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 info@jerseycareinquiry.org
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.

19 comments:

  1. The COI has refused Stuart Syvret legal representation but granted it to Health&SS - Education and Police. Remind me who was it that covered up the abuse for all this time and who was it who blew the whistle?

    Pedo's and protectors get legally represented and whistleblowers left out in the cold by this inquiry?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope that the COI will reconsider its decision otherwise it will be accused of bias.

      Delete
  2. How can this inquiry be taken seriously when they won't let Syvret have a lawyer?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The decision does not make sense and it will cast a cloud over the Inquiry.

      Delete
  3. The choice of which interviewees are provided with legal representation and which are not, may tell the story of the COI.

    Elle

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Elle,

      This could be a reoccurring theme which will do nothing to inspire confidence in the COI.

      It might be helpful if Stuart and/or the COI could inform readers of the reasons for refusal.

      Delete
    2. Bob.

      Stuart's application for legal funding and the ruling against him can be read HERE.

      Delete
    3. Thanks Voice for the link which is very useful and should help to clarify the situation.

      Stuart wants legal aid because he perceives that the protocols may infringe his human rights and wants the COI to pay for legal aid to see whether that is the case. The COI is saying that its protocol does not permit legal aid being granted for that purpose. However it does appear that if Stuart agrees to sign the agreement he will have access to legal advice which will advise him whether his rights are being infringed. It seems to be a chicken and egg or cart before the horse situation or is some one making a mountain out of a mole hole?

      Stuart is a key witness and his evidence is vital to the COI but so too is the COI vital to Stuart as it will provide him with an opportunity to make public the evidence that he says is being oppressed.

      Sometimes in life we have to compromise and to squeeze our nose when making difficult decisions. It is for Stuart to decide, but if I was in his position I would squeeze my nose apply for an interested person status to get the advice I am seeking, if it was not to my liking I could walk away. On the other hand the advice might be helpful, my human rights are not infringed and I would have a platform to make public the evidence which is being oppressed.

      Alternatively the COI might also like to consider whether it did not envisage an issue which Stuart has raised and its protocols are too rigid therefore a common sense approach should be taken. However what is evident is that unless a compromise is reached both the COI and Stuart will be the losers.

      Delete
  4. The COI should publish clearly on its website (not hidden away in a corner) the names of those who have been granted legal representation, the names of those who have been refused, and in each case a brief version of the reasons for granting/refusing this legal representation, and a link to the full ruling.

    Equally, one day all the rulings vanished, without a word of explanation. It is actions like this which engender suspicion. Also, the ruling against Stuart getting legal representation was published without the text of his submission being published, despite the ruling clearly stating that it was attached.

    It was as if they did not want people to see what he had written.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope my comment above will be helpful to you and other readers.

      I have sent my Blog's link to the COI in anticipation that it will respond to issues that readers like you raise.

      Delete
  5. Dodgy protocols

    Only the 'bad' side granted legal assistance

    Now you say "I also understand the [CoI] 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."

    WTF?

    All eyes on Daniel Wimberley's proposals now

    A flawed enquiry [Vis Hilsborough] solves nothing, it just extends the pain and embarrassment and taints those who run it.

    In spite of this GIVE EVIDENCE. There is no point in making it easy for the shysters.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comment, but I don't know what WTF stands for.

      Daniel Wimberley's proposals are important and must be considered.

      I agree with you, anyone with evidence should come forward.

      Delete
  6. Bob,
    Do you know if the COI has access to statements made to the police whilst they were investigating child abuse at HdlG

    ReplyDelete
  7. Bob,

    Do you know if any of the Harper/Power era victim statements are missing? Has that been discussed? I recall rumours of missing evidence although not the specifics. Also, is there any more news on either Lenny Harper or Graham Power participating in the COI?

    Elle

    ReplyDelete
  8. I was not aware of the statements going on a walk about, but I gather that Graham and Lenny will be partaking in the COI.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Bob.

    Exclusive Interview with Advocate Philip Sinel PART TWO.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Bob.

    Jersey Child Abuse Inquiry and the disgraced "HEALTH" DEPARTMENT.

    ReplyDelete
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