F.J. (Bob) Hill, BEM, is Jersey born and educated at St Martin's Elementary School, left the Island and served for 31 years in the Metropolitan Police. He returned to Jersey in 1991 and in 1993 was elected Deputy of St Martin until 2011.
Tuesday, 10 June 2014
Independent Jersey Care Inquiry --- Wheels Turning?
The Independent Jersey Care Inquiry's offices at 11/15 Seaton Place in St Helier were opened yesterday to members of the public.The photograph above is the main area where the three members of the Committee of Inquiry will conduct their business There is also an area set aside for witnesses who do not wish to be identified and for the media.
There were members of the team present to answer questions and how witnesses will be looked after. It is evident that no expense has been spared in providing the latest technology and also provision for witnesses who wish to give their evidence anonymously. My visit lasted about an hour and I took the opportunity of speaking to a number of the team and also interested members of the public, many of whom I knew.
At the outset of most Inquiries there is always a mixture of optimism and pessimism which is understandable. One of the main concerns is the time it has taken for the pleas of the victims to be heard and for the police to actually have the courage to address their allegations. There is also the suspicion that a number of people in positions of responsibility who not only turned a blind eye but also covered up or protected suspects will not be exposed. There is also a feeling of despair that the Committee of Inquiry (COI) will not get to the root of the problems and the " Jersey Way" will remain but in a stronger position because it was able to withstand an attack from what is seen as a toothless body which does not understand how the machinery of our government functions. There is also a belief that it will "chicken out" because it does not have the resolve or stomach for a fight against an entrenched system which is still based on the feudal past. Among the reasons given by the Council of Ministers for opposing the Inquiry was because lessons have been learnt and systems are now in place whereby the vulnerable are protected and if by chance anything untoward should arise, systems are in place to ensure that their concerns are openly and efficiently addressed. Those who have been following my Blogs will know that nothing has changed and lessons have not been learnt. Victims become villains and are abused or ignored by those who are supposed to uphold the law and see fair play. So what hope is there for those who may still be considering whether to come forward as witnesses and/or to appear before the COI? The protocols akin to a set of rules are in place and are intended to assist the COI, the witnesses, press and other interested bodies. However I question whether they are being interpreted fairly. I have been impressed by the Team's manner and enthusiasm but they are being let down because of the manner it is interpreting the protocol relating to legal assistance. I understand that legal support is being given to government bodies such as the police, health, education and other public funded departments but not to ordinary members of the public. How can that be, surely that is no way to treat individuals some of whom are key witnesses. I also understand the Team was refused access to a person held at La Moye Prison, yet when a States Member attempted to lodge a question of the Chief Minister, the Bailiff would not allow it. There is no appeal system in place. It is to be hoped that these are just isolated incidents and will be remedied but if the Inquiry is to succeed it will require a mature approach from both the COI and the States and to understand that witnesses need to be encouraged not hindered.
I have submitted a 37 page statement. It was taken by two UK lawyers in what was a painless exercise and I would urge all those who are not sure whether their evidence is of value to pick up the phone and make a free call to speak to a member of the Team. If in Jersey/UK dial 0800 735 0100 or if further afield dial +44 (0) 1534 828 798. The email address is email@example.com The Independent Jersey Care website is www.jerseycareinquiry.org These are still a few wrinkles to be ironed out including some proposed amendments from Daniel Wimberley which the COI is duty bound to consider and seek States approval to implement.These are stilll early days but the wheels are at long last turning.and we have been promised a "robust and fearless" Inquiry, let us hope that this is the case.