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



  1. I have read your blog, being a child who suffered throughout my childhood and teenage hood, all I ask is that Jersey be open and face it's mistakes, every last one of them! I'm tired of all the words, all the promises, all the waiting, I hope it happens, I hope I can feel proud of the Island that left me and so many others down. I hope that Jersey faces it's mistakes in order for it and people like me to move forward in some small way, I hope! thanks Bob x

    1. Abuse that is happening now will be labelled "historic" in the years to come. With the local and UK (&....BBC &.....Belgian) experience it is difficult to conclude anything other than that many of the perpetrators are "untouchable".

      This will repeat and repeat and continue on a large scale until we stop accepting cover ups and "hatchet jobs" from the government and media and stop persecuting whistle-blowers.

      We all have a responsibility.

    2. I shall be surprised and disappointed if the Proposition and all the amendments are not approved.
      Those who oppose will have some explaining to do because P19/2011 as amended was approved by 37 votes 11.

  2. Delay, delay, delay - so normal for anything contentious in Jersey

    1. Hopefully, there will be no more delays.

  3. Why on earth would they spend more money bringing Williamson in to second guess Verita ?

    Had Williamson not previously been employed by Perchard to give children's services a clean bill of health - only for it to then be revealed in the serious case review that "Family X were left pray to paedophiles for A DECADE" with ongoing costs running into millions ?

    Was Williamson a "cab for hire" consultants with a proven track record of producing "Our Chap" reports ?

    "Not worth the paper they are written on" springs to mind ?

    1. Your opinion must be a personal one because Williamson was called in to do a specific job which has set in train a number of improvements in the Health Department.

      I am not sure that he can be blamed for family x whose problems were more to do with deficiencies in the system and those with oversight for it.

      That said, I was surprised that he was engaged to give an opinion on the Verita Report because I did not think he had the specific qualifications to comment let alone make recommendations.

  4. Bob.

    Philip Ozouf on the COSTS

    The Council of Ministers and that ever so nice Senator Le Gresley NOT supporting Montfort's AMENDMENT

    1. Thank you "Voice" for submitting the attachments which were lodged after this Blog was posted.

      Re the costs. Some how they are estimated to be in the region of £6m. One wonders why witnesses will require legal provision, what have they got to hide?

      Re the COM decision not to support Deputy Tadier's amendment.

      The decision is disappointing because without the amendment the COM is being prescriptive and it seems that even though it is anticipated that a lawyer will chair the committee he/she is already being undermined and not deemed fit to determine how the files will be examined.

      Interestingly as one can see in the attached Comments, the COM says that “This Amendment seeks to remove possible examination of prosecution files by an independent expert or experts in criminal law from outside Jersey. Instead such examination of prosecution files may be examined in a manner to be determined by the Committee. In essence, this may result in prosecution files being examined by the Committee itself, or some other person(s) of its choosing.”

      The COM is dead right but what is it afraid of, surely it should be for the Committee to determine how it wants to review the files and not to be told what to do with them? Who are the independent experts and why can’t the Committee be trusted to choose what to do what it thinks best? Who is pulling the COM’s strings?

  5. Bob,

    Please can you remind us which two Ministers voted against establishing a COI two years ago?

    1. The Vote recorded is shown in my Blog above. There were 11 States Members who voted against the amended P19/2011. 9 are still Members and will be voting next week.

      Senators Ozouf, Le Marquand, Maclean and Deputies Duhamel, Gorst and Pryke were the other Ministers.

  6. By my reading, 6 current ministers did not want the COI to happen in the first place. It wasn't just two.

    Gorst, Le Marquand, Pryke, Ozouf, Maclean, Duhamel.

  7. How come the COI cannot choose who looks at the prosecution files!! what happened to Frank Walker's “no stone would be left unturned”?

    Surely the person to review them should be:-

    1) independent (ie: not from Bedford Row)
    2) an expert in child abuse etc.. cases (unlike the Bedford Row chaps apparently)

    1. You are correct, why deny the COI the tools to do their job?

      I would hope that there is no involvement with Bedford Row.

  8. Agreed, no Bedford Row what so ever! There would be a huge conflict of interest, I also do not want Matthew Jowitt any where near the review and I will be making that fact very clear to Mr Gorst, we need a fresh pair of eyes not the same old people! It's the least Jersey can do, is get this right, this time!

    1. I hope that the States will support Deputy Tadier's amendment so that the COI can determine what to do with the files and how best to review them.

      It is pointless giving the COI a job to do and then deny them the tools to do it.

  9. I have so many fingers crossed, that this time Jersey will get this right!

  10. Is this a dumb question? Is it possible to have anyone take charge in Jersey's police, press, judiciary, who is not conflicted or tainted by pressure to produce a clean bill of health for the child abuse inquiry? I ask because those in power seem to effectively demonize or get rid of those honest individuals who do attain a position of influence. Have they not self-selected their cronies to the extent all with influence are now complicit, or bound by some obligation? I despair of any positive outcome without the overwhelming control being given to truly unbiased outsiders, as if that could ever happen.


  11. It is not a dumb question and you are not the only one that asks it. In many small communities and Jersey is no exception instead of there being a presumption of openness with a right to know it is the opposite, possibly for self preservation and personal advancement.

    There is also a naivety when it comes to conflicts, there are people who are giving advice and making decisions who appear to be oblivious, yet one asks how can it be? Surely as intelligent people they should know.

    We have to hope that 3 really wise and strong minded people are appointed to the COI and no stone will be left unturned.

  12. If 3 really wise and strong minded people are appointed to the COI, and no stone is left unturned, will they be demonized and discredited after reporting on child abuse accurately? That is why I think all oversight has to come from outside, and why only the European Court on Human Rights can be trusted to provide enough help, and even that requires going through court appeals.

  13. Do you mean like ILM, when he could not understand why Graham Power said he was conflicted in reviewing his suspension (Graham Power had lodged an official compliant about ILM), but when one person from a team was allegedly offered or applied for a job in the Jersey Police Force, he according to ILM was so grossly conflicted the whole report was rubbish.

    ILM in my opinion takes a selected view on conflicts of interest!

  14. Bob.

    Former Deputy Daniel Wimberley's letter to Ian Gorst looking at two sides of THE STORY

  15. Hi Bob.

    Here we are again.

    Just put up Questions without Answers from this morning, You & your readers can Listen HERE


  16. Hi Bob.

    Here's Two Speeches from today's Debate Think they sum up the two camps, the ones that actually want the COI & the ones that want to carry on the Cover Up to save there own back's or there friends?

    You & your reader's can make up there own minds to who is on which side of the fence! HERE But should I say one is a Constable so says it all really.

    You get back from your Holiday again Bob ?


  17. Hi Bob.

    Put up the Audio of the whole COI Debate, so its there for anyone to listen too in the years to come. You & your reader's can listen to it HERE

    I can't get over the Dean of Jersey is as bad as a Abuser of Children & he Spock in this Debate. Un Bloody Believable.