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.