Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Independent Jersey Care Inquiry (2) ---- A Breath of Fresh Air?


The Independent Jersey Care Inquiry kicked off yesterday which is some 3 years and 4 months after the States grudgingly gave approval to establishing one. It was not established at the behest of the Council of Ministers but as a result of stubborn prodding by a handful of "dissident" backbenchers and bloggers.

Although some attention will be given to the manner in which the police handled the abuse investigation. (Operation Rectangle), hopefully enough victims and witnesses will come forward to explain what really happened to them,  why were so many young people abused, why did the abuse go unreported and who was responsible?

The Inquiry Team has started with a blank piece of paper and over the past months members has been taking statements from a diverse number of witnesses. As reported in a blog published on 10th June I have been interviewed and my statement eventually contained 38 pages along with 30 supporting exhibits. 

Like many other witnesses I don't know whether I will be called to give oral evidence and feel in limbo, that is a view shared by other witnesses. I would like to take this opportunity of offering the Inquiry Team some constructive criticism; not only must it keep witnesses updated but it must provide answers to valid questions asked by a number of interested parties. Also it must ensure that its  Website which is a vital conduit is constantly updated.

Yesterday I attended the first Hearing in which the COI Chairman Frances Oldham again called for witnesses to come forward and making it abundantly clear that witnesses will be given time to give their statements and be under no pressure as a priority for the Inquiry team is the well being of those who recount, possibly for the first time, their experiences in childhood. Very importantly she added that COI will conduct its work independently of the States of Jersey, the Police, any other organisation or individual in Jersey.

There followed a lengthy, well researched, informative and very professional presentation by the Council to the Inquiry Patrick Sadd and Harriet Jerram of Outer Temple Chambers in London who outlined the many issues that the COI will encounter and set out details of Phase 1 of the Inquiry.



 
Patrick Sadd compared the way in which the UK legislation had evolved and had to be updated at regular intervals to safe guard the interests of the child rather than those in authority. He reported that a constant theme in most Inquiries had shown that problems had arisen because of poor management, lack of training and poor staffing arrangements.

When Mr Sadd outlined the Jersey legislation it was evident that for a very long time there had been little statutory legislation and when new laws were drafted they were often out dated by the time they were approved.  I will be most surprised if the COI does not find evidence of poor management, lack of training and staffing problems in our Jersey Homes.

I was pleased to hear that the way in which the Honorary Police deal with juveniles at Parish Hall Inquiries will not be ignored. From my experience it is evident that there is little consistency and often young people have been prosecuted when pre-court action would have been preferable.

                                   

Ms Jerram in her excellent presentation included a definition of abuse which covered every conceivable aspect of abuse.She also took the opportunity to ask again for anyone who has evidence to come forward and tell their story- including senior managers, police officers, support staff, doctors, teachers and anyone who had contact with children or young people. I can only echo that view and remind those who are hesitant that there will not be another opportunity so take it. If in doubt contact the Inquiry Team who will advise you as to the value of your information. Its website can be accessed HERE


Speaking with passion and empathy Allan Collins, on behalf of the Jersey Care Leavers' Association said that he was encouraged from what he had heard so far. The range of breadth of the Terms of Reference is demanding; many children in Jersey over many years were sexually and physically abused. That fact has to be grasped and accepted. The COI will have to examine the culture, practices and ethics of those entrusted with the care system in Jersey.

He added that many children in Haut du la Garenne were made to feel like second class citizens by sections of the public and begs the question why?  

I felt what was being said yesterday was a breath of fresh air whereby intelligent people had quickly learnt of the inadequacies and shortcomings of those tasked with the welfare of young people and witnesses would be produced to substantiate that view. 

These are early days and the rest of this week will be devoted to opening addresses from those people representing the public bodies. However I came away from yesterday's Hearing with a feeling that the COI is business like and thorough and will not weaken at the knees when encountering those who for far too long have been oblivious to the welfare of the young and vulnerable in Jersey.

 

32 comments:

  1. Bob, your words are encouraging but on the other hand it is disappointing that there have been sufficient falls/stumbles at the first hurdle as raised by Ex. Deputy Wimberley

    http://voiceforchildren.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/jersey-child-abuse-committee-of-inquiry.html

    Looks like make or break time.

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    1. Daniel has put in a great deal of work on the Terms of Reference and he is right to question why his emails do not receive replies.

      Paragraph (e) of the TOR) says “that the proposed Chairman should be requested to recommend any final changes to the Terms of Reference for the Committee of Inquiry referred to in paragraph (b) above for approval by the Assembly, and also to set out the proposed process for conducting the Inquiry having consulted with interested parties where necessary;” (P.118/2012)

      It may well be that the Chairman has decided not to recommend any changes and if that is the case why has that information not been reported to the States. However in the first instance she should have consulted with interested parties but clearly has not done so. Therefore it is understandable that Daniel is upset.

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    2. If information has not been reported to the states, who is the liaison between States and COI?

      Is it the Judiciary that is the liaison between States Members and COI?

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  2. "When Mr Sadd outlined the Jersey legislation it was evident that for a very long time there had been little statutory legislation and when new laws were drafted they were often out dated by the time they were approved"

    Now who would be responsible for a deal of this unfit or non-existent legislation?
    Team Bailhache by any chance ????

    So much more attentive to the urgent legislative needs of clique members like their friend the Dean. Oh bless!

    Bailhache & the infamous liberation day speech:
    http://freespeechoffshore.nl/stuartsyvretblog/freedom-and-liberation/

    Former bailiff Bailhache stands by speech:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/jersey/8129122.stm
    "Sir Philip was appointed solicitor general in 1975 before taking on the role of attorney general 11 years later. He was appointed deputy bailiff in 1994 and became bailiff a year later."
    The real scandal is that Jersey people have not kicked these crass idiots into touch long ago.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/jersey/7351907.stm

    Let's not forget Vic College or HDLG etc........

    The office of the Queen has now seen fit to saddle us with his little brother.

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    1. Organ of the State23 July 2014 at 13:50

      Maybe it's about time that Jersey had a woman dean ?

      http://order-order.com/2014/07/23/gove-dragged-into-ruffley-assault-rap-dean-tells-chief-whip-violent-mp-must-resign/

      Dr Frances Ward. Hmmm..... probably a conservative ......but has a tendency to protect women from abuse ...so not the right sort of chap at all !

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    2. Responsibility for ensuring that legislation was up to date rested with the former Presidents and members of the Health and Education Committees and not with Senator Bailhache in any of his former roles.

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  3. Bob, is it true what Daniel Wimberly said about the victims giving evidence to the COI, that evidence once given to this COI can no longer be given to a court of law in order to prosecute offenders?

    If this is true, then this COI has become "a get out of jail free card" for paedophiles!

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    1. I don't know if Daniel did say what you are quoting but what you are saying is not the case.

      It is my understanding that what is said at the COI could not be used against anyone but that does not stop the police from questioning anyone as a result of what comes to light during the Hearings.

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    2. Daniel 22 July 2014 21:20

      If a victim has given evidence to the COI then it seems to be the case that they CANNOT then use that same evidence in a court of law. This was one of the many problems with the protocols (or rules governing the conduct of) of the inquiry .

      However the COI published their protocols with NO consultation with all the interested parties - States Departments, Ministers, victims, victim supporters.

      So this obviously highly problematic state of affairs could not be discussed, it was never worked through, never clarified. And I still do not know what the true position is.

      The COI team did not consult before publishing the protocols, they wrote them in isolation, despite the fact that the States proposition setting them up requests that they DO consult:

      It says, at paragraph e)

      “e) to agree that the proposed Chairman should be requested to recommend any final changes to the Terms of Reference for the Committee of Inquiry referred to in paragraph (b) above for approval by the Assembly, and also to set out the proposed process for conducting the Inquiry having consulted with interested parties where necessary;” (P.118/2012, paragraph e))

      "having consulted with interested parties where necessary;"

      Quite

      Source: http://voiceforchildren.blogspot.com/2014/07/jersey-child-abuse-committee-of-inquiry.html?showComment=1406060430039#c7848458103722585380

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    3. I think I have covered the points you have raised and I have contacted the Inquiry Team to clarify the incrimination position.

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  4. Listen to this Bob: http://vocaroo.com/i/s1RQZLiGQPc2

    Which was contained in a link from this:

    Wednesday, July 09, 2014

    The disappearance of children from Care and the CSA inquiry

    I did an interview on BBC world at one yesterday about the general discussion about the abuse of children in the care system. There are many stories about Elm Guest House. However, I have been concentrating on more recent issues. There remain survivors of what has happened in the past. These people have been ignored for many years, but more recently they have been listened to. To me it is very important not only to deal with what happened in the past, but also to look at what is happening today.

    A point that has not been looked properly at is the disappearance of children from Care. We had the recent reports from Ireland about the deaths of children being concealed. I believe that this also happened at Haut de la Garenne. To me it seems quite straightforward that if we are sufficiently concerned about money that we should count the money and audit it, we should also count the children and audit what happens to them.

    Even today children are disappearing from care for various reasons. Some are trafficked. I find it odd that the government won't modify the SSDA903 return codes in order both to count the numbers of children and the reasons they leave care (normally today reported as - for other reasons), but also to then audit that.

    I don't think the problems today are as severe as they were in the 1980s. There are estimates that 1 in 7 of children in care in the 70s and 80s were abused whilst in care. Books such as Forgotten Children look at this in more detail. It does remain, however, that a recent study revealed a continuing high level of abuse in care We also have child sexual exploitation which includes mainly children in care.

    The care system is scrutinised through the family courts which remain substantially themselves unaccountable. The government propose putting an erstwhile president of the Family Division who have in part presided over this debacle in charge of the enquiry. In essence she is being asked to mark her and her judicial colleagues' own homework. I personally don't think that is a good idea.

    What is worst is that many of the children placed in care need not have been in care. Those in Rochdale who were put in care because of the satanic abuse scandal were then abused purely as a result of state action.

    Obviously we need a child protection system. However, really it should be one that does a better job than this.

    Source: http://johnhemming.blogspot.com/

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    1. Whilst the UK legislation was in place well ahead of Jersey's they still relied on people to ensure that they were properly implementing, History has shown that laws can only work if proper management is in place, staff are well trained and motivated and proper checks and balances are in place. Sadly abuse still occurs because certain people with influence are still able to fly under the radar.

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  5. Bob - I agree with the sentiments in your blog posting 100%. The 3 speakers yesterday were most encouraging, professional and Counsel for the Inquiry had certainly done an awful lot of homework. I found a lot of what they had to say was very informative and interesting and despite the lengthy statements did not 'bore' at all. I came away in a more buoyant frame of mind than previously. Let us say they engendered confidence, and in turn let us hope this makes others feel more able to come forward, because it is not too late.

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    1. Thanks for your Comment Gill and I hope that our optimism is realised.

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  6. I haven't studied the Jersey set up but in the Irish case what was said at an inquiry could not be used in a subsequent court case.

    What this meant was that any court case would have to start from scratch and witnesses would have to repeat their evidence directly to the court. It could not be taken as read from the transcript of the inquiry.

    So there was nothing stopping criminal proceedings arising from things said at an inquiry but it could turn into a long haul.

    Perhaps the Jersey situation is similar?

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    1. Thanks Polo,

      I don't think we are miles apart with our opinions. To be on the safe side I will contact the Inquiry Team for an exact answer.

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    2. I have contacted the Inquiry Team and I am grateful for the clarification below.

      Dear Mr Hill,

      Thank you for your e-mail.
      No evidence provided to the Inquiry can be used in a subsequent civil or criminal matter. For example, witness statements given to the Inquiry cannot be used to bring a prosecution or a civil claim. In addition, a witness has protection against self-incrimination. So, if, for example, a witness gave oral testimony which in theory incriminated them, this testimony cannot be used as evidence against that person in any civil or criminal proceedings. The role of the Inquiry is to get to the truth and it has no powers of prosecution.

      However, if upon hearing evidence provided to the Inquiry, this leads the Police to carry out their own investigations based on what they have heard and they in turn collate their own evidence, there is nothing to prevent them from doing so. They cannot un-hear what they have heard and if that leads them to make their own investigations as a consequence of that, that is a matter for them.

      I appreciate this is a difficult area which many people find difficult to understand and / or difficult to accept. It is imperative that in order to get to the truth, the Inquiry is not fettered by individual concerns about self incrimination.

      I hope that clarifies your query, but please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any further queries.

      Yours sincerely,
      Angharad Shurmer
      Eversheds LLPSolicitors to the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry

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  7. Why is it always the same old doomsters and miseries who are too scared to allow this Inquiry to get going. I treat all these attacks with a high amount of suspicion and you and others just want to meddle al the time.

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    1. You are welcome to your view but ask how, if you have read my blog, you can say I am a doomster and meddling?

      Have you come to the same conclusion about the BBC, Channel TV, Channel 103, the JEP and other accredited media? If so, have you expressed your view to them?

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    2. I am referring to your comments on the news.
      It seems you have a negative thing to say about everything since retiring.

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    3. Please read my blog and listen to what I had to say in my interview and you may have a different opinion.

      Delete
  8. So much smear, so early on and from the usual suspects, Pitman, Sorda and Syvret. It's a pity they don't wait for some momentum to build, for some demonstration of progress before they belittle the efforts of those involved. Why can't they just wait for the evidence and then respond? All three suffer from Premature Speculation!

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    1. Oh dear, where have you been and what are you reading because it is clear that you have not been reading the blogs and am oblivious to what is actually going on.

      You clearly have not even read the opening paragraph of my blog because I have written and I quote “It (the COI) was not established at the behest of the Council of Ministers but as a result of stubborn prodding by a handful of "dissident" backbenchers and bloggers.”
      It should be recalled that it was former Senator Stuart Syvret who kicked things off in the first place and that former Deputies Pitman, Wimberley and I along with the likes of Deputies Tadier, Higgins, Martin and Southern and other Members that got the wheels turning that we now have a COI. Despite heavyweight opposition from the Council of Ministers and sceptics like you.

      History records a number of Inquiries which have been flawed and the Hillsborough and Stephen Lawrence are just two of a long list. Having a close interest in the matter and of the “Jersey Way” it should not be difficult to understand why there is a degree of caution about the credibility of the Jersey Inquiry. However apart from some related questions which have gone unanswered, the bloggers have adopted a positive approach, which you appear to have missed or possibly chosen to ignore.

      I know that Rico and former Deputy Pitman and I have already been interviewed and statements have been taken. Voice is still in the queue of those waiting to be interviewed.

      Perhaps you would like to tell readers who you are and what positive action you have taken to ensure that witnesses come forward and there is not only a successful Inquiry but also a successful conclusion.

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  9. Bob,
    I don’t know why you publish comments which attack you particularly as the two people don’t have the guts to publish their names. If it was not for your tenacity, expertise and courage there wouldn’t be a Committee of Inquiry.


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    1. I try to be even handed when publishing comments and most people do so anonymously. People are entitled to a view but sometimes their ignorance and prejudices are very apparent.

      Delete
  10. One of the best ways of ensuing that an inquiry does it's job is to ensure that their work will be externally scrutinised. It concentrates the mind and the conscience.

    Please sign this petition to ensure the Jersey inquiry do the best possible job, not the worst that they think they can get away with, as is beginning to look likely with their non-consultation, non-answers and evaporating ToRs

    www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/theresa-may-home-secretary-include-jersey-channel-islands-in-the-historic-csa-inquiry

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    1. The link above to the petition will not open but thanks to Voiceforchildren the link will open if readers see the link below timed at 1737 today.

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  11. Bob.

    Stuart Syvret court case State Media interview UNCUT.

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  12. Words of wisdom from the UK which just lost the first chairperson for it's CoI

    http://spotlightonabuse.wordpress.com/2014/07/25/what-next-for-the-inquiry-into-organised-child-abuse/

    "Since Butler-Sloss stepped down, all has gone rather quiet and the media has moved on to other stories. This can only be a temporarily lull and we can rely on the fact that there will be activity behind the scenes in the search for a replacement chair. It is a positive sign that we have learnt, for instance, that no chair will be appointed without consultation with the 7 MP’s who put the case to Theresa May for an Inquiry into Organised Child Abuse. Both the person of the chair and the remit of the inquiry are crucial to establishing the truth. Too many Inquiries have focussed on the performance of professionals and child protection arrangements and have avoided questions about whether or not children and adults were abused and whether or not the perpetrators had been brought to justice. It is also essential to include scrutiny of the role of the Crown Prosecution Service and the courts as final arbiters of decision-making. Already, we have learnt that it is not the intention of this Inquiry to consider individual cases. This is a seriously negative message to give to victims who were about to come forward with their specific accounts and this decision must be challenged. It is vastly different from the suggestion by the 7 MPs about what the Inquiry needed to address.
    Experience of the inquiry process itself tells us that it rarely achieves justice for victims. It is a tried & tested instrument to allay public disquiet and has been likened to trying to learn about health via a visit to the mortuary. Some people do benefit – mainly those who service the process and help to maintain the status quo. For example, several of the barristers in the Cleveland inquiry such as the counsel to the Inquiry, Matthew Thorpe and Sally Cahill who represented Cleveland police, have gone on to become high court judges.

    We do support the need for an Inquiry to investigate the many cover-ups at all levels and to examine and expose the way in which child sexual abuse became embedded within political systems. However, we also know that it is essential to establish a multi- agency investigation team to ensure that evidence which suggests that current children are at risk leads to action to protect those children and to prosecute and convict the perpetrators. This team must be established in parallel to the Inquiry and be kept fully informed at every step of the process.

    Picking the cherries:

    "Experience of the inquiry process itself tells us that it rarely achieves justice for victims. It is a tried & tested instrument to allay public disquiet and has been likened to trying to learn about health via a visit to the mortuary."
    &
    "However, we also know that it is essential to establish a multi- agency investigation team to ensure that evidence which suggests that current children are at risk leads to action to protect those children and to prosecute and convict the perpetrators."

    "prosecute and convict the perpetrators" what a novel idea for Jersey where "High Priority Suspects" are still in position.

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  13. Bob , what about trying for deputy in Trinity in the next elections, word is that it will be contested by another male person, why not add your name? we need you back in the states.

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  14. It would be good to get a contested election in Trinity but my hat wont be in the ring.

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