Tuesday 25 February 2014

Curtis Warren---- "Love In"-- Defending the Indefensible

At the last States Sitting the Home Affairs Minister, Senator Ian Le Marquand refused to accept that former Drugs Councillor Teresa Rodrigues had a 2 year love in with Curtis Waren whilst he was held on remand at La Moye Prison. As such he saw no reason to inquire into the allegation which had been reported in the Mail on Sunday on 16th February. It was also reported that Connetable Steve Pallet the Chairman of the relevant scrutiny panel had also declined to review the matter.

Both the Senator and Connetable are mature men and it is disappointing that they should have dismissed the matter in such a bravado manner.  Surely the simplest way of dealing with the matter would have been by calling for a report from the Prison Governor and the Jurats who form the Prison Board of Visitors. As it is they both lay themselves open to ridicule should it transpire that there is some substance to the allegation.

Given the abrupt dismissal it is not surprising that some States Members, Bloggers and the mainstream media are asking further questions. At the last States Sitting, Senator Le Marquand was unable to give the number of allegations of inappropriate relationship which had been reported during the last five years but said he would happily find out.

Ministers have a habit of failing to give answers but saying they will enquire and will inform the Member asking the question at some later time, but often fail to do so. Fortunately Deputy Tadier is not letting the Minister off the hook and has wisely lodged a number of written questions which should receive answers at the next States Sitting on 4th March.

Deputy Tadier wants to know how many disciplinary cases there have been in the past 10 years at La Moye Prison for employees, and in how many of those cases the employee was either dismissed or resigned pending, or after, the action. He wants the Minister to provide a summary of any alleged misconduct, in terms of its nature (i.e. sexual, drug dealing, etc.)?  He also wants to know whether Teresa Rodrigues was the subject of a disciplinary investigation and, if so what was the basis for, and result of, that investigation? Finally he wants the Minister make the case notes available.

Deputy Tadier is doing his job as a Back Bencher and is to be commended for doing so, but should it not have been Scrutiny’s job or better still for the Minister to come clean in the first place.

This morning Radio Jersey invited Deputy Tadier and Senator Le Marquand to its studio to answer a number of questions in relation to the allegation. Unfortunately Senator Le Marquand was not available so his Assistant Minister, Senator Farnham stood in for him, unfortunately he was poorly briefed and Matthew Price had little difficulty in exposing his short comings. I am grateful to Radio Jersey for providing the link to the interview. Please click here.

Senator Farnham struggled from the outset because it is very difficult defending the indefensible. There is no way that he is as adept as Senators Bailhache, Ozouf or Le Marquand  in sidestepping questions and his replies soon led Matthew Price calling them “weasel words.” It is a poor tradesman who blames his tools and it is pointless claiming that the logistics of the prison may have led to the possibility of an affair taking place. However was Senator Farnham trying to say that there is a possibility that Ms Rodrigues might be telling the truth because apart from Curtis Warren there is no one who can say she was not.

Or is it that there is evidence of the affair but it has been suppressed.What is so frustrating and unseemly is that Senator Farnham believes that everything is just conjecture, with no hard facts and wants Deputy Tadier to produce the evidence. I am sure that if Deputy Tadier asked the Prison Governor to open his books and allow for inmates both current and former to be interviewed in confidence and without prejudice his request would be instantly rejected.

I know that Senator Farnham took objection to the “Weasel words” but listening to the answers he gave this morning one could hardly say that he convinced anyone and probably not even himself. He is on record as wanting a Department of Justice but justice for whom? He knows the difference between right and wrong and by defending his Minister’s obstinacy he is not only failing himself but also the electorate who in few months’ time will be looking to vote for candidates with backbone and the courage of their convictions.  

For the Radio Jersey interview  Please click here

Wednesday 19 February 2014

Curtis Warren ---Funny Old World or Just Fantasy?

It's a funny old world that we live in,
But the world's not entirely to blame,
It's the people you meet as you walk down the street,
And Ian Le Marquand is one you could name.

Thanks to Ian Gallagher’s report in the latest edition of the Mail on Sunday Senator Le Marquand is now having another problem he could well do without but is again digging a hole for himself. 

Mr Gallagher has reported a kiss and tell tale from Ms Teresa Rodrigues who was employed as drugs and alcohol councillor at La Moye Prison where Curtis Warren was being held in custody following his arrest on a drugs charge.

Ms Rodrigues has claimed that she had a 2 year love affair and regularly had sex with Curtis Warren in his cell. I don’t know her but she is not the first lady to claim to have sex with a well known personality. Like wise Curtis Warren is not the first male to deny a claim.

In all kiss and tell tales one is left to one’s own judgement and I am not interested in what is often a case of individuals seeking publicity and/or money to further their own ends.  I don’t know why Ms Rodrigues has made the claim but because of the position she held it should not be dismissed as fantasy by Senator Le Marquand. He is a former Magistrate and Curtis Warren may well have appeared before him, but now and very importantly he is the Minister for Home Affairs and what allegedly goes on at La Moye Prison should not be dismissed as fantasy without at least calling for a report.

At the States Sitting yesterday Deputy Montfort Tadier asked the following question;

“Would the Minister advise whether a former prison employee had an inappropriate relationship with a prisoner at HMP La Moye and, if so, what assurances can he give that correct safeguards are in place so that such alleged practice may not occur in future?”

I heard the answers and was amused at how Senator Le Marquand was defending his "do nothing approach" on the strength of a denial by Curtis Warren. What also emerged was that no references were asked for or given by Ms Rodrigues when she took up regular employment at La Moye Prison. Senator Le Marquand claimed that the reason why no references were called for was because Ms Rodrigues was well known and well respected having been employed in a part time position for some time before being appointed to a full time post. One may ask why were no references called for when she began working part time at La Moye Prison? 

As mentioned above Curtis Warren is not the first person to deny a kiss and tell claim. It could be said that he is acting as a perfect gentleman and even if the claim is true why should he accept it, what has he to gain and why should he get embroiled in what is clearly an embarrassment to the Island. Whether or not the claim is true, some will say there is no smoke without fire.

If the prison is so relaxed about references and allowing females in male cells and be photographed together why is it not possible for inmates to enjoy a few other home comforts? The former Jersey Evening Post journalist Philip Falle often called the prison "The La Moye Hilton" perhaps he had a point. 

Those who have been following my blogs will know that Senator Le Marquand has a history of dismissing embarrassing news by claiming they are fantasy. It is not for Minister’s to dismiss reports as fantasy because they may be embarrassing. It will be even more embarrassing if there is some substance to the claim.

I would recommend readers to the voiceforchildren's latest blog by clicking latest blog  Voice reports that the Chairman of the Education and Home Affairs Scrutiny Panel has dismissed Ms Rodrigues’ claim for similar reasons to Senator Le Marquand. I hope the Chairman will give the matter a re-think and address the matter with a degree of urgency. To fail to do so demeans the Scrutiny process.

It does seem ironic that because it suits Senator Le Marquand he relies on the word of Curtis Warren to bail him out. One wonders what would have happened had the " well respected" Ms Rodrigues claimed that she had been raped by "Drugs Baron" Curtis Warren which would been believed. Would the matter have also been dismissed as fantasy? 

It's a funny old world that we live in,
But the world's not entirely to blame,
And it's the people who think they are the elite
who should be hanging their heads in shame. 

Wednesday 5 February 2014

Jersey Bankruptcy-- And Friends in High Places.

The Nomination Meeting was held last night at the Town Hall for candidates seeking to replace former Deputies Trevor and Shona Pitman who lost their seats after being declared bankrupt by the Royal Court last month. The Pitman’s are barred from public office for 5 years as a result of being disqualified by virtue of Article 8 of the States of Jersey Law 2005.
The Pitman’s problems stem from a cartoon in a Broadlands the estate agents’ advert which appeared in the Jersey Evening Post. The cartoon gave me the impression that the Pitman’s were only in the States for the money and I am not surprised that they considered the cartoon to be offensive.
The Pitman’s like many other States Members and Parliamentarians throughout the world gave up their job following their election. Whether their salary was more or less than their previous jobs was irrelevant.  If the cartoon was intended to depict the Pitman’s as money grabbers why were they singled out?  Was it because they were seen as a thorn in the butt of some the perceived Establishment figures?
The Pitman’s sought justice and took the matter to the Royal Court where unfortunately they lost and have ended up with horrendous legal fees which not only have to be paid to their lawyers but also to the other side.  Not being in a position to pay they have been declared bankrupt whereby they not only lose their home but also their jobs. One may ask where the justice is and did it make sense for the Court to take such drastic action? If the creditors hope to see any money, making the Pitman’s bankrupt, destitute and jobless is hardly the best way of going about it.
At the end of last week in the same building a lady in her late 80’s was attempting to secure £30,000 in compensation from former Magistrate Ian Christmas who had been convicted in 2012 for fraudulently inducing the lady to invest £100,000 in a US property scam. The lady had lost over £500,000 in the scam and was ordered to pay thousands of pounds in legal fees following a failed bid to secure funds from Ian Christmas. Last year a £100,000 compensation order was overturned after the Court of Appeal had found that Christmas was “balance sheet insolvent” and could not afford to pay.
The lady and a number of other people had lost considerable sums of money after they were duped into parting with their savings in what turned out to be a property scam. Some may be asking what the Magistrate’s involvement was and indeed why was he using his position to give his fellow fraudsters credibility.  His three fellow fraudsters are currently serving 4 year plus prison terms.
In court is was claimed that Mr Christmas was not opposed in principle to paying compensation but a court order would present him with the choice of bankruptcy or returning to prison. I say “Big Deal.” Mr Christmas unlike the Pitman’s was not in financial difficulties because he was seeking justice. He was a well-paid judge with friends in high places and with all the trimmings who was using his position to persuade trusting people to part with their money which for many was their life savings.
Mr Christmas was given only a fraction of his fellow fraudster’s prison sentences and was in receipt of his full salary for around 4 years whilst suspended. He chose to enter into a business arrangement and as a judge must have or should have known how deep a hole his colleagues were digging. An investigation into his activities took years and like the Court Hearing was very costly. He chose to spend thousands of pounds defending his actions and lost. 
I knew Mr Christmas who was a charming man and I am saddened to see how he has fallen from grace, but he was the instrument of his own misfortune. However unlike the Pitman’s he still has a home, a pension and savings and not been declared bankrupt. He may have had to pay for his legal fees but not the cost of the investigation and prosecution. He does not have to pay any compensation to the other investors/victims and has been able to retire to Yorkshire and enjoy the rest of his life. To seek any compensation the investors like the 80 year old lady must invest their own money, however for most they have already given what they had to Mr Christmas and his fellow fraudsters who no doubt will again cry “foul” and claim hardship if ordered to pay anything.
The Advocate pleading for Mr Christmas claimed Mr Christmas had served a prison sentence, lost his matrimonial home, been vilified publicly, been forced to leave the Island and being asked to cover a great level of debt.  Whilst some the claims like the prison sentence might be true, Mr Christmas can hardly claim to be a victim of some conspiracy to inflict him with hardship when he had inflicted untold hardship on his victims who have no means of redress because Jersey’s Financial Services which claims to be world class still does not have an Ombudsman nor a compensation scheme.
As a child it was drummed into me that crime does not pay, 60 plus years later I have found that some time’s crime does pay or/and some time’s the punishment does not fit the crime. It may well be that with hindsight the Pitman’s may have been better advised to swallow the insult inflicted on them, but hindsight is a wonderful thing and was their punishment when seeking justice really fair. I am told that the Privileges and Procedures Committee is looking into Article 8 of the States of Jersey Law and hopefully it will find that it is too draconian and no longer fit for purpose.
However the States are all the poorer for the loss of Trevor and Shona Pitman and the Investors are all the poorer for their involvement with Mr Ian Christmas, Mr John Lewis, Mr James Cameron and Mr Russell Foot. It is often said that life is unfair and justice is blind. Making the Pitman’s bankrupt and not Mr Christmas does not add up unless one takes into account who they all are and who has friends in high places.

Postscript Friday 21st February 2014.

I regret to inform readers that the elderly lady referred to in my Blog above has recently passed away. She was obviously a lady of principle who did not want to let those who had conned her get away with her life savings. As such she was prepared to risk what little she had left to pursue Mr Christmas to the end of her days.

She deserved better from the Courts and those who employed to safe guard the interests of justice. Mr Christmas was ordered to pay in instalments only a portion of the money he and his colleagues took from the lady. I don't know what the ruling is now that the lady has died, but I hope that what is still owed will be paid to the beneficiaries of her will.

May she rest in peace. 

Postscript  Saturday 8th March 2014

I am pleased to report that the Appeal Court has ruled that sum of money still outstanding must be paid in instalments to the lady's Estate.