Tuesday 30 July 2013

St Martin's School Field--- Rape or Progress???

In March last year the Planning Department published its plans for a new St Martin’s School to be built on its 7 vergee field which for over 60 years had not only been part and parcel of school life but also of the Parish and in particular its football club and the school’s cricket team.

On 16th March I published what was to be first of 8 further Blogs I published in an attempt to save the School field. Click HERE

It was never disputed that the current school which sits on a 3 vergee site had reached its sell by date. Although the school had been put on the Site of Local Interest Register the listing was only done in late 2009 as a ploy to build on the school field which it itself was listed. I was always of the view that the existing school and head teacher's house which has not been occupied by a head teacher for over 45 years could either be demolished or refurbished or  rebuilt on the existing site. This would save the field.

One of the concerns expressed by supporters for building on the school field was the disruption which would be caused to pupils who would have to be housed in port-a- cabins whilst the existing school was being refurbished or rebuilt. Other pupils had been educated in similar buildings when major work had been undertaken at their schools but that fact was conveniently ignored. What was also conveniently ignored was the fact that school life would be disrupted even if it was built on the field, and that is certainly the case.

Formal planning approval was given last November and although requests were made for the parish football team to continue playing on the field until work on it began, the request was refused. Since Easter there has been some activity on the field with white fencing being erected, tracks being laid and large amounts of machinery being left on the field. Sadly the school has been out of bounds for pupils, parents and other members of the public, who normally took their children to enjoy the play area, kick a ball, play cricket or for some other social or sporting activity.

Apart from the disruption on the field as the main services had to be extended to it; this has led to the main road being closed and hedges and trees removed to allow for more car parking and greater access onto the field.

None of this inconvenience both financial and environmental would have been required had the existing site been utilised but who cares, because in the land of the blind the one eyed are kings. Those chosen to lead have failed, where have the environmentalist and the sports leaders been hiding?

The loss of the field to the Parish football Club was always going to be a bitter pill to swallow. Last season with no home pitch it had a nomadic and demoralising existence. Promises to find an alternative pitch in the parish have been as hollow as the Church of England’s apology to HG. A further major blow is the recent loss of the Club’s team coach Darryl Parker who gallantly assisted me and others in opposing the application to build on the School field. Darryl has understandably moved to fresh pastures where his talents will be appreciated and valued.

Last year we celebrated Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee and the Queen Elizabeth 11 Fields Trust was established with local communities being asked to nominate 2012 playing fields which would protect them from being built on. A Body headed by the Island’s Bailiff, Lt Governor and Chief Minister was established to oversee the scheme. I nominated the St Martin’s field which clearly embarrassed the Jersey Body as it (contrary to the rules of the scheme) had nominated the Grainville School field.

It conveniently chose to ignore my request but following a few broadsides the clearly embarrassed Body quickly folded and transferred responsibility to the Connetable’s Committee. Needless to say that was as good as the kiss of death because the School field has been lost for ever and I am informed that no other fields have been nominated and the closing date has been reached.

On the last day of this summer's term there was a short ceremony on the field to “dig the first sod.” No doubt there was much breast beating and hearty cheers from those instrumental in destroying a much loved field. Some will say its progress; others will say it was rape. Unfortunately the real winner is apathy from the great majority of Islanders and Parishioners who at a time of crisis chose to do nothing.

Tuesday 16 July 2013

Jersey's Dean---Another Meaningless Apology??

On 17th June I published a Blog titled Jersey’ Dean –Meaningless apologies. In that Blog I made reference to public apologies given to HG. In my view they were clearly meaningless because they were not given personally, there was no intention of doing so and when carefully looking into the wording of the apology it was unclear as to what the apology was for, if indeed there was one.

Yesterday in the States Chamber Senator Philip Bailhache a knight of the realm, former Bailiff, Chief Judge, former Attorney and Solicitor General and would be Foreign Minister made a Personal Statement. Interestingly he made it as a backbencher whereby according to the rules he could not be questioned on the contents/accuracy of his statement. This might not have been the case had he done so in his capacity as Assistant Chief Minister.

For readers who may not be acquainted with the background I will cover the relevant points and state that Senator Bailhache, as is his right, has been offering assistance to the Island’s Dean who is the subject of a complaint over his handling of an abuse complaint from a lady known as HG.

It was claimed by two business men that Senator Bailhache whilst on a flight between Jersey and London was reading documents appertaining to the case which revealed the names of the victim and the accused. Most of us have read documents or other material whilst on flights so what has made a mountain out of a mole hole?

It is evident that the business men contacted Deputy Trevor Pitman and expressed concerns about Senator Bailhache reading what they thought was sensitive documents which could be read by them and possibly other members of the public. It is unclear what research was carried out by Deputy Pitman before asking questions in the States but it would be helpful to know whether Senator Bailhache was travelling on States business and in what capacity. Was he travelling as a backbencher or as an Assistant Minister, as one can see above, there is a difference but none of us is the wiser?

The exchanges that ensued could be akin to a playground spat whereby the bully whilst denying any wrongdoing called his accusers nasty names and impugned their integrity. The bully and the accusers were then questioned by the Head master who believed that everyone was telling the truth. However to his credit Deputy Pitman stuck to his guns and pursued the matter to a stage where Senator Bailhache has been boxed into a corner and has now made a skilfully drafted statement which includes an apology. However it is open to interpretation and appears to be very much a damage limitation exercise.

Senator Bailhache is strongly denying not telling the truth however it does appear that he has been very economical with it. He claims that had he been made aware of what was being alleged a misunderstanding could have been avoided? To those who have been following the matter it seems to have been a simple one. It was claimed that he was reading sensitive documents on a plane which he had not only denied reading but in rebuttal used language which he now accepts was stronger than was necessary or appropriate. He would like to make it clear that he did not impute dishonesty or malice to Deputy Pitman or his constituents. There are some people who may not be convinced with that claim.

I believe that most people when being accused of something ensure they know exactly what they are being accused of before shooting from the hip and casting aspersions on the accusers. However this does not seem to be the case with Senator Bailhache who appears to be of the belief that his actions are above reproach.

The matter could and should have been resolved the first time the matter was raised in the States on 30th April. The reason why it was not is not down to Deputy Pitman but rests squarely on the shoulders Senator Bailhache and Chief Minister Gorst who failed to investigate the matter in a thorough and expedient manner.

What the Personal statement reveals is that Senator Bailhache has problems with his memory; he is not sure what he reads and even today could be mistaken in what he thinks he was reading. Given that he is aspiring to be the Island’s first Foreign Minister it does not bode well for Jersey.

The Statement is published in full below and it will be for readers to draw their own conclusions.


ON MONDAY 15th JULY 2013

On 18th June Deputy Trevor Pitman claimed that I was not telling the truth to the Assembly in relation to a complaint by one of his constituents and this is my first opportunity to respond to that claim. That claim is strongly denied.
I should like to begin by stating that I have at no time been approached by Deputy Pitman seeking an explanation as to what happened on a London flight; the only exchanges that have taken place have happened on the floor of this Chamber in response to questions. If I had been made aware of exactly what was being alleged, a misunderstanding could have been avoided. It was not until Deputy Pitman made available to the Chief Minister a copy of the email from his constituent shortly before questions were put on 14th May, and the Chief Minister passed that copy to me, that I was able to understand the precise nature of the allegations.

When questions were put to the Chief Minister on 30th April I had assumed that the flight in question was a flight that I made to London on the evening of 20th March not long after the suspension of the Dean’s Commission had taken place. On that flight to London I have a clear recollection of reading the Korris report, as stated by the Chief Minister to the Assembly on 30th April. It was only on 14th May that it became clear to me for the first time that the flight referred to by Deputy Pitman’s constituent was on the afternoon of 21st March when I was returning to Jersey from London. On that flight I do not believe that I would have been reading documents relating to this matter because I had read them in London, but I may be mistaken.

In answering questions on 14th May I said that the content of the email from Deputy Pitman’s constituent “taken in the round [gave] a fictitious and malicious account of my reading habits on aeroplanes”. Having had time to reflect, I am sorry that I used language that was stronger than was necessary or appropriate. I withdraw the phrase “fictitious and malicious” and would like to make it clear that I do not impute dishonesty or malice to Deputy Pitman’s constituent or, for the avoidance of any doubt, to the Deputy himself. Having said that, the recollection of Deputy Pitman’s constituent is, at least in part, mistaken. That is perhaps not surprising because the constituent has stated in his email that he was sitting in a seat on the opposite aisle and reading papers in someone else’s possession from that position cannot be easy. That email alleged that the constituent had seen me reading “various police statements…” and it was later clarified to the Chief Minister that this meant “police witness statements”. That recollection is mistaken because I did not have in my possession on the aeroplane any copies of such police statements. I do not believe that it would have been possible for the other information referred to in the email to have been seen on that occasion, but in that respect I may be mistaken. If it was possible for any third party to have identified EY or HG from the papers in my possession, I would obviously regret that very much.

I should like to clarify two other points. First, I have never had in my possession any papers that I was not entitled to have in my possession, nor that involved a breach of the Data Protection Law or any other statute. Specifically, I have never seen any police statements relating to the investigation into allegations made by HG against EY. Secondly, my interest in these issues is not one that relates to my duties as an Assistant Minister. My interest stems from my position as an elected representative of Grouville Church on the Deanery Synod, and my strong feelings about the manner in which the Dean has been treated. Any backbench member has a perfect right to interest himself in matters of this kind.

Tuesday 9 July 2013

Jersey's Dean ------Doubting Thomases

Four months have elapsed since Bishop Dakin suspended Jersey ’s Dean. The suspension or removal of the Dean’s Commission had been prompted following the publication of the much maligned Korris Report. The Bishop, shortly afterwards announced that the matter would be the subject of a Visitation which would be led by former Bishop John Gladwin with an Archdeacon, a suitably experienced and independent senior lawyer and a suitable lay person to assist him. The Terms of Reference were published but did not cover the complaint into the Dean’s alleged mishandling of HG’s complaint.

Following the firing of broadsides from the Dean’s supporters led by the former Bailiff but now Senator Philip Bailhache the Dean’s Commission was restored 7 weeks later before the Visitation had got underway let alone concluded. So one wonders why the Dean was suspended in the first place.

Two months ago Bishop Dakin announced that Dame Heather Steel had been commissioned to lead an investigation into the Dean’s handling of HG’s complaint which feeds into John Gladwin’s Visitation. One is to assume that apart from the investigation into the Dean’s handling of HG’s complaint it will include the decision and manner of her deportation from Jersey. On page 41 of her Report Jan Korris states “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.”
Unfortunately it is only an assumption because although the whole investigation is supposed to be based on safeguarding and the need for full transparency and accountability, no Terms of Reference have been published. It has been rumoured that Dame Heather wanted a no holds barred investigation which was considered to be too open for the Bishop. Could that be the reason for Dame Heather’s failure to get under way?

I am not the only one who has sought clarification or indeed an update on what is really (not) going on. However apart from notification that the Bishop had personally apologised to HG, which she says is completely untrue, the wheels of the Bishop’s chariot which were never secure appear to have come off.

It seems ironic that Korris who was critical of the Dean’s handling of HG’s complaint claimed that all the way along the line everything came too late. It seems that Bishop Dakin has learnt nothing from the report and his apparent lack of leadership and procrastination is now becoming an embarrassment.

It is also unfair on the leading players in the affair; allegations have been made against the former Bishop, the Safeguarding Officer, the Dean, his wife, the Vicar and the Church Warden. They are entitled to know whether the second part of the Visitation is going ahead.

Most importantly the procrastination is most unfair on HG who is the real but forgotten victim of what is becoming a complete shambles on top of the unholy mess created by the Dean and former Bishop. In previous Blogs I have stated that before the Visitation got under way personal apologies and tangible assistance should be given to HG.  These are still awaited.

In addition there are other questions that need answers. It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The same could be said of perception particularly in small communities like Jersey with its infamous “ Jersey Way .” Therefore one would have hoped that before anyone was appointed as a member of the Visitation Panel any suggestion of conflict whether implied or perceived would deem them, no matter how well qualified to be unacceptable.
If one accepts that principle then one must question whether someone who is a member of the Dean’s congregation at St Helier’s Parish Church and recently listed on its Electoral Role is a wise appointment to the Panel.

By the same token Dame Heather is a former Judge of the Court of Appeal in Jersey and a former colleague of Senator Philip Bailhache. Dame Heather accepted Senator Bailhache’s invitation to be a Speaker at his 2010 Conference called “Dependency or Sovereignty? Time to take Stock.” A fellow Speaker was Advocate Richard Falle who was the Magistrate responsible for HG’s shameful removal from Jersey. 

If Dame Heather is to conduct her investigation in line with the Korris recommendation on page 41 of her Report, she will be required to question Mr Falle. Dame Heather will also have to investigate members of the States Police who arrested HG but did not charge her until 12 hours later after taking statements from the Dean and former Bishop. They also successfully opposed her Bail. Therefore one is entitled to ask why a Member of the States Police is assisting Dame Heather.

While there must be transparency, witnesses when necessary should be entitled to confidentiality particularly in Jersey where there is a genuine fear of reprisal and/or marginalisation for anyone coming forward with evidence questioning the role of “Establishment” figures. The current composition of the Visitation Panels is deterring at least two witnesses submitting evidence. HG has also made it abundantly clear that she will not appear before the Dame Heather Panel. Unfortunately no one is listening.

The football season has not yet commenced but Winchester is already conceding a number of own goals. The normal remedy is to replace the Manager but no one is holding their breath. It was suggested at the outset by the Dean’s supporters led by Senator Philip Bailhache are calling all the shots. It also lays weight to the belief that Winchester ’s concerns about HG are just a smoke screen as a cover for the real agenda that being Constitutional matters. Regretfully that is now becoming abundantly clear.
I am not the only Doubting Thomas but regretfully am being joined by an ever growing number of sceptics who doubt whether the Church of England really gives a damn about the vulnerable and last weekend’s General Synod Conference at York was just another case of hot air and humbug.