Tuesday, 30 October 2012
Savile-- Skeletons in the cupboard
“The filth piles up. As the Savile story continues to unfold, threatening and destroying reputations, three issues particularly trouble me. Above all else, I think of the victims of abuse – women and men – marooned for decades with terrible memories of physical and mental torment which, even when they had the courage to report them, no one apparently believed. Not the police. Not the newspapers. Not the BBC.
Did some turn a blind eye to criminality? Did some prefer not to follow up their suspicions because of this criminal’s popularity and place in the schedules? Were reports of criminality put aside or buried? Even those of us who were not there at the time are inheritors of the shame.”
Powerful stuff and one gets the feeling that he is trying to ensure that “no stone will be left unturned.” To this end the BBC Trust has established its own independent investigations which will run in parallel with the Police. Its purpose is to establish whether senior executives leaned on people to drop certain programmes and were false reports published to justify certain actions. BBC’s culture and practices will also be examined along with its child protection and whistle blowing polices.
Lord Patten has promised that the independent inquiries will not be a smokescreen behind which the BBC can hide. He added “They must and will get to the truth of what happened. The BBC must tell the truth and face up to the truth about itself, however terrible.”
Somehow the comments above are on pretty similar lines with those uttered in Jersey in 2008. By coincidence it is also a year ago that Verita published its Report along with proposals for and recommendations about commissioning a Committee of Inquiry into Jersey’s historical child abuse.
It should be noted that the Report only came about because on March 2nd last year following a 5 hour debate the States, by 37 votes to 11, with 1 abstention approved P19/2011 as amended. For the benefit of those who not acquainted with the reasons why Verita and more recently the Andrew Williamson Report have been published I will go back to March 2008. It was then when not only Jersey but the world became aware of the allegations of abuse to children in care in our “States run Institutions” with Haut de La Garenne in particular becoming the focus of world attention.
Like Lord Patten, the Chief Minister at that time Senator Walker, called for the truth to be exposed, no stone would be left unturned and no expense spared when seeking to achieve that goal. Quite understandably there were calls for an investigation or inquiry to run in parallel with the police to establish how such abuse could occur within the States’ run institutions. Unlike the BBC Trust, it was decided not to hold an independent investigation but the Chief Minister made a promise on 28th March 2008 to hold an inquiry if answers to 6 particular questions published in R27/2008 remained unanswered at the conclusion of the Police investigation.
When the police investigation got underway in March 2008 a whole catalogue of mishaps occurred along the way, including the unsavoury suspension of the Police Chief Officer and the dismissal of the former Health Minister which are well documented.
In December 2010 the Police announced that its investigation had ended however it was evident that there are still many unanswered questions. Although well over 150 individuals came forward alleging crimes against them, only 4 people have been prosecuted and no one in any capacity for the oversight of the children’s well being has been brought to task. Now that Jimmy Savile’s evil deeds have come to notice, what secrets are hidden in Jersey?
On 6th December 2010 a few days after the police announcement the Chief Minister of the day, Senator Le Sueur made an official apology and acknowledged that the care system that operated historically in the Island had failed some children in States’ residential care in a serious way.
In February 2011 the Council of Ministers published R8/2011 in which it set out the Council’s position in relation to a Committee of Inquiry into the historical child abuse. In simple terms it was of the view that nothing would be served by an inquiry, a line should be drawn and everyone should get on with their lives as if nothing had happened because lessons had been learnt.
There were a number of people including some States Members who like me were dissatisfied with the Council of Ministers conclusions. Soon afterwards Senator Le Gresley lodged P19/2011 which sought Members' support to request the Council of Ministers to reconsider its decision not to hold a Committee of Inquiry. Whilst I thought it was a commendable gesture, I felt it was a win, win proposition for the Council of Ministers. If Members voted against the proposition that would be the end of the matter. If they voted in favour and no matter how well supported, the Council of Ministers only had to consider its original decision but with no obligation to establish a Committee of Inquiry.
To enable Members to have the opportunity of a full debate and to consider the promise made by Senator Walker in March 2008 I lodged an amendment which asked members to consider whether they were content that the 6 questions posed in R27/2008 had been answered. If they were not then the questions should be considered by a Committee of Inquiry. Deputy Tadier added an amendment asking whether there was a consistent and impartial approach taken when deciding on which cases to prosecute; and was the process free from political influence or interference at any level?
When it came to voting on all 7 amendments, Deputy Tadier’s and 3 of mine were approved. Very importantly when it came to vote on Senator Le Gresley’s amended proposition, as mentioned above it was approved by 37 votes to 11.
It should be noted that among the 11 members who voted against the proposition were Senators Ozouf, Le Marquand and Maclean and Deputies Duhamel, Pryke and Gorst all are now current Ministers and I believe are obligated to carry out the wishes of the States. In the words of Lord Patten even though they were not there at the time they are the inheritors of the shame. That shame extends to each and every States Member for a promise made is a promise to be kept.
Following the States' decision, in September the Council of Ministers commissioned Verita to seek the views of interested parties about the purpose, manner and conduct of a Committee of Inquiry. Its report was submitted to the former Council of Ministers in November last year. Verita's report appears to tick all the boxes, it has been welcomed by the Care Leavers and other interested bodies. Unfortunately the Council of Ministers then commissioned Andrew Williamson to comment on Verita's Report which has not only caused further delay but was deemed by many to be a waste of money and an attempt to water down Verita's Recommendations.
It is now some 20 months since P19/2011 as amended was approved so why the procrastination, who are States Members protecting? Are there skeletons in the cupboards? Can't Members like Lord Patten "think of the victims of abuse – women and men – marooned for decades with terrible memories of physical and mental torment which, even when they had the courage to report them, no one apparently believed?" Don't our States Members have any feelings for those men and woman?
Chief Minister Gorst has stated that he wants to be sure that he gets it right and is shortly to lodge a proposition,. So far like his two predecessors he has failed to display the leadership expected of him. However he now has an opportunity to reclaim a few Brownie points by lodging a proposition in line with Verita's proposals. He must also produce a time line to ensure that the Committee of Inquiry is up and running by March next year.
Like the BBC our States must do its utmost to regain the public's trust and respect, justice delayed is justice denied. The promises made in March 2008 and the apology given in December 2010 are meaningless unless a full and open Committee of Inquiry is established without further delay. Again like the BBC the States must tell the truth and face up to the truth about itself, however terrible.
Paedophiles like Jimmy Savile only exist because people choose to turn a blind eye and in my book they are as guilty as the perpetrators and they too should be exposed and taken to task. I also believe that if States Members fail to establish a transparent Committee of Inquiry then they too are like the perpetrators.
Wednesday, 17 October 2012
Curtis Warren----More Questions Than Answers
As one can see in the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council’s Press Summary which I referred to in last week’s Blog, the UK Court was very critical of the Police’s role in the events leading to the arrest. The Press Summary makes reference to  JRC 050). (AG v Warren and others) which is the Ruling issued on 20th March 2008 on an application for a stay of proceedings on the grounds of abuse of process?
On reading both reports it becomes apparent that there were a number of questions asked and advice sought before the police operation actually got underway. It would seem that the best intentions of the Jersey police officers were being frustrated by red tape and/or lack of co-operation from other agencies. The clock was ticking away and swift action was required however should one lie or withhold the truth to justify arresting someone? Did the ends justify the means? Red tape is often in place for a purpose; some times that red tape is actually a law which is intended to prevent abuse.
One thing certain is that as a result of one group of people breaking the law it led to another group of people, a team of traffickers hell bent on breaking another law, that of importing around one million pounds worth of drugs to Jersey being foiled, arrested and convicted.
It may well be that it is in the public’s interest that the convictions should stand. However was it a Pyrrhic victory? In the Jersey Royal Court’s Judgement there is a quotation from Lord Bridge who said “no principle is more basic to any proper system of law than the maintenance of the rule of law.” That is a powerful quotation which should be to the forefront of all those tasked with the maintenance of the rule of law, that includes Crown Officers.
It is to the role of the Crown Officers in the case that is worth a second glance.When reading the Judge’s comments on role played by Crown Advocate Jowitt a senior member of the Law Officer’s Department I had difficulty understanding his logic. The Judge found him to to be an honest witness and deemed him to be an Advocate of integrity. It appears that the Judge based his claim on the premise that he gave evidence before him for some considerable time was subjected to rigorous cross-examination.
However in the next paragraph the Judge states that the advice the Advocate gave to the Police Officers with hind sight may have been more carefully and felicitously expressed and he should have considered and researched the law more carefully than he did. However as the Judge considered the Advocate to be honest and well intentioned, he acquitted the Advocate of any impropriety or criminality or of acting recklessly or in disregard of the law.
That’s all very well but the Judge was not so generous with remarks about the Police Officers for whom I hold no brief but it does take two to tango and it is apparent that there are three versions of the truth, that of the police, the Advocate and the actual truth which is probably somewhere in between.
The Advocate must have known what the Officers were trying to achieve and were seeking advice not from someone at the Citizen’s Advice Bureau (no offence intended) but from a Senior Crown Officer. In my book the advice should have been clear, precise and in writing. As it is we now have the situation where it is the word of one officer against another officer, with the Crown Officer’s word apparently having more weight than the Police Officers even though the advice given was personal and not to be relied on.
The Attorney General does not come out the affair with flying colours either. It is apparent that he mis-led the Dutch authorities in a letter and he also gave them an undertaking not to proceed with the case without their clear consent.
Fortunately for the AG, the Judge also believes him to be a man of integrity, so even if they make the odd mistake or two the Crown Officers are jolly good fellows and no blame should be apportioned to them. But hang on, the Crown Officers are also the people who give consent to prosecute, so how does that square with the Judge? Were the Crown Officer’s mistakes simple or were they intentional? Whatever the answer it will never be convincing and will be further ammunition to those who have called for a separate Crown Prosecution Service.
From the evidence to hand it is pretty obvious that Warren and his team were up to no good and had they succeeded with their plans they would have received a nice pay day and Jersey would have been awash with illegal drugs. So perhaps they deserve to be behind bars. But life is not that simple and one can be sure that Curtis Warren will be spending a great deal of his time and money appealing against his conviction. I understand he is claiming that his Human Rights were violated and it will be interesting to see whether he is successful. Should he succeed he could be in for a nice compensation killing and Jersey’s Police and Crown Officers will be left with all mighty egg on face.
We know that the Hampshire Police have been investigating the police actions and its report is due in the near future. However if we are going to get to the bottom of the affair then the role of the Crown Officers should also be subject to an investigation and the outcome made known to the public.
As one can imagine I shall not be holding my breath as there is little likely hood of any investigation taking place into their role in the affair. However one would hope that the Crown Officers now have a system in place whereby any advice given is accurate and in writing.
Wednesday, 10 October 2012
Curtis Warren---Rough Justice or Just Desserts?
Whatever Curtis Warren’s business dealings were, he was successful, so much so that he appeared on the 1997 Sunday Times Rich List. Although he was described as a property developer it is apparent that he had outside interests and drug trafficking was one of them. However he was not successful at evading the law authorities because by the early summer of 2007 Warren was coming to the end of a prison sentence he was serving in Holland for a drug plot which had been lengthened following a conviction for killing a fellow prisoner during a fight.
However within 5 weeks of being released from prison he was arrested by the Jersey police and accused of being the ringleader of a six-man gang who were trying to import 180kg of cannabis into the island from Holland via boat from France.
He had denied leading a £1 million plot, but in October 2009 after a two week trial a jury found him and his team guilty of conspiracy to import a controlled drug.
One of the key elements which led to the conviction was the claim that the Jersey Police for surveillance purposes, “bugged” a vehicle being used by Warren’s team. It is claimed that the officers’ action were not only unauthorised but they knew it to be. I am pretty sure that the officer’s will have their version of events so no blame should be apportioned at this stage. However it is very apparent that had the vehicle not been “bugged” it is unlikely that it would have been located and the team arrested.
One can understand the officer’s dileama do they “ break the law” to gather information to assist in arresting a team of criminals in the process of committing a serious crime or do they allow the team to get away? No doubt we all have a view but what is pertinent is that arresting someone is only one part of the legal process. There are other bodies with responsibility for determing whether those arrested should be charged and then referred to the court and tried.
It should be noted that Jersey’s own version of a prosecution service gave approval for the matter to be referred to court. (Jersey does not have independent prosecution service) What is pertinent is that body must have been aware of the Police officer’s actions so why was the matter allowed to go to trial?
The Judge also had the opportunity of kicking the case into touch but did not do so and as mentioned above after a two week trial the Jury returned a guilty verdict. Warren and his team received sentences of varying lengths but soon lodged an appeal which took a further 15 months before being heard.
Warren had built his case at London's Supreme Court around the fact that Jersey Police gathered their evidence against him illegally, which meant he could have been released thanks to their errors. However the Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the application. In their unanimous judgement the court, led by Lord Dyson, called Jersey Police's actions a "sustained and deliberate act of law breaking".
They said: "The Board stresses its condemnation of the police misconduct in this case. It was a sustained and deliberate act of law breaking."
They added: "The outcome of this appeal should not be seen to condone or overlook such behaviour. It should not be taken by Jersey police as any kind of signal that they can repeat this kind of conduct with impunity".
Such comments seem hypercritical in the extreme because they could have found in favour of Warren who was understandably aggrieved because he felt he was on the receiving end of rough justice. Warren who is not known as “Teflon” for nothing soon set about further appeals.
What is also of interest is that following the 2009 trial the then acting Police Chief, David Warcup was reported to have said "We hope that the conviction of the men sends out a clear message to others that we will continue to tackle those responsible for the importation of drugs into the island.”
Given Mr Warcup (mis) handling of his former boss’s suspension (Graham Power) it is not surprising that he would make such comments because he is very familiar with unauthorised activity.
Following the Judges’ comments the matter was refferred to the Hampshire Police who are apparently investigating the actions taken by the Jersey Police Officers involved with the process leading to Warren’s arrest. The officer responsible for managing the operation was Chief Inspector David Minty.
No doubt Curtis Warren will be hoping that he will have more success when his appeal goes before a higher authority who might not be minded to ignore “a sustained and deliberate act of law breaking."
It is also evident that the Hants Police report will soon be published and given the court’s comments it is apparent that some one will be found wanting and I would put good money that it wont be anyone responsible for the process that followed Warren’s arrest.
Last week it was announced that Chief Inspector Minty was suspended from duty, not apparently for his handling of the Warren case, but for failing a lawful order to attend a meeting being called by the new Police Chief.
In 2008 during the first States debate on Graham Power’s suspension I said the matter had a nasty smell about it. At the time I was not aware of the shenanigans behind Graham Power’s suspension, nor am I conversant with Mr Minty’s suspension but when I think about it I do not smell roses.
I have a feeling that we shall be hearing a lot more about Mr Warren and Mr Minty, so watch this space.
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