I had hoped to post a blog soon after giving my evidence at the Hearing two weeks ago and to include a link to the transcript which is normally posted on the Jersey Independent Care Inquiry website soon after. Unfortunately due to unforeseen problems the transcript was only posted yesterday and there is no direct link to it. To read the transcript one has to click HERE then click onto Hearings, then click onto Transcripts and my evidence can be found on day 104 dated 22nd October.
I believe that in April 2014 I was the first witness to be interviewed by the Inquiry lawyers who being from the UK understandably had little knowledge about how Jersey functioned. My statement was lengthy and I provided considerable documents as supporting evidence. At the start of my Hearing the Inquiry lawyer Parick Sadd QC pointed out that my statement provided a landscape that the Inquiry has since been covering and it was my statement that provided a very useful introduction to the Inquiry as to those issues which the Inquiry was to investigate under its terms of reference.
It is now evident that some of the information I provided fell outside the Terms of Reference but it did provide useful background information. However although I had been used to giving evidence at times I felt it difficult to get into a train of thought as Patrick Sadd who is clearly a very competent QC jumped from one part of my statement to another. There was a reason, that being the need to seek clarification of some my evidence and for me to justify some of the claims I had made.
As an example I had claimed that whilst I could not say I was lied to by civil servants, I did feel at times that some were economical with the truth or just withheld information. The issue of the Maguire case was an example and Mr Sadd sought clarification. In the Minutes of the meeting in May 1999 I was present when we were informed that possible criminal action was not being levelled against Mrs Maguire because it was not in the public interest. We were also told that Mr Maguire was suffering from cancer.
At that time Committee members were in complete ignorance of allegations of abuse in the Island’s care homes and naturally what the eye does not see the heart won’t grieve. Mr Sadd then produced a document signed by the Attorney General’s Office dated November 1998 which said that the no further action was being taken because of lack of evidence. It justified my concerns but I felt upset because had we been aware of the true facts of the Maguire’s background and of the abuse problems in the care homes, further abuse could have been prevented because action could have been taken at the time.
It is to be hoped that as a result of “lessons learnt” no abuse is inflicted in the first place and if it does, systems are now in place to quickly remedy the problem.
As my transcript shows I covered a wide range of issues including the role of the Centenier, Parish Hall Enquiries, the lack of an independent prosecution service and the issue of the Head of our prosecution service is also the Titular Head of our Honorary Police and legal advisor to the States.
We touched on Operation Rectangle and the involvement of former Police Chief Graham Power and his Deputy Lenny Harper. I had the opportunity to make it known that although we were aware of each other’s existence I could not recall ever having met Mr Harper in Jersey or in Lambeth where we had both served as police officers.
As for Mr Power although we had met during the eight years he had served as Police Chief our meetings were brief and he came across as a highly efficient and upright leader of the Island’s Police Force which had under his leadership become more professional and efficient. My interest in his case was certainly not because he was a friend as I hardly knew him, but because it quickly became apparent that he had been “stitched up” and people were going to great lengths to hide the truth.
It is almost 7 years to the day t since Mr Power was suspended and effectively dismissed because he was kept suspended until his retirement 18 months later. Many hours have been spent trying to get to the truth, however for the past two days Mr Power had his day in court and was able to give answers to the many questions which troubled some people.
I was present and Mr Power came across as a highly competent manager who played it by the book. He rightly saw the need for the States Police to be independent and free from political interference. However this did not find favour with senior States Members or senior executive officers. He was not responsible for Mr Harper’s appointment but had made his Ministers aware that Mr Harper had a reputation as someone who rattled cages. The Jersey Police had a corruption problem and it did not take long for Mr Harper to get stuck in and become unpopular
It would be fair to say that when Operation Rectangle was launched no one envisaged what would develop or that our senior States Members would be so ill equipped to handle the media circus that followed. Mr Power said that some mistakes were made but none that were serious. To be fair apart from the media frenzy, the excavation was warranted, not to do so would have left too many unanswered questions. Thankfully there were no bodies found, but ironically it is evident that because none were found, in some people’s eyes the excavation represents a failure. I am afraid it was a case of being damned if one dug and damned if one did not.
The time was quickly eaten up but much of Mr Power’s 65,000 word statement was untouched. At one time I just wondered where the Panel was going and why so much time was devoted to matters which Mr Power was not responsible for. His apparent mismanagement of Mr Harper was covered and it soon became evident that it was more about perception than fact.
Mr Power’s suspension was world news and a cruel and unjustified act as substantiated in the Napier Report. It was also as a result of poorly planned conspiracy which led to the ending of a distinguished career and a bill of around £2million in a futile attempt to justify it. Surprisingly and almost as after though the Panel addressed the matter in the last 5 minutes of the Hearing, why?
It is to be hoped that when those responsible for Mr Power’s suspension appear before the COI more than 5 minutes will be devoted to finding out why they took such drastic and unjustified action.