Thursday 3 April 2014

Independent Jersey Care Inquiry-- Preliminary Hearing

Three years after the States approved P19/2011 as amended to establish a Committee of Inquiry into allegations of abuse by young people in States care, a Preliminary Hearing was held at the St Paul's Centre this morning.

The fifty plus attendees received a very slick and professional 50 minute presentation from the Chair of the Inquiry, Frances Oldham QC who was accompanied by fellow members Alyson Leslie and Professor Sandy Cameron along with their legal team and administrators.

The presentation was filmed and it can seen on HERE  along with the transcript. The website also displays a number of documents including Inquiry Protocols relating to Legal Representation, General Procedure, Media Conduct, Providing Evidence to Inquiry and Protective Measures. Would be witnesses and other interested people are recommended to read the protocols because there are time restrictions for those wishing to partake in the Inquiry.

Given the lengthy presentation which included going through the Terms of Reference one would have hoped that Mrs Oldham would have allowed for a short time to answer questions, however it was not to be. Much was made of the Inquiry being truly independent and that it had been set up to establish what went wrong in the care system over many years and to find answers for people who suffered abuse as children. I hope that the inquiry will interpret the care system as including educational establishments such as Victoria College.

The Inquiry will be known as “Independent Jersey Care Inquiry,” had there been time allowed for questions I would have like to have asked how independent the Committee was going to be. It is hoped that unlike those involved with the Bishop of Winchester’s Visitation the Panel will not be having coffee with the Chief Minister, biscuits with the Bailiff and cocktails at Government House.

Who is the Committee accountable to, who will it present its report to, will be the report be published without redactions and when presented will it be in the public arena and time allow for questions?

During the 50 minute presentation I was interested to hear that in 1970 Haut de la Garenne was inspected by two UK Home Office Children’s Department Inspectors. Later in 1981 a similar inspection took place into other child care establishments. This is the first time I had learnt of the visits and one wonders why they were not mentioned by Ministers during the States debate to establish a Committee of Inquiry when they worked so hard to oppose the proposition.

Mrs Oldham said that the panel will examine the visits and establish whether recommendations were in fact implemented. Given that many allegations were made from victims who were in care during that time, one wonders whether the recommendations were implemented and was this why no reference was made to the visits during the debate.

It is as a result of a lot of hard and persistent work by a small but dedicated group of people that the Committee of Inquiry has been established. This morning was just the beginning and it is evident that the Panel has already started its work.

The Terms of Reference will give the Panel the power to require Departments to provide documents and to account for them and their acts or omissions. The Panel has the tools to do the job, it is independent and this morning it certainly gave the impression of being professional and efficient. It is now down to those who have a tale to tell to come forward. There might never be another chance so I really hope that the opportunity is not lost.

I have previously published blogs on the Establishment of the Committee of Inquiry and related matters which can be found below;

30th October 2010 Savile, Skeletons in the cupboard

6th November 2012 Jersey Historic abuse Inquiry  One small step

28th November 2012 Jersey Historic Abuse Inquiry  Possible Amendments

1st March 2013 No stone left unturned.

15th March 2013 The Nelson Touch


  1. Bob,

    There are many many questions still to be answered by the Panel and their legal team.

    Such as: who do they report to? If the report ends up with the Jersey Chief Minister of the day then what will happen to the recommendations? Or if they end up with the Law Officers? And what if the findings are of "deliberate misinformation" as at Hillsborough? Or of basically conspiracy to pervert the course of justice? What then?

    You write:
    "I hope that the inquiry will interpret the care system as including educational establishments such as Victoria College"

    I do not "hope" that the Sea Cadets, Victoria College, Cinq Chenes, (none of which provide "care" are included. It is absolutely ESSENTIAL that they are included. If they are not, then the Inquiry is a sham and everyone affected by abuse or concerned should walk away. And yet the chair Frances Oldham referred to the statutory care system or some similar phrase 4 times. Not once did she mention the "other agencies providing services for children" that are IN THE TERMS OF REFERENCE. So there is another question - why this omission?

    Will they accept the necessary clarifications and improvements which the Terms of Reference still require?

    If the requirement for research (basically reading thousands of documents, email threads, etc.) cannot be fulfilled with their present resources, what will they do? And is that response satisfactory?

    How will they go about attracting witnesses? Their initial response to this question today showed that they had not given this any thought at all. Fair enough, drawing up the protocols of how the Inquiry would be run and the proposed running order and division into phases, will have taken a lot of time and work. But the question remains. And it has to have a satisfactory answer.

    What happens if they uncover criminal behaviour which has not been dealt with by the courts?

    We have to be asssured that the Inquiry will in fact be not only fair and sensitive, but also independent, robust and fearless, if we are to invest days and weeks of our time to taking part.

    1. I can understand your concerns and share them. I have forwarded my Blog to the Inquiry office and hope they will not only read my blog but also the Comments.

      There is a free phone to the Inquiry team 0800 735 0100 if readers they could contact the team to clarify any points, I shall be doing so tomorrow and insert answers in this Blog's comments.

  2. Bob, I think this interview with Allan Collins is well worth watching. He is rightly concerned about the mechanics of the CoI. He is not alone. Here is the link-

    1. Thanks for the link. Unfortunately I have cut and pasted it but could not find the the link to the interview. Please could you try any link.


      Sorry Bob- I can't seem to find the hyperlink thing. If this doesnt work, go on youtube and search

    3. Thanks for having another go. I have gone into You Tube to see if I could find the interview but can't. If any reader can send in the link I would be grateful.

      I have seen and heard interviews Mr Collins has given and I share his concern about witnesses not coming forward. In my blog above I have stated that this will probably be the last chance to give their evidence, so witnesses should take it.


    4. Thanks to Voiceforchildren for the link and to Mike Dun for his interview.

      Alan Collins does express concerns about the witnesses coming forward and I can understand their reticence in doing so. The Inquiry has taken a long time to get going and witnesses are understandably concerned about possible repercussions. However every step must be taken to allay their concerns.

      Tony the Prof has made a very good and pertinent point in his Blog about support being given to witnesses such as adequate counselling if required.

      Witnesses are key to the success of the Inquiry and steps must be taken to help them. It is no point in spending millions of pounds on lawyers but spending very little on witnesses.

  3. Bob,

    Kudos to you and for the other former States Members who cared enough to listen to the presentation, when so few current members did. You have touched on some important omissions, and I hope you will be providing your ongoing insight into how the COI proceeds.

    In addition to the good comments by Daniel, I'd like to add concerns about the mistreatment of nearly everyone who did step forward to help abuse survivors. From Chief of Police, to Father of the House and Minister of Health to you elected officials who did speak out, the results of that integrity have been to try and discredit the messenger, in all too many cases.

    Yet it seems a hopeful time for this COI. Many eyes are on this process and will be thoroughly examining the outcome. In an age of online communication, history will record the evidence, and the evidence has already established horrific institutionalized abuse, destroyed physical forensic items and relevant documents, serious political interference in prior investigations and an elaborate politically orchestrated cover-up with a compliant local media. We can hope the COI starts from that reality as a baseline when further evidence is examined.

    1. I think we have to have a positive response to day's Hearing because for the Inquiry to be successful it requires witnesses to have the courage to come forward. Without witnesses there will be no evidence.

      I know you follow my blogs so are aware of the Steel investigation where Dame Heather has failed to interview the main witnesses which has led to no action being taken against the Dean. We could end up with a sham result unless people come forward.

    2. Agree with all you've said, Bob. Without broadly based participation, there is no chance to make this COI useful. With greater participation there is much more chance of exposing additional abuse, and the likelihood of making needed changes to prevent it from happening again.

  4. If this inquiry is supposed to be independent then why are ex states members like yourself trying to meddle and rumour monger it already?

    Critics are already saying its going to be a farce.

    1. Oh dear not only does it appear that you have got out of bed on the wrong side but have been living in cloud cuckoo land along with individuals like yourself whose bottle is always half empty.

      If you have really read my Blog above and opened my Blog of 30th October 2012 you will see that we have an Inquiry simply because of former States Members like myself. It is also because of the support of former States Members and Bloggers have given to a small handful of current States Members like Monty Tadier, Mike Higgins and the Pitmans that we have a robust Terms of Reference.

      It has taken 3 years to get the Inquiry on the road and those who have pressed for it have met with opposition from Ministers who have something to hide and also from blinkered critics like your self who are hoping that the Inquiry will be a farce.

      Please tell me what positive action you have taken to assist the abused and vulnerable members of our society and don't be afraid to disclose your name.

    2. The fight for a CoI has been hard fought since 2007
      From Ex Health Minister Syvret's new blog:

      I’m not sure it’s possible to convey – really – to other people just what it was like – how desperately hard and Kafkaesque it was to fight for a full public inquiry. Lies, obstructions and deceit were everywhere.

      For example, here is a quote from a draft statement that was going to be issued by Jersey’s cabinet, the Council of Ministers, of which Frank Walker was the Chief Minister: -

      “Thirdly, the Council has decided to accept the recommendation of the Health and Social Services Minister, that a Committee of Enquiry should be established. At its next meeting on 6th September, the Council will consider terms of reference for this much wider review of child protection procedures throughout the States.”

      That draft statement was discussed at a Council of Ministers’ meeting on the 26th July 2007, when the CoM were going through the motions but secretly boiling-up a “crises” from the honest answer I had given to the Jersey parliament. In reality – unbeknown to me until far later – a conspiracy to engineer my dismissal was underway and already being enacted, for example, at meetings the day before.

      We know that for a fact now, because we have the evidence in the form of a file-note written by the then Police Chief Graham Power immediately after he left a Corporate Management Board meeting on the 25th July 2007. the coup against the Health Minister was well underway behind the scenes under the cover of the Council of Ministers' pretence of cooperation.

  5. "Later in 1981 a similar inspection took place into other child care establishments. "
    Hi Bob, I was working at H de la G at that time and certainly know of no such visit. I cannot deny it happened, maybe it did but as a member of staff I knew nothing about it.

    1. Hi Jane,
      Thanks for the info, I am making enquiries into the two visits and will let Readers know of any info received.

  6. Will Mrs Oldham review the terms of reference? The proposition passed by the States allows for that. It is important This was written 18 months ago. It explains why. Jersey's coming 30 year war

  7. My understanding is that the current TOR allows for Mrs Oldham to add or amend them but they must be approved by the States. That was a necessary long stop just in case any queries arose after the Chairman and Committee was selected and appointed.

    In my Blog I did raise the issue as to who the COI is accountable to and I was hoping that Mrs Oldham would have allowed for questions to be asked and that is one I was hoping to ask.

    If the COI is to have any credibility it must be prepared to listen to any concerns raised and if that means amending the TOR then so be it.