Monday, 31 December 2012

That was the year that was.

As 2012 draws to an end it will most probably be best remembered for when London hosted the Olympics in Diamond Jubilee year, the likes of which may never happen again. However life for lesser mortals has not been without its highs and lows and this Blog is devoted to looking back and commenting on some of the 31 Blogs I published during the year.

I did not comment on the proposition to purchase the Plemont headland. This was championed by our Chief Minister Ian Gorst, Senator Bailhache, Senator Ozouf, the Jersey National Trust and local media. The approved Planning application was even described as “rape.” I did however devote several Blogs in an attempt to save a playing field along with its cricket and football pitches. Interestingly not one of the aforesaid lent any support in opposing the application “rape?” to replace the existing St Martin’s School by building on its playing field. Double standards and hypocrisy methinks.

In April I published a Blog “Good Cop, Bad Cop” following a former Centenier (honorary policeman) being charged with sex offences against young girls. Last month the Centenier was found guilty and will be sentenced next month. I did question whether anyone would be looking into any of the sexual cases the Centenier may have handled whilst in office. The question remains unanswered.

If the Centenier was a skeleton in the cupboard there was a more grotesque
skeleton in the form of Jimmy Savile who was exposed a few months later.

I published a couple of Blogs relating to the possible use of Taser Guns by our Police Officers, notwithstanding the States Police being able to justify an extension to its armoury. It is apparent that Taser Guns will be issued next year. How soon will it be before the lethal weapons are in common use?

It has been reported that a possible replacement for the former Auditor General has been found. It should be recalled that the former Auditor General had resigned after raising serious concerns about Senator Ozouf’s intervention into the financial arrangements relating to the possible relocation of the police headquarters. Senator Ozouf felt that he had been unfairly criticised and found guilty without a trial. In an April Blog I accused the Senator of shedding crocodile tears as he had been quite content for other people like the former police chief to suffer the same fate. It is evident that they were crocodile tears because a few months later when the Senator had an opportunity of supporting a proposed Inquiry, he opposed the proposition.

I also devoted some Blogs on the proposed Committee of Inquiry (COI) into the Historic Child Abuse. Not only was I concerned at the delay but also of its possible composition and terms of reference (TOR). The wheels have turned very slowly but at last a proposition has been lodged and is down for debate next month.

Verita was entrusted with coming forward with recommendations and although the Chief Minister is claiming that its recommendations form the base for his proposed TOR there are some significant omissions whereby they fall far short of what is expected if the COI is to be meaningful.

It is heartening that plans are in hand to lodge amendments which will no doubt be the subject of future Blogs, but will the amendments have the Chief Minister’s support?

Along with others, I published a Blog on the Electoral Commission’s role which included my submission to it. I did propose that Jersey follows the Guernsey format with Districts, one form of States Member with a 4 year term of office. It was no surprise to read that the Electoral Commission bottled out of recommending that Connetables should no longer be ex-officio. I understand that arrangements are in hand for a referendum, if the result is that the Connetables role should end, will States Members have the courage to listen to the public?

I also published 3 Blogs on the Curtis Warren arrest. The Blogs have certainly been well read with many comments being received. It is not disputed that the police officers unlawfully bugged the car. Having made the arrest the procedure that followed was out of their hands. It was open to the Attorney General’s office to refuse to prosecute. It was also open to the Courts to refuse to hear the case and having been found guilty it was open to the Court of Appeal to overturn the verdict.

The police officers not withstanding their unlawful action; prevented a large amount of drugs illegally entering the Island and acted in a manner they thought best. It could be said that it was for the greater good. What I find hypercritical is the condemnation from the Courts and now over five years later charges of bringing the police force into disrepute have been levelled against the arresting officers.

Surely if the Officers allegedly brought the States Police into disrepute it was in 2007 so why has it taken so long to bring discipline charges? In answers given to the former Senator Shenton some three years ago an estimated £3m had already been spent on police and court costs, goodness knows how much more the case has cost since and will continue to cost. Given the cost one is entitled to ask who is really responsible for the events that followed the arrest in July 2007 and should they not also be made accountable?

2012 has indeed been eventful and no doubt so too will 2013. I have raised a number of questions but will they be satisfactorily answered? The Plemont headland issue will continue to rumble on and a new St Martin’s School will be built on its playing field. The Centenier will be sentenced, but aged 77 will the punishment fit the crime? Police Officers will be issued with Taser guns which will further distance them from the public. A new Auditor General will be appointed but will she be subjected to political interference?

There will be a referendum to decide the future States format, what are the chances of the status quo remaining? Will the COI terms of reference be amended to give it the teeth to conduct an open and meaningful inquiry? Lastly how much more public money will be spent or “wasted” on the Curtis Warren case, it seems that the only winners will be the lawyers.

In a few hours time we shall be saying adieu to 2012 and bonjour to 2013, apart from extending my seasonal greetings to you all, I would also like to thank you for not only reading my blogs but to those who have submitted comments. Although I don’t know who reads my Blogs I know that readership is worldwide and I often wonder what it is about my Blog that raises your interest in Jersey in the first place, but your interest is much appreciated.

On a final note it was January 1st 1961 that I flew to London to join the Metropolitan Police the next day. Sitting along side of me on the plane was Ted Vibert, who I knew as an aspiring journalist and a fellow footballer. Ted like me some 30 years later was elected to the States. I have always considered his summing up in the Trinity Landfill debate to be one of the finest during my 18 years in the States.

On my arrival in London I stayed overnight at Gilmour Section House which is situated near to the Elephant and Castle in south London. I remember going for a drink, and also sharing a piece of my mother’s Christmas cake with a police officer named Hilton Cole who was transferring to the Met Police from Wales. Within a few months Hilton made world news and became known as the first UK police officer to arrest some one via the Identikit system. As one will see he arrested Edwin Bush who admitted murdering shop assistant Elsie Batten and was later executed.

As Hilton was a transferee he only had to attend a shortened training course so did not join me at Hendon. Attached is the fine body of recruits who were the first of the 1961 intake. Can anyone pick me out?

As Hilton was a transferee he only had to attend a shortened training course so did not join me at Hendon. Attached is the fine body of recruits who were the first of the 1961 intake. Can anyone pick me out?

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Curtis Warren-- Questions still Unanswered?

Those who have read my two Blogs relating to Curtis Warren Blog I Blog 2 will know that the long awaited Hampshire Police report was due in early December. However it is quite evident that the report was received some time ago because three of the officers involved with the case are currently defending their corner via a Discipline Board.

The decision to charge the officers is a “U Turn” because on 8th December 2009 when asked by the then Deputy of St John Phil Rondel whether any action was being taken against the senior officer in charge of the officers who operated off Island the Home Affairs Minister Senator Le Marquand said “I am not aware of any intention on the part of the acting leadership of the police force to take disciplinary action against anybody in relation to this matter. I explained in some interviews which I did in the last 2 weeks or so that although policy is that officers should operate within the law in whatever jurisdictions they are acting, there may be circumstances, and it will be exceptional circumstances, which would warrant operating outside the law, particularly if there were major public safety issues to do with terrorism or things of that nature. These would be wholly exceptional circumstances, but nevertheless they exist and matters of this nature must be judgements to be made by individual officers in particular cases. Those judgements should be made with extreme caution of course and the presumption is very much against acting unlawfully.

However in May last year in answer to a similar question Senator Le Marquand stated that the new Police Chief had a different view and had instigated the investigation, he had been informed of the decision and was fully supportive of it.

Obviously there must be a reason for the “U Turn” and what if any pressure was put on the new Police Chief. Could a clue be found in the annual report of the Investigatory Powers Commission for Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Jersey) Law 2005 and Police Procedures and Criminal Evidence (Jersey) Law 2003 published on 7th June last year via R69/2011.

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Jersey) Law 2005 requires a Commissioner to carry out an annual review and publish a report. The Law also imposes a duty on a large number of office holders and individuals, listed in Article 44(1) (a)–(n), to disclose or to provide to the Commissioner any document or information which the Commissioner may require to enable him to carry out his functions under the 2005 Law; and Article 39 imposes a specific obligation on the Attorney General to notify the Commissioner at least every 12 months of authorizations for intrusive surveillance which he has granted, renewed or cancelled.

 If the Commissioner becomes aware of any contravention of the provisions of the 2005 Law or if he considers that any of the arrangement made under Article 19 are inadequate, he is required to bring the contravention or those inadequacies to the attention of the Bailiff in a Report in respect of his functions which he must make to the Bailiff as soon as possible after the end of each calendar year (Article 44(4)). Such a Report must be laid before the States.

However if it appears to the Bailiff, after consultation with the Commissioner, that the publication of any matter in such a Report would be contrary to the public interest or prejudicial to national security, the prevention or detection of serious crime, the economic well-being of Jersey or the continued discharge of the functions of any Public Authority whose activities include activities which are the subject of review by the Commissioner, the Bailiff may exclude that matter from the copy of the Commissioner’s Report laid before the States (Article 44(7)).

Readers of my two Blogs will recall that in July 2007 the Attorney General was aware of the illegal bugging of a vehicle used by the Curtis Warren’s gang on the Continent. The matter was before the Court in March 2008 and October 2009 yet there is no mention in the 2008/9/10 Reports, one may ask why because the matter was in the public domain and does not appear to fall within the criteria above.

On page 12 in R69/2011 the Commissioner states “In July 2007, certain events occurred which are relevant to my function as Commissioner. In Reports since that time, I have indicated that I considered it appropriate to delay comment on that matter until all judicial proceedings had been completed. Now that the Advice of the Privy Council has been given, I must report on the matter.

If one reads the 2008/9/10 Reports there is no mention of the July 2007 events so how can the Commissioner claim that he considered it appropriate to delay comment until all judicial proceedings have been completed. Having read the Reports it is evident that he did not comment but neither did he make any reference to the matter. Also not all of the judicial proceedings are completed because according to media reports Curtis Warren has referred his case the Court of Human Rights.

I am perplexed by the Commissioner Sir John Nutting’s claim, does he not have a duty to be even handed and not have waited until the Privy Council had delivered its verdict. One may ask why wait 4 years before seeking assurances from the police that they will not deliberately disregard the regulations. Why wait 4 years to get an assurance from the Law Officers that should there be a repetition of a deliberate act done in contravention of either Law, they will not introduce into evidence the products of such illegality at any subsequent trial.

It is now some five and a half years since the arrest and as mentioned above, three police officers are facing disciplinary charges, why has it taken so long and is the process fair and consistent? I stand corrected but I believe that no disciplinary action was taken against the officers involved with the unlawful entry into the home of the former Senator Syvret. Apparently the three officers are facing disrepute charges, so why did the officers who broke into Mr Syvret's home not face the same charge? Who makes the decision to instigate disciplinary action and is the public interest ever taken into account?

I am not defending the officers involved with the arrest of Curtis Warren and co, but if the Law had allowed for an audio device to be installed, it is likely that the officers would have been commended for their initiative and persistence. However now over 5 years later they find themselves facing discipline charges. Why has it taken so long to instigate charges?

It seems that when the States Police wish to bring charges against certain officers, expense does not come into the equation and goodness knows how much the current discipline case will cost the taxpayer and will anyone be taken to task if the officers are exonerated?

At the States Sitting on Tuesday Deputy Tadier asked Senator Le Marquand whether the investigation had been completed and if so, would he make the outcome known.

As usual Senator Le Marquand was guarded with his answers and clearly would not be drawn. What is evident is that the arrest has incurred considerable expense and the disciplinary process will just add to it but the Minister did know of the cost.

One other important matter which seems to have been ignored is what is being done to ensure that police officers are not faced with the same difficulties when attempting to perform their duty especially when on the Continent.

I go back to the former Deputy of St John’s question on 8th December 2009 when he further asked Senator Le Marquand; “Given that crime has no boundaries and the Jersey Police have to operate outside of the law in France, Holland and Belgium in the Warren Gang Inquiry, what action is the Minister taking to put in place reciprocal agreements on crime with the European Union so our police do not fall foul of the law in other E.U. (European Union) states. If none please explain why none has been put in place and if he is, would he please give us an update of when he is on putting something in place?

Senator Le Marquand replied “I am not under the impression that formal agreements are required in relation to such matters. It is always open to Jersey law enforcement agencies, which would include Customs and Immigration, to work in co-operation with their colleagues in other jurisdictions. That would be the normal route in my view, but no formal agreements are required for that to take place.

The Bailiff intervened and added “If I may assist you Deputy, it is more a matter for the Law Officers who would pursue such a request on behalf of the police.”

Police Officers particularly on front line duty should not be placed in invidious positions which may lead them to break the law to arrest offenders. It is therefore incumbent on people holding more senior positions to ensure that Laws are amended so officers are not hamstrung.

In the meantime, the case against the three police officers will continue, Curtis Warren will continue with his appeal both of which will be funded by the taxpayer. Life is not fair and no doubt the police officers and the Curtis Warren gang will be feeling aggrieved along with the long suffering public who is footing the bill.

I titled my Blog published on 17th October “More questions than Answers” there are indeed many questions which remain unanswered. What advice was really given by the Crown Officers in July 2007 and has there been an internal enquiry, why was the decision taken to prosecute, why did the judges decide to let the case proceed, why did the Commissioner remain silent, why the police “U Turn” to take disciplinary action, what is it costing and where is funding coming from, whats steps have/are being taken to ensure that police officers are not placed in the same position etc.

The answers to questions asked and answers on Tuesday were not satisfactory, hopefully as events unfold satisfactory answers will ensue.


Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Jersey Historic Abuse Inquiry- Possible Amendments?

Three weeks ago the Chief Minister lodged P118/2012 relating to establishing a Committee of Inquiry (COI) into Jersey’s Historical Child Abuse. States Members and the public will have had time to read and study the proposition. Hopefully States Members will have compared Verita’s recommended Terms of Reference (TOR) with those published in the proposition. It is also hoped that interested parties will have considered whether the proposed TOR are sufficient.

Deputy Monty Tadier has correctly asked two Oral questions of the Chief Minister seeking clarification as to whether the proposed TOR will enable the COI to address the suspension of the former Police Chief. The answers received have been “woolly” in that the Chief Minister has stated that it will be down to the COI to determine whether the matter needs to be addressed.

In P118/2012, the Council of Ministers (COM) state that Verita’s recommendations had been used as the foundation for its TOR, however it does not explain why for instance it has omitted two of Verita’s recommendations which can be found on page 29 in P118/2012.

They are:

•Determine whether the concerns in 2007 were sufficient to justify the States of Jersey Police setting in train Operation Rectangle.


•Review what actions the government took when concerns came to light in 2008 and what, if any, lessons there are to be learned.

It is apparent that the COM is not willing to address concerns relating to the Police investigation. Given the cost of the investigation, along with the criticism of the Deputy Police Chief and his Chief who was subsequently suspended and in all reality dismissed by stealth one can understand why Verita included the matter in its recommendations.

It is also apparent that Verita considered that political oversight should extend beyond that of the Education and Health Departments’ oversight before 2008. Once the investigation got underway the COM’s political oversight had been likened to a “headless chicken” approach with no one knowing who politically was in charge. Also whilst the Police PR was the subject of much criticism, one could hardly say that the COM's approach was a shining example of good practice.

Quite rightly the COI will be looking at how Children’s Homes were run, what procedures were in place to address concerns, the recruitment and monitoring of staff and Health and Education’s officer and political oversight. However if the Inquiry is to be of any value it must extend to the investigation, the suspension and political oversight.

Those who have followed the investigation since 2008 will know that the decision to set in train Operation Rectangle with the subsequent “dig” at Haut de la Garenne was not taken lightly or in isolation. Establishing the truth is often costly and should always be justified. Can the expenditure of near £1m in suspending an officer who was due to retire be justified? Cheap snipes at the cost of a meal in London’s West End have overshadowed the dedication and hard work of resolute officers who would not be sidetracked because of what may be revealed or was causing embarrassment.

Did the investigation warrant the criticism and did it justify the suspension of the police chief? Even though questions can rightly be asked about the credibility of the Napier Report, it never the less did expose Ministers' shortcomings and those allegedly advising them. However questions remain as to why the Police Chief was suspended. Was it because he upset certain Ministers and the Chief Executive, was it because he and his former Deputy were getting too close to exposing certain people in high ranking positions or was it to safeguard alleged prosecutions in train?

As for political oversight, who was really in charge, if the Home Affairs Minister was conflicted why was she not replaced? Where was the chain of command, what was the Chief Minister’s role? Are proper procedures now in place to ensure that matters are handled more professionally in the future?

These questions deserve answers and the place to ask them is at the Inquiry, however it will be down to States Members to ensure that the necessary amendments to P118/2012 are lodged in good time.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

St Martin's School Playing Field-- Final Chapter

It was last March that I published what was to become the first of seven further Blogs relating to the application to build a new St Martin’s School on its playing field. I had described the proposed plan “as one of the poorest ever drafted” My main reason for the comment was because it did not make sense to build on the playing field when there was ample room to either redevelop the existing school or as it was deemed to be no longer “fit for use” then it could be demolished and rebuilt from scratch.

Other parish schools had been redeveloped on their existing sites, this is evident by the fact that in page 19 of the feasibility Study it states “The object of incorporating schemes 1B and 1C is to illustrate how the existing school could be remodelled to provide accommodation of a similar size and standard as the recently newly built primary schools such as St Clements’s and St Peter's schools. Not withstanding the comment neither scheme was advanced, the school was promptly placed on the Sites of Local Interest” and plans were then advanced to build on the field because as it was revealed at the Planning Meeting last Friday, it happened to be in public ownership.

For the past 6 months I have written letters to the local newspaper and kept the media and public informed via the publication of further Blogs. I had nominated the field in relation to the Diamond Jubilee Field’s Trust and held a public meeting. I am grateful for the support I received and thank those who attended the public meeting and submitted comments in line with the Planning Policy; however it is now evident that the Planning Minister had decided way back in March to approve the application and in the words submitted by one objector “the public consultation exercise was ‘a charade’ and the process seemed to be a ‘fait accompli’;

I am not aware of any disagreement regarding the need to upgrade or replace the existing school, that had been taken as a given way back. The only issue was whether the replacement should be on the existing site or on the school field. That should have been the only issue the Minister had to consider last Friday but he was simply not interested in that valid argument and clearly his mind was made up before last Friday and the meeting was indeed a farce.

Having for the first time, sat through the application process I can honestly say that it was a bizarre experience. Whilst there was much to be said about the flexibility given to the time allowed to speak, there are genuine concerns over the way the application process was conducted and the acceptance of over 200 submissions of support lodged some 9 weeks after the closing date. Normally 3 weeks is given for submissions, however because of the public meeting, additional time was given which in the end totalled 8 weeks. Most of the late submissions, which were in the form of a pro-forma given to parents by the school, were undated and the contact details removed by the Planning Department so there was no way any one could check the author’s validity. Notwithstanding the late submission their existence was used as support by the Planning Officer.

In his report the Planning Officer listed a number the points made by those in support or opposition, however the parish football club’s representative strongly refuted the claim that his club was happy with the current arrangement. He also stated that as his club is now homeless it is in grave danger of folding. Although temporary consent had now been given to train on the existing playing field that arrangement would end once construction began. He asked that if the application was approved, it should include a condition whereby the Education Department should re-house the club in the parish in line with UK policies.

The case for opposing the application was well made by the 4 objectors which included me. Simply, why build on the field when a school could be built on the existing site? Those in support were repetitive with their claim that the school should be replaced, which has never been disputed, however the Minister never asked any of them why the school should be built on the field rather than on the existing site and what affect if any, it would have on the children should they be temporarily re-housed in port-a-cabins during the new school’s construction.

The States Architect was asked to comment on the plans for the new school, but the Minister never asked him whether a fit for purpose school could be built on the site if the existing buildings were demolished? His failure to ask such an obvious question lends support to the belief that he had made his mind up before last Friday and he was merely going through the motions. Interestingly as the Minister failed to ask the question, I asked it and astonishingly the Officer said it was not possible and not even if the new build extended on to the hard standing area on the playing field.

The school is on a 3 vergee site and the hard standing area on the field provides a near additional half vergee, yet the States are employing architects who cannot draw up plans to build a school which has a near £8m budget on such a generous envelope.

Once the last person in support had spoken, the Minister in almost indecent haste delivered his verdict which he had obviously reached some months ago. Not withstanding the fact that he is also the Minister for the Environment and has stated that he wants to be champion of the environment he gave approval to the application which sees the demise of the Playing field along with its cricket pitch and adult football pitch, the loss of a much valued open space and a public amenity. At no time did he attempt to justify the decision or why the rebuild could not be on the existing site.

The Minister did not as requested, include a condition on the Education Department to find an alternative playing field in St Martin, but he placed a condition that the club could continue using the junior playing field to train on. The Minister obviously missed the point that if the Club does not have a pitch to play on and folds, it will certainly not need an area to train on.

As one can see by reading any of the 8 Blogs below, much effort has been made to argue for the retention of the playing field, yet there has been little support to build on it. I intentionally delayed publishing this Blog because I was conscious that the Minister was giving consideration to the application to demolish the existing holiday camp site on the Plemont headland, build 28 houses on the existing site and return a larger part to nature.

The Chief Minister, Senator Gorst is supporting the view that the whole area should be purchased by the public and returned to nature. If one reads my Blogs one will see that Chief Minister Gorst was responsible for the Diamond Jubilee Field’s Trust which was intended to save 2012 playing fields throughout the UK. He was aware that in early May I had nominated the St Martin’s Playing Field before planning consent was sought, but did nothing to process the nomination. Since September he has transferred responsibility for the Field Trust to the Connetables who to the best of my knowledge have not taken steps to involve their parishioners or advance the scheme which ends next month.

Given the Chief Minister’s support for the environment and spending tax payer’s money in support of returning Plemont which is privately owned and already built on to headland, one would have thought he would have been supportive of retaining a publically owned playing field. However the good Chief Minister along with his Environment Minister and Sports Minister kept their heads way below the parapet and were found wanting at the Playing field’s hour of need.

The same could be said of the Jersey Sport’s Council who could not even be bothered to submit a report. It should have been fighting to protect playing fields, but was also found wanting, so what is the point of that body if it is not willing to fight its corner for clubs and associations?

The Planning Minister has now made his decision known and he is giving consent to build on the Plemont site. Given that it is a brown field site the decision should not come as a surprise but will disappoint some people. Interestingly unlike the Playing field application, the Minister commissioned a consultant to review the application, this gave both sides the opportunity to submit their views and allow for the feed back to be independently scrutinised.

Given the concerns raised about the devious change of use and lack of public consultation before and after the Island Plan debate, one wonders why the Minister did not follow suit with the Playing field application. I submit that had such a review been conducted the recommendation would have been to save the field.

Unfortunately approval has now been given with little chance of any appeal. There are calls to find sites to relocate the Police Headquarters and the Hospital, may I suggest that the FB Playing Fields or any of St Martin’s green fields be considered. The green light has been given and a precedent set by the current Planning Minister who appears to have little enthusiasm for protecting playing or green fields.

St Martin's School

You don't what you have lost till its gone

Queen Elizabeth II Fields Challenge

Save our Field----Is anyone listening???

Public Meeting (Report)

Wanted--Your Help to Save Your Field

St Martin's Playing Field--- Thank you

Moving the goal posts-- Literally

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Jersey Historic Abuse Inquiry-- One small step

Some 20 months after the States approved the amended proposition to establish a Committee of Inquiry the Council of Ministers (COM) has today finally lodged its Proposition; P118/2012 COMMITTEE OF INQUIRY: HISTORICAL CHILD ABUSE.

As mentioned in my last Blog and in the many Comments that followed, the (COM) could not run nor hide forever, nor could it run the risk of cutting corners by having an in house Napier style review.

The COM has stated that before a public Inquiry can be considered it must pass the first test of being a’ definite matter of public interest’. I believe that test was passed in 2008 and it is a pity that it has taken the COM 4 years to recognise the obvious.

The COM has also stated that in general there are 6 main objectives of a public inquiry –

(1) Establishing the facts – providing a full and fair account of what happened.

(2) Learning from events – distilling lessons and preventing their recurrence through changing practice.

(3) Therapeutic exposure – providing an opportunity for reconciliation and resolution between different parties.

(4) Reassurance – rebuilding public confidence in whatever service or issue has been the subject of the inquiry.

(5) Accountability – holding people and organisations to account, sometimes indirectly contributing to the assignment of blame and mechanisms for retribution.

(6) Transparency – demonstrating that ‘something has been done’ or transparency in government.

There can be very few people who will disagree with those objectives and they form the basis of any Committee of Inquiry. However to ensure those objectives are achieved the COM has accepted that it is important that the members of the Committee of Inquiry come from outside the Island, have a legal/judicial background and have the stature and experience to act impartially to safeguard the interests of everyone involved.

Who those people are and how they are appointed is as crucial as the terms of reference therefore it is important that the appointment process is conducted in a transparent way. It is proposed that a small panel should be formed under the Chairmanship of the Greffier of the States to recommend a chairman and two Committee Members. The selection process will be overseen by the Jersey Appointments Commission.

Whatever way and whoever is involved with the selection process is always on a hiding to nothing and it is not an easy task. It is also evident that much time has already been lost therefore the sooner the COI is appointed the better as the COM wishes the Inquiry to be completed within a year of its commencment, so the appointment process must be prompt and transparent. I can recall that when the States approved my proposition to review the role of the Bailiff and Crown Officers the appointment process took months and it took another proposition from me to speed it up. This must not happen again.

Having worked with the Greffier of the States for some years, I know him to be a man of integrity, efficient, widely respected and he has my full support. I am confident that he, along with his colleagues will submit names of people for appointment that will be acceptable to States Members, the victims and the general public. Should States Members be concerned about the nominees or the Terms of Reference (TOR) it will be open to them to lodge amendments.

The TOR is in line with Verita and I believe allows the Committee to look at issues such the suspension of the police chief and was he suspended to end the abuse investigation. However that is a matter that needs clarification before the proposition is debated.

Today is one small step but one in the right direction taken by Senator Gorst and the COM. There are some who will rightly say that it has taken a long time and the COI has not come about following a display of leadership from the COM or rigorous calls from the media. It has come about because of the lead taken by a small number of States Members ably supported by the Bloggers who have published the truth and repeated it and whose Blogs are reaching a far wider readership than is given credit.

Hopefully the Proposition will also be a small step in addressing the concerns of the most important people of all, that being the victims who have been the forgotten people in the whole sorry saga of concealment.

Unfortunately due to procedure P118/2012 cannot be debated until Tuesday 15th January, however that should give sufficient time to properly digest its contents and any ambiguities clarified. It will also, if deemed necessary, allow for amendments to be drafted and lodged.

Your comments will be welcomed.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Savile-- Skeletons in the cupboard

It is a year ago that Jimmy Savile died but it is only recently that his evil deeds have emerged. It is interesting reading the comments from people who are currently holding senior positions in establishments where Savile worked such as at the BBC. In summary I quote some of the comments attributed to Lord Patten, Chairman of the BBC Trust who said;

“The filth piles up. As the Savile story continues to unfold, threatening and destroying reputations, three issues particularly trouble me. Above all else, I think of the victims of abuse – women and men – marooned for decades with terrible memories of physical and mental torment which, even when they had the courage to report them, no one apparently believed. Not the police. Not the newspapers. Not the BBC.

Did some turn a blind eye to criminality? Did some prefer not to follow up their suspicions because of this criminal’s popularity and place in the schedules? Were reports of criminality put aside or buried? Even those of us who were not there at the time are inheritors of the shame.”

Powerful stuff and one gets the feeling that he is trying to ensure that “no stone will be left unturned.” To this end the BBC Trust has established its own independent investigations which will run in parallel with the Police. Its purpose is to establish whether senior executives leaned on people to drop certain programmes and were false reports published to justify certain actions. BBC’s culture and practices will also be examined along with its child protection and whistle blowing polices.

Lord Patten has promised that the independent inquiries will not be a smokescreen behind which the BBC can hide. He added “They must and will get to the truth of what happened. The BBC must tell the truth and face up to the truth about itself, however terrible.”

Somehow the comments above are on pretty similar lines with those uttered in Jersey in 2008. By coincidence it is also a year ago that Verita published its Report along with proposals for and recommendations about commissioning a Committee of Inquiry into Jersey’s historical child abuse.

It should be noted that the Report only came about because on March 2nd last year following a 5 hour debate the States, by 37 votes to 11, with 1 abstention approved P19/2011 as amended. For the benefit of those who not acquainted with the reasons why Verita and more recently the Andrew Williamson Report have been published I will go back to March 2008. It was then when not only Jersey but the world became aware of the allegations of abuse to children in care in our “States run Institutions” with Haut de La Garenne in particular becoming the focus of world attention.

Like Lord Patten, the Chief Minister at that time Senator Walker, called for the truth to be exposed, no stone would be left unturned and no expense spared when seeking to achieve that goal. Quite understandably there were calls for an investigation or inquiry to run in parallel with the police to establish how such abuse could occur within the States’ run institutions. Unlike the BBC Trust, it was decided not to hold an independent investigation but the Chief Minister made a promise on 28th March 2008 to hold an inquiry if answers to 6 particular questions published in R27/2008 remained unanswered at the conclusion of the Police investigation.

When the police investigation got underway in March 2008 a whole catalogue of mishaps occurred along the way, including the unsavoury suspension of the Police Chief Officer and the dismissal of the former Health Minister which are well documented.

In December 2010 the Police announced that its investigation had ended however it was evident that there are still many unanswered questions. Although well over 150 individuals came forward alleging crimes against them, only 4 people have been prosecuted and no one in any capacity for the oversight of the children’s well being has been brought to task. Now that Jimmy Savile’s evil deeds have come to notice, what secrets are hidden in Jersey?

On 6th December 2010 a few days after the police announcement the Chief Minister of the day, Senator Le Sueur made an official apology and acknowledged that the care system that operated historically in the Island had failed some children in States’ residential care in a serious way.

In February 2011 the Council of Ministers published R8/2011 in which it set out the Council’s position in relation to a Committee of Inquiry into the historical child abuse. In simple terms it was of the view that nothing would be served by an inquiry, a line should be drawn and everyone should get on with their lives as if nothing had happened because lessons had been learnt.

There were a number of people including some States Members who like me were dissatisfied with the Council of Ministers conclusions. Soon afterwards Senator Le Gresley lodged P19/2011 which sought Members' support to request the Council of Ministers to reconsider its decision not to hold a Committee of Inquiry. Whilst I thought it was a commendable gesture, I felt it was a win, win proposition for the Council of Ministers. If Members voted against the proposition that would be the end of the matter. If they voted in favour and no matter how well supported, the Council of Ministers only had to consider its original decision but with no obligation to establish a Committee of Inquiry.

To enable Members to have the opportunity of a full debate and to consider the promise made by Senator Walker in March 2008 I lodged an amendment which asked members to consider whether they were content that the 6 questions posed in R27/2008 had been answered. If they were not then the questions should be considered by a Committee of Inquiry. Deputy Tadier added an amendment asking whether there was a consistent and impartial approach taken when deciding on which cases to prosecute; and was the process free from political influence or interference at any level?

When it came to voting on all 7 amendments, Deputy Tadier’s and 3 of mine were approved. Very importantly when it came to vote on Senator Le Gresley’s amended proposition, as mentioned above it was approved by 37 votes to 11.

It should be noted that among the 11 members who voted against the proposition were Senators Ozouf, Le Marquand and Maclean and Deputies Duhamel, Pryke and Gorst all are now current Ministers and I believe are obligated to carry out the wishes of the States. In the words of Lord Patten even though they were not there at the time they are the inheritors of the shame. That shame extends to each and every States Member for a promise made is a promise to be kept.

Following the States' decision, in September the Council of Ministers commissioned Verita to seek the views of interested parties about the purpose, manner and conduct of a Committee of Inquiry. Its report was submitted to the former Council of Ministers in November last year. Verita's report appears to tick all the boxes, it has been welcomed by the Care Leavers and other interested bodies. Unfortunately the Council of Ministers then commissioned Andrew Williamson to comment on Verita's Report which has not only caused further delay but was deemed by many to be a waste of money and an attempt to water down Verita's Recommendations.

It is now some 20 months since P19/2011 as amended was approved so why the procrastination, who are States Members protecting? Are there skeletons in the cupboards? Can't Members like Lord Patten "think of the victims of abuse – women and men – marooned for decades with terrible memories of physical and mental torment which, even when they had the courage to report them, no one apparently believed?" Don't our States Members have any feelings for those men and woman?

Chief Minister Gorst has stated that he wants to be sure that he gets it right and is shortly to lodge a proposition,. So far like his two predecessors he has failed to display the leadership expected of him. However he now has an opportunity to reclaim a few Brownie points by lodging a proposition in line with Verita's proposals. He must also produce a time line to ensure that the Committee of Inquiry is up and running by March next year.

Like the BBC our States must do its utmost to regain the public's trust and respect, justice delayed is justice denied. The promises made in March 2008 and the apology given in December 2010 are meaningless unless a full and open Committee of Inquiry is established without further delay. Again like the BBC the States must tell the truth and face up to the truth about itself, however terrible.

Paedophiles like Jimmy Savile only exist because people choose to turn a blind eye and in my book they are as guilty as the perpetrators and they too should be exposed and taken to task. I also believe that if States Members fail to establish a transparent Committee of Inquiry then they too are like the perpetrators.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Curtis Warren----More Questions Than Answers

My last week’s Blog on the Curtis Warren case (below) has certainly aroused interest and although not many Comments were submitted one in particular led me to look up the Court Judgements and a couple in particular are worth looking at.

As one can see in the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council’s Press Summary which I referred to in last week’s Blog, the UK Court was very critical of the Police’s role in the events leading to the arrest. The Press Summary makes reference to  [2008] JRC 050). (AG v Warren and others) which is the Ruling issued on 20th March 2008 on an application for a stay of proceedings on the grounds of abuse of process?

On reading both reports it becomes apparent that there were a number of questions asked and advice sought before the police operation actually got underway. It would seem that the best intentions of the Jersey police officers were being frustrated by red tape and/or lack of co-operation from other agencies. The clock was ticking away and swift action was required however should one lie or withhold the truth to justify arresting someone? Did the ends justify the means? Red tape is often in place for a purpose; some times that red tape is actually a law which is intended to prevent abuse.

One thing certain is that as a result of one group of people breaking the law it led to another group of people, a team of traffickers hell bent on breaking another law, that of importing around one million pounds worth of drugs to Jersey being foiled, arrested and convicted.

It may well be that it is in the public’s interest that the convictions should stand. However was it a Pyrrhic victory? In the Jersey Royal Court’s Judgement there is a quotation from Lord Bridge who said “no principle is more basic to any proper system of law than the maintenance of the rule of law.” That is a powerful quotation which should be to the forefront of all those tasked with the maintenance of the rule of law, that includes Crown Officers.

It is to the role of the Crown Officers in the case that is worth a second glance.When reading the Judge’s comments on role played by Crown Advocate Jowitt a senior member of the Law Officer’s Department I had difficulty understanding his logic. The Judge found him to to be an honest witness and deemed him to be an Advocate of integrity. It appears that the Judge based his claim on the premise that he gave evidence before him for some considerable time was subjected to rigorous cross-examination.

However in the next paragraph the Judge states that the advice the Advocate gave to the Police Officers with hind sight may have been more carefully and felicitously expressed and he should have considered and researched the law more carefully than he did. However as the Judge considered the Advocate to be honest and well intentioned, he acquitted the Advocate of any impropriety or criminality or of acting recklessly or in disregard of the law.

That’s all very well but the Judge was not so generous with remarks about the Police Officers for whom I hold no brief but it does take two to tango and it is apparent that there are three versions of the truth, that of the police, the Advocate and the actual truth which is probably somewhere in between.

The Advocate must have known what the Officers were trying to achieve and were seeking advice not from someone at the Citizen’s Advice Bureau (no offence intended) but from a Senior Crown Officer. In my book the advice should have been clear, precise and in writing. As it is we now have the situation where it is the word of one officer against another officer, with the Crown Officer’s word apparently having more weight than the Police Officers even though the advice given was personal and not to be relied on.

The Attorney General does not come out the affair with flying colours either. It is apparent that he mis-led the Dutch authorities in a letter and he also gave them an undertaking not to proceed with the case without their clear consent.

Fortunately for the AG, the Judge also believes him to be a man of integrity, so even if they make the odd mistake or two the Crown Officers are jolly good fellows and no blame should be apportioned to them. But hang on, the Crown Officers are also the people who give consent to prosecute, so how does that square with the Judge? Were the Crown Officer’s mistakes simple or were they intentional? Whatever the answer it will never be convincing and will be further ammunition to those who have called for a separate Crown Prosecution Service.

From the evidence to hand it is pretty obvious that Warren and his team were up to no good and had they succeeded with their plans they would have received a nice pay day and Jersey would have been awash with illegal drugs. So perhaps they deserve to be behind bars. But life is not that simple and one can be sure that Curtis Warren will be spending a great deal of his time and money appealing against his conviction. I understand he is claiming that his Human Rights were violated and it will be interesting to see whether he is successful. Should he succeed he could be in for a nice compensation killing and Jersey’s Police and Crown Officers will be left with all mighty egg on face.

We know that the Hampshire Police have been investigating the police actions and its report is due in the near future. However if we are going to get to the bottom of the affair then the role of the Crown Officers should also be subject to an investigation and the outcome made known to the public.

As one can imagine I shall not be holding my breath as there is little likely hood of any investigation taking place into their role in the affair. However one would hope that the Crown Officers now have a system in place whereby any advice given is accurate and in writing.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Curtis Warren---Rough Justice or Just Desserts?

It was 3 years ago this week that the Jersey Royal Court found “Drug Baron” Curtis Warren and his accomplices guilty of attempting to import drugs into the Island. The trial had taken two years to get to court because of the legal arguments that preceded it. Therefore for the benefit of readers it might be helpful to go back to the beginning of the saga which began in the summer of 2007.

Whatever Curtis Warren’s business dealings were, he was successful, so much so that he appeared on the 1997 Sunday Times Rich List. Although he was described as a property developer it is apparent that he had outside interests and drug trafficking was one of them. However he was not successful at evading the law authorities because by the early summer of 2007 Warren was coming to the end of a prison sentence he was serving in Holland for a drug plot which had been lengthened following a conviction for killing a fellow prisoner during a fight.

However within 5 weeks of being released from prison he was arrested by the Jersey police and accused of being the ringleader of a six-man gang who were trying to import 180kg of cannabis into the island from Holland via boat from France.

He had denied leading a £1 million plot, but in October 2009 after a two week trial a jury found him and his team guilty of conspiracy to import a controlled drug.

One of the key elements which led to the conviction was the claim that the Jersey Police for surveillance purposes, “bugged” a vehicle being used by Warren’s team. It is claimed that the officers’ action were not only unauthorised but they knew it to be. I am pretty sure that the officer’s will have their version of events so no blame should be apportioned at this stage. However it is very apparent that had the vehicle not been “bugged” it is unlikely that it would have been located and the team arrested.

One can understand the officer’s dileama do they “ break the law” to gather information to assist in arresting a team of criminals in the process of committing a serious crime or do they allow the team to get away? No doubt we all have a view but what is pertinent is that arresting someone is only one part of the legal process. There are other bodies with responsibility for determing whether those arrested should be charged and then referred to the court and tried.

It should be noted that Jersey’s own version of a prosecution service gave approval for the matter to be referred to court. (Jersey does not have independent prosecution service) What is pertinent is that body must have been aware of the Police officer’s actions so why was the matter allowed to go to trial?

The Judge also had the opportunity of kicking the case into touch but did not do so and as mentioned above after a two week trial the Jury returned a guilty verdict. Warren and his team received sentences of varying lengths but soon lodged an appeal which took a further 15 months before being heard.

Warren had built his case at London's Supreme Court around the fact that Jersey Police gathered their evidence against him illegally, which meant he could have been released thanks to their errors. However the Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the application. In their unanimous judgement the court, led by Lord Dyson, called Jersey Police's actions a "sustained and deliberate act of law breaking".

They said: "The Board stresses its condemnation of the police misconduct in this case. It was a sustained and deliberate act of law breaking."

They added: "The outcome of this appeal should not be seen to condone or overlook such behaviour. It should not be taken by Jersey police as any kind of signal that they can repeat this kind of conduct with impunity".

Such comments seem hypercritical in the extreme because they could have found in favour of Warren who was understandably aggrieved because he felt he was on the receiving end of rough justice. Warren who is not known as “Teflon” for nothing soon set about further appeals.

What is also of interest is that following the 2009 trial the then acting Police Chief, David Warcup was reported to have said "We hope that the conviction of the men sends out a clear message to others that we will continue to tackle those responsible for the importation of drugs into the island.”

Given Mr Warcup (mis) handling of his former boss’s suspension (Graham Power) it is not surprising that he would make such comments because he is very familiar with unauthorised activity.

Following the Judges’ comments the matter was refferred to the Hampshire Police who are apparently investigating the actions taken by the Jersey Police Officers involved with the process leading to Warren’s arrest. The officer responsible for managing the operation was Chief Inspector David Minty.

No doubt Curtis Warren will be hoping that he will have more success when his appeal goes before a higher authority who might not be minded to ignore “a sustained and deliberate act of law breaking."

It is also evident that the Hants Police report will soon be published and given the court’s comments it is apparent that some one will be found wanting and I would put good money that it wont be anyone responsible for the process that followed Warren’s arrest.

Last week it was announced that Chief Inspector Minty was suspended from duty, not apparently for his handling of the Warren case, but for failing a lawful order to attend a meeting being called by the new Police Chief.

In 2008 during the first States debate on Graham Power’s suspension I said the matter had a nasty smell about it. At the time I was not aware of the shenanigans behind Graham Power’s suspension, nor am I conversant with Mr Minty’s suspension but when I think about it I do not smell roses.

I have a feeling that we shall be hearing a lot more about Mr Warren and Mr Minty, so watch this space.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Moving the goal posts-- Literally

Those who have been following my Blogs relating to the application to build a new St Martin’s School on its playing field rather than refurbish/redevelop on its existing site will no doubt be interested in an update.

There appears to be a presumption that building on the playing field is a done deal. Fortunately the Planning Law requires all planning applications to be published and for the public to comment on the application. As mentioned in a previous Blog there were 60 Comments submitted with only two in favour but one of those was submitted via a false name and address.

I have heard, but nothing is confirmed, that the Planning Minister will be considering the application in public next month. Once a date is known I will publish the details via another Blog.

Regular readers will know that for many years the playing field has had two football pitches marked out between the cricket pitch. One pitch is for the Parish football team and the other for the school which because of FA Rules must be a lot smaller than the adult pitch.

Instead of allowing both pitches to be used until the planning decision is known, the Parish football club was given the order of the boot and told to find a pitch elsewhere. The feasibility study carried out in 2009 was quite specific in that it stated that if it was decided to build on the playing field, assistance had to be given to the Parish Club to find an alternative pitch.

One would have assumed that those tasked with that responsibility would have ensured that the Parish team at least played in St Martin, but no, that is not the case. What has been arranged is a temporary ground share in a neighbouring parish which does not have any training facilities.

To overcome the problem the club has been allowed to train on the playing field which has floodlighting. One could say that half a point is better than no points at all, but that is poor compensation for the loss of its home pitch.

A couple of week ends ago whilst on my usual weekend bike ride I happened to pass the playing field and almost fell off when I saw that the adult pitch had been marked out. I thought that a bout of sanity had broken out at the Education Department and that the pitch was being marked so that the Parish club could use the pitch whilst waiting for the planning decision. However when I went on to the pitch I realised that it had been marked out for a junior pitch which is much smaller than the adult pitch.

I did notice that the holes had not been dug to insert the junior sized goal posts. I therefore immediately emailed the Education Minister who also happens to be the Sports Minister and copied the email to his two assistant Ministers and to the Education Chief Officer. I pointed out what I had seen and said that if it had been decided to allow the school to play on the field until the planning decision was known then the parish football team should be allowed to continue using their pitch.

Very importantly I said that as the holes had not been dug to insert the goal posts, whoever was responsible for digging them should be told not do so, but told to mark out both pitches and insert the goal posts in the holes which are already in place.

Unfortunately my email was ignored, the holes have been dug and the goal posts erected. There is now the ludicrous situation where the adults can use the junior pitch to train on but cannot play matches on it as it is too small.

I did ask the Minister if he would tell me who was responsible for deciding to literally move the goal posts as the decision was childish and vindictive. I know that those at the Education Department are not happy that their plans may have been thwarted but they should not have counted their chickens until they are hatched. Neither should they be taking their displeasure out on the Parish Football Club who is not responsible for the planning process.

No doubt those responsible for moving the goal posts and those who have let it happen will be glowing with satisfaction at what they have achieved. However in my book they have acted dishonourably and are not fit to fill the positions they occupy.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Electoral Commission---Old Chestnuts revisited

The closing date for submissions to the Electoral Commission was 31st August and I gather that some 300 submissions were received. The last round of public hearings was held yesterday 10th September where I was one of 7 people who gave evidence. Apart from the Chairman the other 5 Commission members were present when I gave my evidence. There were about half a dozen members of the public in attendance but the hearing could not excite any members of the media to attend.

As one will see from my submission below I believe that whilst the decision relating to change rests in the hands of States Members, any meaningful change will be difficult to achieve. The Commission consists of 3 States Members and even though I have no reason to doubt the integrity of the 3 non States Members there will always be the perception that the Panel is so weighted in favour of retaining the status quo that any change is unlikely.

One point I thought worth raising was the fact that the Commission has an even number of Members and what arrangement is in hand should there be a three way split when votes are taken. Does the Chairman have a casting vote? It was evident that the issue had not been addressed so it will be interesting to see what will happen should the issue arise.

Unfortunately the Commission’s Terms of Reference are very narrow and did not include a question such as: is the current system working, if not why not and what is going to be done about it? Having had 18 years experience it is evident that the States is not functioning in an efficient manner, Ministerial government has created a division in the House.

With the benefit of hindsight and possibly because the States cherry picked the recommendations, the Scrutiny system as envisaged by the Clothier Panel has not worked and will not work because it was designed to be solely manned by non Executive members who are expected to be a “critical friend.” As such it is neither fish nor fowl. The UK’s equivalent of scrutiny is the select committee which comprises of members from all Parties.

Scrutiny has now been in operation for 6 years, it has achieved very little, Panels have rarely lodged propositions or amendment and when they have, they have seldom been successful. As an example when the Home Affairs Panel lodged a proposition to establish a Prison Visitors' Panel because the current system was deemed not to be Human Right compliant, not only did it encounter opposition from the Executive but also from fellow scrutiny members. It is not surprising that enterprising States Members no longer want to waste their time on Scrutiny. However by so doing they become marginalised and deemed to be left wingers. Addressing a divided House should be seen as a priority and to be far more important than revisiting old chestnuts.

However as the old adage goes “we are where we are” and my submission is based on experience and along with other like minded members of the public should not be deemed to be a member of the “vociferous minority” because I have a different view from the author the JEP’s editorial of 3rd September.

As can be seen in my submission apart from now favouring a district system rather than a Parish based system, I have been consistent with my support for the Clothier recommendations. It is hoped that my submission may go some way in persuading the Electoral Commission that the time for change has arrived.

Bob Hill submission
I was the Deputy of St Martin’s from November 1993 to November 2011. I have been an active supporter for change in our Machinery of Government and made a written submission to the Clothier Panel and appeared before it in 1999.

When the debate was held to establish Ministerial Government I regretfully voted in favour. I say regretfully because when I voted I had anticipated that my fellow States Members would have been honourable and would have taken positive steps to lodge and support the remaining Clothier recommendations; however vested interests prevented this from happening.

One reason/excuse given for not proceeding with the remaining recommendations was that it would be best to wait and see how Ministerial Government worked. However I believe the reason was because Clothier was recommending that the role of the Connetables and Senators should end.

In 2004 as no action had been taken to address the remaining Clothier recommendations, I believe I was the first Member to lodge a proposition, P115/2004 asking that the States,

(a) Agree that –

(i) the rôle of Senator in its present form shall be abolished from December 2005;

(ii) the 12 Parish Connétables shall cease to be members of the States by virtue of their office from December 2005;

(iii) the number of members shall be reduced from 53 to 42 with effect from December 2005;

(iv) all members of the States shall be known by the same title, namely ‘Senator’, with effect from December 2005;

(v) the 42 Senators shall, from December 2005, be elected in the following constituencies –

(A) S t. Helier – 12 Senators (4 for each of the present electoral districts);

(B) S t. Saviour – 6 Senators (2 for each of the current electoral districts);

(C) S t. Brelade – 4 Senators;

(D) S t. Clement – 4 Senators;

(E) All other Parishes – 2 Senators each;

(vi) all members of the States and the 12 Parish Connétables shall be elected on a single
General Election Day;

(vii) the term of office for members of the States and Parish Connétables shall be 4 years with exception of the first term, which shall run until May 2009;

(viii) the first general election shall be in November 2005 but thereafter it will be held during the third week in May.

(b) to charge the Privileges and Procedures Committee to bring forward for approval the necessary legislation to give effect to the proposals.

After lodging my proposition I held public meetings in St Lawrence and St Martin but just prior to debating my proposition the Special Committee on the Composition and Election of the States Assembly lodged its proposition P151/2004 with a set of proposals which ran on similar lines to mine, as such I had to withdraw my proposition and lodge amendments to P151/2004. Other Members lodged further amendments which along with the Special Committee’s proposals were subsequently rejected.

Since 2004 a number of similar propositions, including some of mine, have been lodged, but with little success. My last proposition related to a request that a referendum be conducted to determine whether the role of Senator should continue, but was rejected following opposition from the Senators. A year or so later and after the States had agreed to reduce the number of Senators, a now former Senator lodged a similar proposition. As one can see vested interests always have a part to play and whilst the decision relating to change rests in the hands of States Members, any meaningful change will be difficult to achieve.

I have always been of opinion that States Membership should be reduced and with one class of Member. I have no objection to Connetables seeking election to the States but they should do so by standing side by side with other candidates so the electorate has the opportunity of deciding whether they want their Connetable to fulfil a dual function.

When the States was first established, the principle of an elected Chamber was in its infancy. When Deputies were introduced in 1856 they became the only elected Members of the States. The Jurats, Rectors and the Connetables all had dual roles. Connetables are elected to run their Parish; as such attention to Parish Affairs takes precedence. They are subject to a different law from the Senators and Deputies whose first duty is to the States. I believe that States membership should be equal which at present it is not. Connetables should be elected to the States on ability not sentiment or tradition.

The days when it was perceived that Connetables knew all their parishioners have long gone. Parish meetings or Assembles are often poorly attended with very few Connetables ever calling parish meetings seeking parishioner’s views on Island matters and very few ever lodge questions or Propositions. During my 18 years, I served with 3 Connetables, to the best of my knowledge I don’t think any one them ever lodged a question and apart from the Island Plan debate last year when the Connetable lodged a proposition relating to the parish rectory, I am struggling to recall any other propositions being lodged in their name.

The Connetables are a political grouping which meets regularly with a member attending Council of Minister’s meetings. Even if it is argued that Connetables are independent of each other and the Council of Ministers, there is a perception that they are not and their voting pattern supports this view. If Connetables are perceived to be so important to the States, then they have no fear of not being elected should they have to stand along side other candidates seeking election to the States.

I am not suggesting that Connetables are not hard working or committed but they are not paid by their parish but by Island taxpayers who are entitled to expect all of its States Members to be fully committed to the States and not with half an eye on their parish.

In 2004 I was of the view that it might be premature to suggest that Members should have initials such as MSJ after their name I therefore proposed that if Members were to have title it should be Senator however I was quite relaxed and would have supported a more appropriate title had one been proposed. If it is decided to have a single class of member consideration will have to be given as to what to call them. It could be said with some justification that as Guernsey appears to cope with the title of Deputy that might also be appropriate for Jersey.

In 2004 I was of the view that membership should be reduced to 42 and along Parish lines, however given the success in Guernsey I am now of the view that perhaps dividing the Island into districts would lead to the introduction of more broad minded members who were not susceptible to falling foul of narrow minded electors who see any questioning of the role of the Bailiff, the Connetable and Honorary system, supporting gay marriages or living on the wrong side of the brook as a hanging offence. It would allow for greater representation with the electorate having 8 representatives. It would also mean that no States Member would be elected unopposed. If it was decided to go via a district setup with possibly 5 districts, membership could be reduced to 40.

I will add that during one of the many Machinery of Government debates, I did lodge a proposition seeking approval for the district format, but it was rejected.

There has been much discussion relating to the merits of the Island mandate, like the role of the Connetable and even the Parish Deputy, I believe the Senators days are numbered. It has been suggested that Senators were introduced because they were intended to be senior members who due to longevity and perceived wisdom would fill the role of Committee Presidents. Again life has changed and although some Senators may be under the illusion of being more important they only have one vote and being a Senator is no guarantee to high office. The one positive note in their favour is that it is rare that any are elected unopposed.

I have always been of the view that elections should be held on one day in spring and members serving a four year term which at long last has been achieved.

In summary, Jersey should adopt the Guernsey district system with a Chamber consisting of 40 members. There should be no ex officio Members; all should have the same title and all being elected on the same day every four years.

If the Electoral Commission feels that it would be of any value, I would be content to appear before it.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

St Martin's Playing Field--- Thank you

The closing date for submissions to the Planning Department has arrived and I would like to thank the many people who not only attended my public meeting but those who made submissions to the Planning Department and to my Blog.

At the time of publishing this Blog there are 57 submissions published on the Planning Website which for convenience can be located here Planning website readers will note that no public comments were submitted until after the public meeting held on 1st August which was a day after the initial closing date for submissions. At the Public Meeting it was agreed to extend the deadline to 28th August.

It is quite apparent that very few people were aware of the planning application let alone of its implications. It is also apparent that many of the public and also those submitting the application thought it was a done deal. Fortunately the public are now more enlightened and more importantly have taken steps to question the application and ask that those behind the application account for their actions.

Among the many questions that need to be addressed before the application can even be considered is why States Members were not made aware of the Field’s status as a Protected Open Space before it was included on the list of fields safeguarded for educational use in the 2011 Island Plan?

The former Planning and Education Ministers must have been aware of the Field’s protected status so why was that fact withheld? Given that States Members were misled is the decision lawful?

As a result of the public meeting held on 1st August it was agreed that the Feasibility Study on the future of St Martin’s School would be made available to the public.

For reader’s convenience it is can be accessed by opening here; Feasibility Study It should be noted that the study was not subjected to any scrutiny. No mention is made of the people involved in the consultation and I who, at the time was the Parish Deputy, was not consulted nor even made aware that a Study was being conducted let alone informed that one had been completed.

It should also be noted that concerns were expressed about the perceived lack of space. There were a number of options considered but one option not included was to demolish the existing school which at the time was not a listed building. Why was that option omitted?

Anyone who knows the school will be aware that there is considerable frontage to school which is taken up with staff parking and a garden area, that area seems to have been left out of the equation, why?

It is reported that the school is a poor state and a considerable sum of money will be required for annual maintenance. If the school is in such a state what use will it be to the Parish who will become its owners should a new school be built on the field.

Surely one option to be considered is to demolish the existing school and rebuild a modern school with a Victorian façade. It should be noted that the school was “conveniently” added to the Sites of Local interest list well after the Feasibility Study. I submit it was added to list to give weight to building on the field.

If one reads the officer’s report relating to the listing he/she states that the school is one of 8 existing schools build around the same period. Demolition may seem a drastic measure but so too is losing a seven vergee playing field.

What is now evident is thanks to the public’s participation more evidence has come to hand which cannot be ignored. As such it is evident that there will be a delay in the planning process. However the delay should not be apportioned to those who exercised their right to raise concerns but to those who by their acts and omissions were hell bent on building on the playing field and naively believed that consent would be granted without questions being asked.

Although the Planning Minister will be busy sifting through the submissions and seeking answers to the many questions which are now posed, the public should not sit back and wait for his decision.

My public meeting, the submissions and the Feasibility Study have raised a number of issues which are Parish related and it is hoped that those issues will be raised via the Parish Connetable and Deputy.

On an entirely separate note: I have made a submission to the Electoral Commission and will be appearing before it at 1130am at the Town Hall next Monday 10th September. I will publish my submission and a report on my appearance some time next week.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Wanted--Your Help to Save Your Field

Last March the JEP published my first letter and I published my first Blog expressing my opposition to the application to build a new St Martin’s School on its playing field (327A). Since then the JEP has published a number of my letters and a number from other concerned people. I have also published further Blogs. However no letters have been published in support of the application. Also and very importantly apart from not being represented at my public meeting, no one from Education, Sport and Culture has attempted to defend its application. One may ask why, is it because it is difficult defending the indefensible?

As a result of the publicity the public have become better informed and are becoming aware of the knock on affect it will have not only for St Martin Parishioners but also for residents Island wide if consent is given to build on the field. The Parish will lose its football pitch with no provision made for a replacement. The pupils will lose their cricket pitch although it is proposed to ask the Parish if it will allow Education to install a cricket pitch on its Village Green. The existing school will be transferred to the Parish. To cater for staff parking consent will need to be sought to purchase part of Field 720A on the opposite side of the road, which is a good agricultural field.

These are important matters but none have been subjected to any public consultation yet there is an application before the Minister to build on the existing playing field.

The application is based on the presumption that there is no further capacity on the site to extend the facilities. That is simply untrue; the existing school is standing on a three vergee site which was provided by the parish of St Martin way back in 1897.

It is not disputed that the present school needs major refurbishment for which around £8million has been provided. Other parish schools, such as Trinity, St John and St Peter all built of similar size and around the same period have been re-developed on site and during that period pupils occupied port-a- cabins. Unlike many other schools, St Martin’s stands on a larger footprint and is blessed with having a 7 vergee (about 3 acres) playing field right next to it. The field was acquired in 1947 and has been a valued and focal point ever since.

It should be noted that prior to July last year the playing field was a protected site under the 2002 Island Plan Policy BE8 “Important Open Space.” The purpose of this policy is similar to the “Listed Site Policy” where there is a presumption against development. I say the field was protected because somehow the field was conveniently removed from the list during the Island Plan debate last year when the States (unwittingly) voted for the field to be included in the fields to be “safeguarded for educational use.” Thus by a stroke of the pen the field was thrown open to development and a foot in the door for an application to build on it. However the fact that the field was a "Protected Open Site" was with held from Members.

The playing field had been protected for a number of years and way before late 2009 when by pure co-incidence St Martin’s School is added to the “Sites of Local Interest” list thus by protecting that building it would add weight to the application to build on the field. All clever stuff one may say, however others may see it as a bit of sharp practice.

However there are vital questions which need answers such as if both the field and school were listed, what criteria was adopted to determine which would be the greater loss, a building deemed to be no longer fit for purpose which can be replaced by a modern fit for purpose school or a longstanding recreation field which when built on is lost for ever? Also who took the decision and was it ever recorded? Even more importantly why was the public not consulted and invited to comment and why cannot they be asked for an opinion before the application is considered?

At my public meeting two weeks ago a comment was made that the public should have been aware of what was going on; however when the facts are withheld or couched in such a way as to confuse the public one can hardly blame them for questioning the application once they have been informed of the facts.

On page 4 of Planning’s Supplementary Planning Guidance, Draft Development Brief, which was published as part of the consultation Brief in February this year, the following can be found, The Minister for Education, Sport and Culture made a representation to the 2011 Island Plan review explaining that the existing school was no longer fit for purpose and there was no space on site for expansion and requested that Field 327A be safeguarded for educational use.

The States approved the Island Plan and Field 327A was duly safeguarded in Policy SCO1. Although the Minister has made a compelling case for a new school, the Minister for Planning and Environment will require confirmation that the proposed school is in a sustainable location in respect of its catchment area and expects that confirmation to come out of the consultation process.”

It is apparent that the former Planning Minister must have been reading the Education Minister's application with “Nelson’s blind eye” and was a soft touch because on closer scrutiny the application is without substance and certainly runs foul of a number of Planning’s own policies.

Apart from being the less expensive option, there is ample room on the existing site to allow for redevelopment even if the current school is retained; those buildings which are not listed can easily be demolished. If space is deemed to be tight there is absolutely no reason why a two storey building cannot be built for year 5 and 6 pupils who would enjoy viewing the French coast from across Field 327 which is to the north of the school. Where is the vision, where is the will?

As can be seen above, although there is an application to build on the field which has apparently lost its protected status, it certainly does not mean that the current Minister, who is also Minister for the Environment and certainly not a soft touch will approve Education’s application. The case must be made and the jury is still out. He is mindful of the serious implications of building a new school on its playing field and has wisely extended the time for forwarding comments to 28th August.

Although the field is now listed for educational use it does not mean that it should be built on. It has been in educational use for over 60 years and has created opportunities for generations of children to learn about the importance sports participation and social skills. It has also been a valuable environmental and nature classroom. The field is irreplaceable and once lost is lost forever.

People have asked why I have bothered to continue fighting to save the field when many believe that consent is a done deal. I have continued because I do not believe it is a done deal and our environment is worth fighting for.

I have done my bit and I ask that if readers really want to save the field they too can do their bit by submitting their comments to the Planning and Building Services, South Hill, St Helier, JE24US or via THIS WEBSITE , This is the main Application website.

Please click to open and then click onto the Comment on Application section where a pro forma can be found. Your comments need not be lengthy but could help to save the field.

As a guide Readers may wish to submit something like " I am opposed to building on the St Martin's School playing field and any replacement should be constructed on its present site."

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Public Meeting (Report)

The meeting hurriedly arranged for last night was well attended and interesting. It was also an opportunity for the Ministers responsible for supporting the application to account for their support and to answer any questions the public might want to ask. Unfortunately for various reasons none were present but there were other States Members present who were eager for the public to hear their views.

As the only person who had taken the trouble to arrange a meeting it was amusing to see how those who should have done so not only took the trouble of attending but did so with prepared lengthy speeches. One wonders why they did not organise their own meeting rather attempt to hi-jack mine.

The whole purpose of the three week period between advertising a planning application and receiving comments is to allow for a consultation process and how better than to call upon those supporting the application to account for it. In some countries it is part of the democratic process but in Jersey it is meddling with it.

However the meeting provided an opportunity to shoot the messenger with politicians taking every opportunity to ridicule any one who did not actually live in the Parish. The fact that the school is being financed by the Island’s taxpayers and 48% of its pupils live outside the catchment seemed to be ignored.

It was certainly sad to hear elected Members questioning the motives of those seeking a re-think because they no longer live in St Martin’s. The current Football Club President although now living in Trinity has devoted 54 years to the Parish football team. He has been an inspiration to thousands of parishioners and without his dedication the parish club would have folded many years ago. The Club pays a fee to the Education Department for the hire of the ground. The goal posts are left in position and there is seldom a day when one does not see people of all ages playing on the pitch. The Club also funds the Trinity Shield competition which is for Jersey born residents living in the Parish. The Parish football is part and parcel of the Parish and to denigrate its President is unworthy.

It was also a case for not letting the truth get in the way of defending an entrenched position. No one is disputing the fact that the present school needs urgent attention but it was stretching it a bit when Senator Francis Le Gresley reported that when it rains it pours into the school and soaks the school books. One wonders why he has not reported the matter to the Education Minister. If the school is such a poor state one wonders why some Parishioners are so keen to take it over.

We also had a statement from Senator Routier who wrongly reported that the Field Challenge Trust would not consider any playing field which was controversial. I don’t know how he could come up with that red herring. The whole purpose of the Field Challenge is to protect playing fields from development. Only the owner can sign the deed that gives protection. Therefore if the authority or in Jersey’s case the Parish or States is opposed to the public’s support for the retention of the playing field the application will be controversial. However it is the public which will have the vote.

By delaying the opportunity for public participation in the Field Challenge the States, by stealth is denying the public the opportunity to nominate the St Martin’s playing field. The fact that I did so on May 1st seems to have been ignored.
It was again alleged that during the States debate of the Island Plan last year, the States Members, myself included, voted to allow the school field to be built on. That is not so, what was voted for was that the field would be safeguarded for educational use. The field has been in educational use for over 65 years and if a sensible approach was taken it could be retained for another 65 years and more.

Unfortunately due to PTT (Politicians Talking Time) which at times was intimidating I felt that many of the public became restrained from commenting. However one very valid point was made by a former pupil who asked what seemed to be the most sensible question of the evening, which was, “If the present site is deemed to be too small why the area required can’t encroach into the playing field which would achieve the best of both worlds. There would be a new building on the old site whereby the pupils and the Parish would retain their cricket and football pitches”

“Elementary my dear Watson” perhaps it is a pun on the former elementary school but it is an appropriate response to a sensible question.

There were two positive matters that arose from the meeting; one is that the public are now better informed and certainly if a vote had been taken to request the Ministers to have a re-think, the vote would have been won. The other was recognition that the public requires more time to comment. To this end the Planning Minister has extended the time for consultation and comment until 28th August.

Hopefully the Ministers will reconsider their decision. However it is for the public, if they wish to retain the field, to take the trouble to submit their comments to the Planning Department before the end of this month.