Yesterday in the States Chamber Senator Philip Bailhache a knight of the realm, former Bailiff, Chief Judge, former Attorney and Solicitor General and would be Foreign Minister made a Personal Statement. Interestingly he made it as a backbencher whereby according to the rules he could not be questioned on the contents/accuracy of his statement. This might not have been the case had he done so in his capacity as Assistant Chief Minister.
For readers who may not be acquainted with the background I will cover the relevant points and state that Senator Bailhache, as is his right, has been offering assistance to the Island’s Dean who is the subject of a complaint over his handling of an abuse complaint from a lady known as HG.
It was claimed by two business men that Senator Bailhache whilst on a flight between Jersey and London was reading documents appertaining to the case which revealed the names of the victim and the accused. Most of us have read documents or other material whilst on flights so what has made a mountain out of a mole hole?
It is evident that the business men contacted Deputy Trevor Pitman and expressed concerns about Senator Bailhache reading what they thought was sensitive documents which could be read by them and possibly other members of the public. It is unclear what research was carried out by Deputy Pitman before asking questions in the States but it would be helpful to know whether Senator Bailhache was travelling on States business and in what capacity. Was he travelling as a backbencher or as an Assistant Minister, as one can see above, there is a difference but none of us is the wiser?
The exchanges that ensued could be akin to a playground spat whereby the bully whilst denying any wrongdoing called his accusers nasty names and impugned their integrity. The bully and the accusers were then questioned by the Head master who believed that everyone was telling the truth. However to his credit Deputy Pitman stuck to his guns and pursued the matter to a stage where Senator Bailhache has been boxed into a corner and has now made a skilfully drafted statement which includes an apology. However it is open to interpretation and appears to be very much a damage limitation exercise.
Senator Bailhache is strongly denying not telling the truth however it does appear that he has been very economical with it. He claims that had he been made aware of what was being alleged a misunderstanding could have been avoided? To those who have been following the matter it seems to have been a simple one. It was claimed that he was reading sensitive documents on a plane which he had not only denied reading but in rebuttal used language which he now accepts was stronger than was necessary or appropriate. He would like to make it clear that he did not impute dishonesty or malice to Deputy Pitman or his constituents. There are some people who may not be convinced with that claim.
I believe that most people when being accused of something ensure they know exactly what they are being accused of before shooting from the hip and casting aspersions on the accusers. However this does not seem to be the case with Senator Bailhache who appears to be of the belief that his actions are above reproach.
The matter could and should have been resolved the first time the matter was raised in the States on 30th April. The reason why it was not is not down to Deputy Pitman but rests squarely on the shoulders Senator Bailhache and Chief Minister Gorst who failed to investigate the matter in a thorough and expedient manner.
What the Personal statement reveals is that Senator Bailhache has problems with his memory; he is not sure what he reads and even today could be mistaken in what he thinks he was reading. Given that he is aspiring to be the Island’s first Foreign Minister it does not bode well for Jersey.
The Statement is published in full below and it will be for readers to draw their own conclusions.
PERSONAL STATEMENT TO BE MADE BY SENATOR SIR PHILIP BAILHACHE
ON MONDAY 15th JULY 2013
On 18th June Deputy Trevor Pitman claimed that I was not telling the truth to the Assembly in relation to a complaint by one of his constituents and this is my first opportunity to respond to that claim. That claim is strongly denied.
I should like to begin by stating that I have at no time been approached by Deputy Pitman seeking an explanation as to what happened on a London flight; the only exchanges that have taken place have happened on the floor of this Chamber in response to questions. If I had been made aware of exactly what was being alleged, a misunderstanding could have been avoided. It was not until Deputy Pitman made available to the Chief Minister a copy of the email from his constituent shortly before questions were put on 14th May, and the Chief Minister passed that copy to me, that I was able to understand the precise nature of the allegations.
When questions were put to the Chief Minister on 30th April I had assumed that the flight in question was a flight that I made to London on the evening of 20th March not long after the suspension of the Dean’s Commission had taken place. On that flight to London I have a clear recollection of reading the Korris report, as stated by the Chief Minister to the Assembly on 30th April. It was only on 14th May that it became clear to me for the first time that the flight referred to by Deputy Pitman’s constituent was on the afternoon of 21st March when I was returning to Jersey from London. On that flight I do not believe that I would have been reading documents relating to this matter because I had read them in London, but I may be mistaken.
In answering questions on 14th May I said that the content of the email from Deputy Pitman’s constituent “taken in the round [gave] a fictitious and malicious account of my reading habits on aeroplanes”. Having had time to reflect, I am sorry that I used language that was stronger than was necessary or appropriate. I withdraw the phrase “fictitious and malicious” and would like to make it clear that I do not impute dishonesty or malice to Deputy Pitman’s constituent or, for the avoidance of any doubt, to the Deputy himself. Having said that, the recollection of Deputy Pitman’s constituent is, at least in part, mistaken. That is perhaps not surprising because the constituent has stated in his email that he was sitting in a seat on the opposite aisle and reading papers in someone else’s possession from that position cannot be easy. That email alleged that the constituent had seen me reading “various police statements…” and it was later clarified to the Chief Minister that this meant “police witness statements”. That recollection is mistaken because I did not have in my possession on the aeroplane any copies of such police statements. I do not believe that it would have been possible for the other information referred to in the email to have been seen on that occasion, but in that respect I may be mistaken. If it was possible for any third party to have identified EY or HG from the papers in my possession, I would obviously regret that very much.
I should like to clarify two other points. First, I have never had in my possession any papers that I was not entitled to have in my possession, nor that involved a breach of the Data Protection Law or any other statute. Specifically, I have never seen any police statements relating to the investigation into allegations made by HG against EY. Secondly, my interest in these issues is not one that relates to my duties as an Assistant Minister. My interest stems from my position as an elected representative of Grouville Church on the Deanery Synod, and my strong feelings about the manner in which the Dean has been treated. Any backbench member has a perfect right to interest himself in matters of this kind.