Development Committee I have seen first-hand the impressive improvements in Safeguarding arrangements over the past few years. Key agencies are now working well together to support survivors of abuse, rigorously investigating every report of abuse, and successfully prosecuting those who have committed such horrible offences.
I am also aware that the media reports have had a negative impact on many innocent people on the Island. We need to work across our community to support each other while bringing to justice people who have done wrong.
It is a fact that St Helena, like the rest of the world, has perpetrators of abuse. But, the Island is committed to robustly dealing with these issues head-on, and our staff on the front line have my full support and that of all my fellow Councillors.
Our proud community has been damaged by these allegations. The solution is for us to continue to work together, to support victims and be tough on perpetrators of abuse.
Far from being an Island that tolerates abuse we should be proud of the way in which we are dealing with new and historic allegations of abuse of any kind. As a community we should welcome the opportunity that the Wass Inquiry brings to establish the facts. If you do have a concern, or any important information, then please come forward to the Inquiry team or to our local services. I can assure you that all information will be dealt with in the strictest of confidence.
We are investing in additional staff and training to underpin our commitment to safeguarding which is further evidenced by the development of a specialist Safeguarding Directorate. As an Elected Member I will continue to give my all in leading the Committee in relation to safeguarding and ensure that this issue stays at the top of our agenda. My mission, as your representative, is to support the victims of sexual abuse, to see that offenders are brought to justice and to repair the damage done to our community by unbalanced, distorted and sensational reporting.
To put this into perspective, my family returned to our beautiful Island in 2001 and one of our main reasons for doing so was that we considered it a better and safer environment to rear our child than that offered in South London. There are, at this moment in time, very few names on our sex offenders register and although we may see an increase in this statistic, I would consider these facts alone justify my earlier statement that press coverage, as you might expect in the commercial world, has been unbalanced, distorted and sensationalist.
Councillor Les Baldwin
Chairman of the Social and Community Development Committee
17 February 2015