Saturday 26 January 2013

Curtis Warren--- Car Bugging ? Questions Without Answers???

Readers who have been following my Blogs on the Curtis Warren Affair will have noted the growing number of questions that need answers. Although a number of questions have already been asked, readers will be pleased to know that more are being asked at the States Sitting next Tuesday.

States Question Time has become known as Questions without Answers simply because Ministers are able to get away without giving full answers. No doubt there will be a recurrence next week. There are a total of six questions relating to Curtis Warren and are published below along with my comments.

There are three Written Questions;

Deputy Tadier has lodged the following written question about the discipline case which requires an answer from the Minister of Home Affairs.

“Will the Minister give a breakdown of the total cost to his Department in respect of the disciplinary action against three of the officers involved with the importation of illegal drugs in 2007, as follows –

(a) The cost of the criminal investigation by Hampshire Police and their associated legal costs?

(b) The States’ police’s legal costs preceding the disciplinary Hearing?

(c) The cost of the disciplinary hearing including the legal advice for the Presiding Officer?

(d) The travel and accommodation cost for the various officers attending the disciplinary Hearing and advise from which budget the funding is coming from.

Readers will recall that via an Oral Question at the last States Sitting, the Home Affairs Minister stated that the cost to date was £217,674. I believe that figure is very conservative which requires a breakdown of the expenditure to date. However how do you calculate the human cost of suspending one officer, another ending up in intensive care and putting the third officer through a disciplinary hearing about things he is supposed to have done five years previously only to have all allegations against him thrown out."

Deputy Mike Higgins has two Written Questions his first to the Attorney General is as follows;

“Will Her Majesty’s Attorney General explain to members the various checks and balances that apply to the Law Officers and the Law Officers Department and explain how and in what way the department is accountable to the States of Jersey Assembly?”

Readers will note that questions regarding the accountability of the Crown Officers have been raised in my Blogs and it will be interesting to see what answer is given.

Deputy Higgins' second question is to the Home Affairs Minister and is also most opportune,

“Will the Minister explain the apparent contradiction between the Supreme Court’s criticism of the actions of the three police officers involved in the recent Curtis Warren bugging case and their exoneration by the Disciplinary Panel? Is the Minister satisfied that the public retains faith in our police force and the judiciary?”

It is evident that at the Disciplinary Hearing some new evidence must have come to light which led the Chief Constable exonerating the officers. The public and certainly the three officers are entitled to a full explanation, anything less is totally unacceptable.

There are 3 Oral Questions the first by Deputy Monty Tadier is;

“Given the criticism of States Police and a Lawyer in the Law Officers’ Department by the Privy Council in relation to the Curtis Warren prosecution and the alleged involvement of the Attorney General in the subsequent police disciplinary case, would the Attorney General make a statement clarifying the situation?”

Although this question is akin to one being asked of the Home Affairs Minister it is important to note that the Hants Police investigated the role of 3 police officers but apparently the lawyer’s role has not been the subject of any enquiry. Also given the allegations that it was the AG who instigated the Disciplinary actions, the public is entitled to a full explanation and if the AG was not responsible who was?

Deputy Roy Le Hérissier will be asking the following question of the Minister for Home Affairs –

“Given the verdict of the Police Disciplinary Tribunal, is the Minister satisfied that the police acted with complete authority in the matter of bugging a vehicle in the case Re Curtis Warren?”

Readers who have been following the case will recall that my Blog published on 17th October contained the 2009 Royal Court Judgement. In paragraph 18 one will see that the advice given to the police officers by the Crown Advocate was in the opinion of the Court “honest and well intentioned.” The Crown Advocate’s advice was; he didn’t see a Jersey Court ruling any evidence which was obtained inadmissible, it would be a matter for the Court to decide. it was an operational decision for the officers to decide. He added “If it was me I’d go ahead and do it, but don’t quote me on that.”

No doubt the officers shared the Court’s view that they were given honest and well intentioned advice and took it. The Crown Officer was correct with his assertion that it was for the Court to determine whether the evidence obtained was inadmissible. In fact not only did the Jersey Royal Court accept the evidence but also the Privy Council which then strongly criticised the officers’ action, how bizarre.

The third Oral Question is being asked by Deputy Mike Higgins who will ask the following question of the Minister for Home Affairs –

“Due to the important public interest issues involved will the Minister publish the written decision of the disciplinary tribunal involving the three police officers involved in the Curtis Warren car bugging case, and if not why not? And if so when?

It is likely that the Minister will refuse to publish the Judgement claiming that it is an internal disciplinary matter and/or like the Wiltshire Police Report it is a confidential report. However the Wiltshire Report was put into the public domain by none other than the same Minister, What’s the difference? I am sure that the 3 officers would be delighted if the Report was released.

The Jersey Way Blog has been doing an excellent job in publishing audio recordings of the Oral Questions and I am sure that next Tuesday's will be on its Blog site that evening.

Friday 18 January 2013

Curtis Warren---Still More to Come

In my last Blog below I said that it was anticipated the Durham Chief Constable would be presenting his Judgement in a matter of days and I intended publishing another Blog after it had been published. I was being a bit optimistic because I doubted whether the Judgement would be put into the public domain particularly as the officers had been exonerated and it was likely to record some criticism of senior police and crown officers.

I understand that the Judgement has now been presented to the States Police who have given copies to the three officers and their Advocate. I also understand the Judgement is for their eyes only and at this stage will not be made public. If this is the case it is not acceptable.

During Question Time at the States Sitting last Tuesday in answer to a question from Deputy Monty Tadier re the Curtis Warren costs, the Home Affairs Minister stated that to date it had cost the tax payer over £1m on the arrest and security plus another £217,674 on the disciplinary action taken against the 3 police officers. I hope that some States Member will lodge a written question not only asking for a breakdown of the police costs but also of the prosecution costs which according to the AG are around £2m and still mounting.

Over the past 5 years the words “in the public interests” have been banded about, the term is often used to justify questionable actions. The initial arrest, the decision to charge, the court Hearings and the decision to take disciplinary action against the 3 officers were apparently “in the public interest.”

Way back in the days when people were really accountable there was a general rule that “When in doubt, throw it out.” Alas this does not seem to be the case today because it is apparent that at every stage the authorities pushed the boundaries “in the public interest.” What is worth noting is that all the actions taken were by public servants and at considerable public expense. Therefore it is reasonable to expect that those responsible in the “Warren Affair” to be accountable for their actions. Also they have no right to assert that reports of any sort are of no concern to the public. Apart from being conflicted they have no right to say who can or can’t see the reports.

My Blogs along with the many Comments received have highlighted a number of anomalies and posed even more questions which have arisen because of contradictory statements made by a number of the leading players. For example in the States on Tuesday the Attorney General made it abundantly clear that he did not level any complaint nor participated in the police discipline case. He is entitled to make that claim and to be believed. However in the press release from the Advocate who successfully represented the 3 officers, one will see that he claims that it was the Attorney General who personally made the complaint of misconduct against the officers.

In fairness to both gentlemen we know that Curtis Warren and Co were arrested way back in 2007 when a different AG was in post, so was he responsible? It is certainly “in the public interest” to know where the truth lies.

On Tuesday the Home Affairs Minister stated that Hants Police were asked to investigate the police officers actions by the new Police Chief Mr Bowron, because as it turned out, he rightly anticipated that the officers would be heavily criticised by the Appeal Court. However it is reported that the Deputy Police Chief Officer Barry Taylor is quoted as saying that it was as a result of the concerns raised by the Privy Council that Hants Police were asked to investigate. So who is to be believed?

In attempting to justify the decision to level disciplinary action, the States Police have stated that it was important to have a clear, independent and transparent process to examine the concerns raised initially by the Privy Council so that the public of Jersey can continue to have trust and confidence in the States Police to do the right thing. Hear, hear we all say, but where is the transparency and where is the Judgement?

Confidence in the police is dependent on decisions taken by the ordinary coppers in the front line and sharp end of policing AND the decisions taken by officers sitting in the Ivory Towers at Police Headquarters who should be equally accountable for their actions. Policing is complex and even more so today so it is incumbent on senior police officers to set examples and to treat their officers with fairness, compassion and consistency. They appear to have failed in this particular case.

In Jersey the decision to prefer criminal charges is based on two tests, one is the evidential test and the other being the public interest test. The public is entitled to know who was responsible for the decision to instigate disciplinary action. Although the charges were not criminal had the officers been found guilty the outcome would have had serious consequences not only for themselves but for their families. Therefore who ever was responsible for instigating the action presumably conducted both tests and must have been reasonably confident of a successful outcome.

Unfortunately we now learn that the States Police has incurred over £200k of taxpayers money on a disciplinary case which according to the Defence Advocate was based on allegations which were ill-founded in fact and law and never had any reasonable prospect of success.

Apart from incurring unnecessary time, expense and untold hardship for 3 officers and their families, the disciplinary case has bankrupted the Police Association funds which needed a £10k handout from the public via the Home Affairs Minister to ensure that the 3 officers had equality of arms. Presumably because it was “in the public interest”

During Question Time last Tuesday Members were told that the prosecution costs to date are around £2million. In that sum is around £1m to cover legal assistance for Curtis Warren and his associates. It does seem ironic that the procedures in place for the 3 officers to defend them selves fell far short than those they arrested. For example whilst the Curtis Warren team was granted legal aid, there was no provision for the officers. Also there is no procedure in place for the Adjudicator to award any costs to the officers to meet their personal costs and suffering.

Curtis Warren and his associates must be amused at how events have evolved and how the credibility of those responsible for his conviction is suspect. Will it assist him in his endeavours to overturn his conviction, only time will tell?

I titled my last Blog “Own Goal—More to Come,” as we can see there is still more to come, but will we get the answers, see the Judgement and will anyone be accountable?

Thursday 10 January 2013

Curtis Warren-- Own Goal--- More to come?

Readers who have been following my Blogs will know that I have devoted some time to the arrest of Curtis Warren and his team who were attempting to illegally import cannabis to Jersey way back in 2007.

I have no time for “bent cops” or for people who are in any way involved with the illegal drug trade. However this is not case of bent cops but cops having to think on their feet when felons were likely to evade arrest. The 3 officers involved have always claimed that they sought advice and acted in good faith. Today is very much their day because their actions have been vindicated.

I can also understand concerns raised by people who are arrested and then convicted as a result of questionable police evidence. Curtis Warren and his team may well feel that they fall into that category but there is another appeal route which they are entitled to pursue.

In previous Blogs, I have questioned the role of senior police officers, the Crown Officers along with its Prosecution Service and the Judges who all appear to want their cake and eat it.

The above persons chose to accept the police evidence which led to the decision to prosecute, try, find guilty and at the Appeal uphold the decision. Therefore why did the judges choose to criticise the officers and why did the senior police officers perform a “U turn” and level discipline charges against the officers over five years after the initial arrest. One may ask why the u turn, who was really pulling the strings and will anyone, be accountable? In my Blog published on 13th December I wrote

“It seems that when the States Police wish to bring charges against certain officers, expense does not come into the equation and goodness knows how much the current discipline case will cost the taxpayer and will anyone be taken to task if the officers are exonerated?

Ahead of the Hearing, the Advocate representing the police officers said that the officers all categorically denied that they had behaved unlawfully, improperly without advice or that any action that they took was unauthorised."

The disciplinary hearing has now been concluded with the case being dismissed and the officers exonerated. The above Advocate in his short statement said that he could not enlarge on his statement until the Chief Constable had published his judgement which is expected in a matter of days.

I intend to publish another Blog after the judgement is published however it is understood that during the Hearing there was much discussion regarding the role of the Jersey Law Officers in the investigation and that this appears to have been influential in determining the outcome. In my Blogs I too have raised concerns so I shall be waiting for the judgement with interest.

The States Police has published a short statement in which it states it is "pleased" that three of their officers have been cleared. On hearing the statement one wonders which of the 3 officers was first to the sick bag. They must also be asking that if they have friends in such high places who needs enemies.

Those responsible for instigating the disciplinary action must be accountable because it was not only a financially costly exercise but also traumatic for the officers and their families and also for fellow States Police officers who will be questioning what support they will receive should they too find themselves in the situation their colleagues faced in 2007.

Today’s verdict is another very costly own goal for the States Police and those with oversight of our criminal justice system. One wonders how many more own goals will scored in this sorry saga?