P118/2012 relating to establishing a Committee of Inquiry (COI) into Jersey’s Historical Child Abuse. States Members and the public will have had time to read and study the proposition. Hopefully States Members will have compared Verita’s recommended Terms of Reference (TOR) with those published in the proposition. It is also hoped that interested parties will have considered whether the proposed TOR are sufficient.
Deputy Monty Tadier has correctly asked two Oral questions of the Chief Minister seeking clarification as to whether the proposed TOR will enable the COI to address the suspension of the former Police Chief. The answers received have been “woolly” in that the Chief Minister has stated that it will be down to the COI to determine whether the matter needs to be addressed.
In P118/2012, the Council of Ministers (COM) state that Verita’s recommendations had been used as the foundation for its TOR, however it does not explain why for instance it has omitted two of Verita’s recommendations which can be found on page 29 in P118/2012.
•Determine whether the concerns in 2007 were sufficient to justify the States of Jersey Police setting in train Operation Rectangle.
•Review what actions the government took when concerns came to light in 2008 and what, if any, lessons there are to be learned.
It is apparent that the COM is not willing to address concerns relating to the Police investigation. Given the cost of the investigation, along with the criticism of the Deputy Police Chief and his Chief who was subsequently suspended and in all reality dismissed by stealth one can understand why Verita included the matter in its recommendations.
It is also apparent that Verita considered that political oversight should extend beyond that of the Education and Health Departments’ oversight before 2008. Once the investigation got underway the COM’s political oversight had been likened to a “headless chicken” approach with no one knowing who politically was in charge. Also whilst the Police PR was the subject of much criticism, one could hardly say that the COM's approach was a shining example of good practice.
Quite rightly the COI will be looking at how Children’s Homes were run, what procedures were in place to address concerns, the recruitment and monitoring of staff and Health and Education’s officer and political oversight. However if the Inquiry is to be of any value it must extend to the investigation, the suspension and political oversight.
Those who have followed the investigation since 2008 will know that the decision to set in train Operation Rectangle with the subsequent “dig” at Haut de la Garenne was not taken lightly or in isolation. Establishing the truth is often costly and should always be justified. Can the expenditure of near £1m in suspending an officer who was due to retire be justified? Cheap snipes at the cost of a meal in London’s West End have overshadowed the dedication and hard work of resolute officers who would not be sidetracked because of what may be revealed or was causing embarrassment.
Did the investigation warrant the criticism and did it justify the suspension of the police chief? Even though questions can rightly be asked about the credibility of the Napier Report, it never the less did expose Ministers' shortcomings and those allegedly advising them. However questions remain as to why the Police Chief was suspended. Was it because he upset certain Ministers and the Chief Executive, was it because he and his former Deputy were getting too close to exposing certain people in high ranking positions or was it to safeguard alleged prosecutions in train?
As for political oversight, who was really in charge, if the Home Affairs Minister was conflicted why was she not replaced? Where was the chain of command, what was the Chief Minister’s role? Are proper procedures now in place to ensure that matters are handled more professionally in the future?
These questions deserve answers and the place to ask them is at the Inquiry, however it will be down to States Members to ensure that the necessary amendments to P118/2012 are lodged in good time.