Friday 22 March 2013

The Dean, Bishop and Good Shepherds, Fact or Fiction?

The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Winchester have both given unreserved apologies to the complainant known as HG. It is unknown whether the apologies were delivered personally or in writing but it appears that HG is the forgotten person as supporters on both sides make their positions known. There are calls for the Dean to be reinstated for a number of reasons, but cool heads are required and it is to the Acting Dean’s credit that he has circulated the following letter to the Clergy.

The last week and a half has been enormously difficult for all of us. Thank you for your support.

Saturday’s meeting with Bishop Tim provided a welcome and much-needed opportunity to discuss the events leading up to Bob’s suspension. I was personally grateful for the opportunity to meet in person and for the service beforehand.

We now know that Bishop John Gladwin will be leading the upcoming investigation and visitation and I understand that he will be assisted in this by Norman Russell, Archdeacon of Berkshire. I do think the process being put in place is a welcome next step and I am sure all those involved will require our support and cooperation.

It goes without saying that there is there is considerable respect and love for Bob and Daphne in Jersey. Nevertheless, the recently-published Independent Review raised a number of very serious issues and it is absolutely for the best, not just for Bob but for the Church in Jersey and beyond, that these things are investigated properly. Support for Bob and support for what we trust will be a full and thorough investigation should surely be seen as mutually and entirely inclusive.

Finally, but not least today, there has been a great deal of unhelpful speculation in the press around constitutional questions. Much of this has only served to distract from the fundamental issue of safeguarding which, like the Bishop, we must be clear is at the heart of the Church’s mission. Whatever other conversations are required, the very best practice in safeguarding has got to be our overriding concern here. I know each of you places the greatest importance on safeguarding, as do I, and this is why we must look forward to the next steps in this process.

For now, I encourage you to continue in praying for all those involved and especially Bishop John Gladwin and Archdeacon Norman Russell in their leading of the inquiries.

Yours in Christ, Canon Geoff Houghton, Acting Dean of Jersey.

Given the circumstances and the Review's/Report’s preliminary findings I don’t think the Bishop had any alternative other than withdraw the Commission of the Dean of Jersey, it is a pity that decisive action was not taken years ago whereby the former Bishop of Winchester could also have been “suspended” because I believe he has much to answer for.  If he was supposed to be a good shepherd he certainly allowed the wool to be pulled over his eyes. I may add that although in layman’s language the Dean is suspended, there is a difference between withdrawing the Commission and suspension. At last Tuesday’s States Sitting Members were reminded that as far as the States is concerned the Dean is at liberty to take his seat in the House. I am sure that statement was met with utter bewilderment by HG.

The Dean is reported as saying, “In Jersey there is a real feeling that suspending someone reverses the burden of proof in the public mind. Instead of our much cherished ‘innocent until proven guilty’, the suspended person becomes thought of (no matter what those in authority may say), as ‘Guilty until exonerated.’

I agree with that statement, the suspension is supposed to be a neutral act but has been used as a blunt but effective tool to end careers because of the time taken to complete the investigation. I can understand the Dean’s concerns, he is entitled to an even handed and timely investigation and hopefully that will be the case.

People will now have had time to read and digest the Independent Report written by Jan Korris. It would have been helpful if a Time Line had been included because it would have been easier to see how the matter was allowed to fester and like the Titanic was heading for disaster almost upon the Dean’s receipt of HG’s complaint.

As much as I respect protocols they do not override safeguarding victims or addressing their complaints, yet that appears to have been the problem with this case. It was in the autumn of 2008 that the Safeguarding Advisor (JF) informed the Bishop that the Diocese could be hugely exposed if the Church Warden was allowed to continue in post. Yet the warning went unheeded. It should be recalled that at that time the eyes of the world were focused on Jersey and the way it was investigating what became known as Jersey’s Historical Abuse. Concerns were being openly expressed about cover ups and old boy networks, yet this elephant in the room was not seen by the Dean nor the Bishop and his advisors.

I can understand the author’s difficulty in compiling a report and sifting through around 2000 documents, not having sight of the Dean’s nor the Vicar’s documents, plus meeting resistance from the Dean, his wife and the Island’s clergy, however I do believe there are some issues in the Report which needs to be addressed.

Whilst the Report is mainly about the Dean, it is evident that the former Bishop of Winchester was completely out of his depth and never got a grip of the situation. It is also evident that he never sought advice from senior church leaders including the Archbishop to overcome the impasse with Jersey’s Dean.

It is reported that “Bishop Michael described himself at interview as having been submerged in his role and facing very many tasks. He agreed that there was a difficulty in stopping and reflecting, or seeking external expertise and support. In an email to the Safeguarding Advisor in April 2009 Bishop Michael looks at the deteriorating situation and regrets he did not take a more forceful approach earlier on.”

Hindsight is a wonderful thing but it cannot be used as an excuse for utter failure by a very senior church figure. The Bishop not only let himself down but it was at the expense of a highly vulnerable lady who was seeking his help.

The Report states that the situation was not helped because the Diocesan Chief Executive A.R. was away from July 2009 – September 2010. I ask how that claim can be made. HG first made contact with the Bishop’s Office on 13th September 2008 which was almost 10 months before AR temporally left his post, what was AR doing in the meantime? He claims “the Diocese takes its safeguarding duties very seriously.” If it does, there is little evidence of this being the case in 2008.

It is also reported that upon receipt of HG’ s email to the Bishop on 13th September 2008, the Bishop’s Lay Assistant (M.S) in forwarding the letter to J.F. on 14th September, commented in the referral, “I have been in contact with [R.K.], and he thinks it’s all a lot of nonsense.” One may ask why did the Lay Assistant make contact with the Dean and what was his motive? Surely his job was to forward the email directly to the Safeguarding Advisor ?

On page 25 the author covers the arrest and HG leaving the Island, I believe the matter needs clarification because what is recorded is not accurate. What is evident is that in September 2010 the Bishop was visiting the Island, staying with the Dean and was to attend a Church Service on 26th September. There was concern that HG might disrupt the Service and somehow a Harassment Order was obtained to prevent HG disrupting the Service. There is no explanation as how the Harassment Order was obtained or the circumstances in which it was executed.

However it is apparent that HG was arrested on or just before the Church Service on 26th September then charged and held overnight in police custody to appear before the Magistrate on Monday 27th September. It is evident that HG was remanded in custody at La Moye Prison and appeared before the Magistrate two weeks later on Monday 11th October 2010. It is also evident that the Safeguarding Advisor became aware of the situation because in her Report she records "her concern at these extreme measures and worked at setting up care for her with the prison chaplain.” However we do not know what she achieved or what help or advice HG received.

What is known is that the Safeguarding Advisor (JF) was shocked when on 11th October H.G. was bound over and summarily deported from the Island for three years and put on a plane with no-one to meet her, no planned accommodation and no money. J.F. wrote to Bishop Michael, “Whilst I don’t think this is our responsibility in that the court decision and action was not of our making, I do feel we have a basic responsibility, as we would have for anyone, to do all we can to ensure her wellbeing.”

I have made enquiries into the matter and it is apparent that when HG appeared before the Magistrate on 28th September there was a Duty Advocate in attendance but it is not known what advice, if any was given to HG. I have been unable to ascertain what advice or assistance was given during the 2 week remand period but at the Magistrate’s Court on 11th October HG was represented via Legal Aid by an Allocated Advocate. I do not know what pre court time was given to HG but I am advised that the Court has no authority to deport any one from the Island and contrary to what is recorded on page 25 HG was not summarily deported.

In cases of Harassment the accused is given the option of being bound over to leave the Island or accepting what ever sentence the Court considers to be appropriate. I am told that on the advice of the Advocate HG chose to be bound over to leave the Island. Given what is known of HG’s health one wonders whether she received the appropriate help and advice at the time of her arrest, whilst in custody or at her Court appearances.

What is evident that despite JF stating that “in her opinion the Diocese had a basic responsibility, as we would have for anyone to do all we can to ensure HG’s wellbeing,” it is unknown whether anyone accepted any responsibility and I include the Jersey authorities? Surely it must have been or should have been made evident to the Court that shipping HG to the UK was akin to sending a time bomb which was likely to explode at any time.

On page 41 the author records, “The decision and manner of H.G.’s deportation requires further investigation. It is clearly a matter of concern that a vulnerable adult in such a distressed state could be removed from Jersey with no thought to her imminent care needs. It seems surprising that the complainant against H.G., in this case the Dean of Jersey on behalf of the Church, was not consulted or informed about the decisions taken, or action planned, concerning H.G.’s future. There are no records of communication from R.K. with the Diocese at this time and Bishop Michael later expressed shock and distress that the deportation had occurred.”

This is a statement I entirely endorse the need for further investigation and to this end I shall forward details of this Blog to our Chief Minister. I believe  this is an Island matter and should be addressed via an Inquiry/investigation. I will request the Chief Minister to take immediate steps to address the matter and make his intentions known via a Statement before or at the next States Sitting which because of the Easter holidays is not until Tuesday 16th April.

The author records “the Church let H.G. down. Despite the difficulties of her background and disablement, and struggle with some everyday practicalities, H.G. was none-the-less in employment, pursuing hobbies, socializing and wanting to be accepted in the church community. Over the next three years H.G.’s life changed from having no history of being in trouble with the law, to having a police record and being a displaced person, homeless on the streets of the mainland.”

As a responsible and caring community how could the above happen, are our Health, Social Services, Police, Courts, Legal Advisors and other relevant agencies fully trained and resourced to respond to people like HG? Given her experience one is left to wonder.

Friday 15 March 2013

Jersey’s Historical Abuse Inquiry—the Nelson Touch?

It has been said that a week in politics is a long time, I don’t know if it was for those actively involved in politics but last week was certainly one of interest as I picked up news from afar in Tenerife. A few months ago my wife and I decided that we would take a 10 day break in early March to find some sun. We are pleased to say we found plenty but were disappointed to find that Jersey was still deep in the throes of winter on our return. The snow was that deep that we could not return to our home and spent the night in a hotel.

I knew little of Tenerife’s history and visited the site where a fort once stood and from where the musket ball was fired shattering Lord Horatio Nelson’s right arm when attempting what turned out to be a futile invasion in 1799. I will return to Lord Nelson later.

Whilst away the Child Abuse debate was successfully concluded and there was also the revelation of the Dean’s alleged failure to satisfactorily deal with a complaint from a lady who claimed to be an abuse victim. This is a matter which has been well covered by Voice for Children Blog.

I had hoped to be present when the States debated the long awaited proposition but because it was twice deferred it clashed with our pre-planned holiday. However in my Blog which I published a couple of days prior to my holiday, I said I was hopeful that all the amendments, including Deputy Tadier’s would be unanimously approved. I also said that the eyes of the world would be looking on and in particular on those Members who had previously unsuccessfully opposed the proposition to establish a Committee of Inquiry.

To get back to Lord Nelson, prior to the Battle of Trafalgar he sent a message to all under his command that “England expects that every man will do his duty” On Wednesday 6th March the Jersey taxpayers and in particular those who had in any way been subjected to abuse were expecting that every States Member would do their duty. Although I had hoped that all Members would give their support it was perfectly in order for those with opposing views to express them and vote accordingly.

Unfortunately not every States Member did their duty, and when asked to support Midshipman Tadier’s amendment to provide the Committee of Inquiry with balls for their muskets Admiral Gorst and Rear Admiral Le Gresley declined to do so and before any one could say “kiss me Hardy” 11 members of various ranks jumped ship and retreated no doubt to the safety of the Members’ tea room.

Fortunately following several broadsides from the lower ranks both Messrs Gorst and Le Gresley remembered that they were supposed to be at the helm and agreed to provide the musket balls. However it was apparent that neither could persuade the 11 deserters to return to their posts. There are times when Members do get out caught short and because the toilets are some distance they may not be able to return to vote if suddenly called upon to do so. Given that Deputy Tadier had to sum up that should have provided ample  opportunity for every Member to return to their seats not only to listen to the summing up but also to vote. It is hard to believe that all 11 were stuck in the toilet so why were they not present to vote?

It is now on record that Deputy Tadier’s amendment was approved by 38 votes with no one voting “Contre.” However no one will ever know how many of the 11 absentees would have voted against had they been present.

What is known is that 4 of the absentees were also among the 6 absent when the vote was taken on the proposition as amended. The 4 were Senator’s Bailhache and Ozouf along with Connetable Rondel and Deputy Rondel. No doubt each will have their own reasons for not being present but given the importance of the vote one would have expected each to have given reasons for their absence, particularly as they could have been valid.

I don’t want to speculate on the reasons for their absence or pick on any one particular member but I was disappointed to note Senator Bailhache’s lack of involvement. Had he asked to be excused from participating in the debate due to the fact that as a former Crown Officer he was conflicted one could have accepted his absence.

As he chose not to declare an interest one would have assumed that given his position as Assistant Chief Minister and with responsibility for affairs outside the Island he would have spoken and voted in favour of both parts of the proposition. It should also be recalled that as Bailiff in 2008 he strongly condemned the World’s Press for publishing what he considered to be misleading and derogatory information about the Historic Abuse Investigation and the Island in particular. So why was the Senator absent and why was he not doing his duty to the Island’s electorate?

Now that the mechanism for appointing the Committee of Inquiry and its Terms of Reference have been approved it will be for the Chief Minister to ensure that there is no further procrastination and the wheels are kept turning. Not that anyone should be thinking of erecting a Gorst Column in the Royal Square, but due credit should be given to Senator Gorst for the manner in which he eventually accepted amendments to the original proposition and by proposing them it certainly ensured a smoother passage through the States.

It is to be hoped that he is now a wiser man and his performance in the debate will have done much to enhance his leadership whereas the colours of the other would be Chief Ministers were badly shredded and are irreparable.

There is still a long way to go and no doubt there will be much soul searching along the way because it is almost inevitable that some unsavoury acts or omissions will come to light during the Inquiry. However I am confident that Senator Gorst will have now realised that it much better to be true to his beliefs and of his duty to the public he serves than be swayed by the views of some Ministers close to him. Who knows he too may develop the “Nelson Touch.”

Friday 1 March 2013

Jersey's Historical Abuse Inquiry--No Stone Left Unturned??

On 1st March 2011 the States approved P19/2011 as amended; which requested the Council of Ministers (COM) to establish a Committee of Inquiry (COI) into Jersey's Historical Child Abuse. It has taken the COM two years to draft a proposition seeking to provide a mechanism to appoint a COI along with its Terms of Reference (TOR).

The public is entitled to know why it has taken 2 years to lodge a proposition which is due to be debated next Tuesday 5th March. Very few people are aware of the reasons for the procrastination or the difficulties a small group of interested stake holders had to overcome to ensure that the proposals will do justice to the Island and the abuse survivors in particular.

Two years ago Senator Le Gresley lodged a proposition P19/2011 requesting the COM to reconsider its decision not to establish a COI into the Historical Child Abuse. I was of the view that the COM would be only too pleased to accept the proposition, would take months to reconsider and come back to the House saying that it was retaining its original decision.

It should be noted that soon after the outset of the police investigation into Jersey's historical abuse in late February 2008, the Chief Minister at the time Senator Walker lodged a Report R27/2008 which contained 6 relevant issues and said that if they were not addressed the COM would establish a COI. He also said there would be no cover up, no expense would be spared and no stone would be left unturned.

I lodged an amendment to Senator Le Gresley's proposition asking the States to consider whether the 6 issues had been addressed, and if not then the COM should establish a COI. I also made it clear that if it was agreed to establish a COI its TOR should include addressing any other issues that had arisen during and/or had emanated from the investigation.

Deputy Tadier lodged an amendment to my amendment in which he very importantly asked that the TOR should include a review of the role of the Crown Officers and "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?”

Following a 5 hour debate Deputy Tadier's along with several of my 6 issues received States support by 37 votes to 11  and the COM was charged to lodge a proposition to establish a COI along with its TOR. It should be noted that at the end of that debate a promise was made by the then Chief Minister, Senator Le Sueur that, I along with a member of the Jersey Care Leavers Association, Deputy Tadier and Senator Le Gresley would be involved in drafting the TOR.

We were of the opinion that there had to be transparency in the appointment of the COI and its TOR should ensure that all avenues were explored and in the words of the former Chief Minister Frank Walker that “no stone would be left unturned” It also wanted to work closely with the COM to ensure that both parties were satisfied with the TOR and that the COI could get underway without undue delay.

In June 2011 we were asked to comment on a proposal to appoint Verita to draft a set of proposals along with TOR. We unanimously supported the proposal. In November 2011 following wide ranging consultation Verita came forward with a set of proposals along with TOR which appeared to be sound and robust.

It was evident that they were too robust for the COM because last summer it appointed Andrew Williamson to comment on the Verita Report. Mr Williamson came up with a watered down set of proposals which clearly influenced the COM.

Following a further period of procrastination on 6th November 2012 the COM lodged its proposition P118/2012 seeking States approval to establish a COI along with its TOR.  The date for debate was set for 15th January.

Unfortunately although the COM was frequently reminded, it did not keep its promise to discuss the way forward with Deputy Tadier, the Care Leavers represented by Ms Carrie Modral and myself (the Group). Following the Proposition’s lodging the Group was enlarged to include a small number of States members and very importantly Daniel Wimberley the former Deputy of St Mary.

The Group noted that the TOR fell far short of Verita’s recommendations so on 5th December wrote and submitted a set of amendments to the COM asking to meet to discuss them. Unfortunately on 18th December without consultation the documents were submitted to Verita for comment. They replied on 7th January and were generally supportive of the Group’s amendments.

Unfortunately the COM again declined to meet the Group to discuss the amendments or Verita’s response and on 5th February went ahead and lodged most but not all of the Group’s amendments.

Doing this without meeting the group has turned out to be premature. Since that date (February 5th), we have had to lodge amendments, there have been meetings with the COM, they have lodged amendments and we have lodged a final amendment. It is all very confusing and could (mostly) have been avoided. However, as the saying goes, we are where we are.

The Group was of the view that after the COM lodged its amendments on 5th February that some lacked clarity, excluded some important areas and the issue of the Crown Officers position fell short of  Deputy Tadier’s approved amendment to P19/201. As a consequence of the COM's failure to accept or even discuss all of the Group's amendments Deputy Tadier lodged amendments to the COM's amendments on 12th February 

As a result a meeting was quickly arranged for the next day and the Group finally met the Chief Minister Senator Gorst and Senator Le Gresley to discuss the amendments and what common ground could be agreed.

The Group has always been of the belief that it should be for the COM to lodge any amendments to the TOR as they were more likely to be approved than if lodged in Deputy Tadier's name. The meeting on 13th ironed out a number of wrinkles and the Group is appreciative of the support, although belatedly from Senator Gorst but as I have pointed out above, it all could have been so much easier if Ministers had met with us far earlier. In a spirit of compromise it was agreed that Deputy Tadier would withdraw his amendments and some would be incorporated in further amendments which would be lodged by the COM.

On 27th February the COM lodged a further amendment(3) which will widen the scope of the COI to consider alleged abuse in non-States run establishments providing for children. It has also amended a limb of TOR 13 which relates to the Crown Officers. The amendment is subtle and instead of the words "whether those responsible for deciding on which cases to prosecute took a consistent, professional and impartial approach?" the words consistent and impartial have been removed.

The COM's reason for the amendment is based on an assurance from Verita that the word "professional" is sufficient. Verita says that "A characteristic of professional behaviour is one of objectivity. Objectivity means thinking and action undistorted by emotion or personal bias. The word "professional" therefore implies the characteristics of both consistency and impartiality."

Whilst the Group was willing to compromise by supporting the above amendment, it was of the view that the COI should not be constrained when reviewing the Crown Officers' role particularly in view of the States approving Deputy Tadier's amendment 2 years ago. It believes that the COM is being too prescriptive and should not be setting out the exact and only mechanism by which it will allow the COI to examine prosecution files.

Much concern has been expressed about the perceived inconsistency whereby some people have been prosecuted whilst others particularly in more senior positions have not. To echo the words of the former Chief Minister Walker, "there will be no cover up." So how will the COI address that allegation if its hands are tied? On 26th February Deputy Tadier lodged a further amendment Amd (2) asking the States to approve his amendment whereby the prosecution files "may be examined in a manner to be determined by the Committee."

The Group is mindful that the COM is being advised by the AG who is conflicted and is concerned that in paragraph 11 in his Comments lodged on 31st January he states "Neither the States nor a Committee of Inquiry can give directions to the effect that criminal proceedings should be brought in any particular case or given any direction relating to the investigative or prosecution process."

If the States or the COI cannot give directions, then who can? With respect to the AG and other Crown Officers they are public employees and should be accountable in some way to the Taxpayer. It may be that neither the States nor the COI can give directions, but surely someone should be able to ask the Crown Officers' to account for their decisions. That is what Deputy Tadier is seeking in his amendment and believes that the COI should have discretion in the way it conducts its inquiry into the prosecution process and it should not be constrained by the States Prosecutor who is also the legal advisor to the COM.

It is most unfortunate that the Chief Minister did not adhere to the promise given by his predecessor and work with the Group whose only objective was for an independent COI armed with the tools to do its job. Had he done so, not only would the matter have proceeded more expeditiously but there would have been a clear set of coherent Terms of Reference at the outset which would have made much easier reading than at present.

However "we are where we are" as the saying goes and hopefully the COM will lead from a united front including those Ministers who 2 years ago voted against establishing a COI.

It is important to show not just Island residents but the watching world that if the proposition and ALL the comprehensive and robust amendments are approved, it should allow the Committee to conduct an effective and timely inquiry which "will leave no stone unturned.”

I have previously published 3 Blogs relating to the Historical Abuse issue which may be helpful to those wishing further information.

Previous Blogs 30th  October 2012      Savile skeletons in the cupboard
                           6th    November 2012   One small step
                           28th November 2012    Possible amendments