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.