Monday 22 September 2014

Jersey's Elections (1) ------Apathy Ahoy??

Well that “was the Election Nomination Week that was” and the dust has now settled. However it is evident that the dust was not disturbed in several parishes as 17 candidates were “elected” unopposed. Whilst I accept it is not the fault of those successful and indeed lucky candidates that no-one opposed them, however they must take some responsibility for supporting a system which is archaic and undemocratic.  

My blog is read world wide and some readers from outside the Island and for that many on Island will marvel how an Island’s democracy can still operate where there is no party system, no formal opposition, has three types of elected States Member and where the unelected Dean, Solicitor and Attorney General, Lieutenant Governor, Bailiff and his Deputy all sit in the same Assembly and have the right to speak.

It is now some 14 years since the late Sir Cecil Clothier published his report and one of my regrets during my 18 years in the States is that I supported the change to ministerial government based on the promise that we would immediately address the other Clothier reform recommendations. It is a fact that States Members, with the support of the Council of Ministers have reneged on the promises made some 12 years go.

We now have a parliamentary system that is controlled by members with vested interests and an old boy net work that even old Etonians would envy. Thanks to the States allowing itself to be ambushed by Senator Bailhache’s throttling of the Electoral Commission, the electorate is left floundering and with little or no say in who will be elected to the States and ultimately to the Council of Ministers.

At the last referendum the electorate were given the opportunity of voting for “Option A” which would have allowed for the Island to be divided into 6 electoral districts whereby the electorate in each district would be given the opportunity of voting for 7 members to the States Assembly which would be reduced to 42 members. The system would have removed the Connétables/Constables automatic seat in the States but would permit them to stand shoulder to shoulder with other candidates seeking election to the States.

“Option A” would have ensured that no member would be elected or re-elected unopposed and every member including Ministers and Connétables/Constables would be held accountable to a wider electorate. However it was not to be and we have a situation where 11 Connétables/Constables have either been elected or re-elected unopposed. Even more bizarre is that 6 Deputies have been elected/re-elected unopposed some of whom are hoping to become Ministers.

We also have a situation where Ministers would rather stand in their relatively safe parish or district seat than seek an Island mandate. It is a pity that they did not display the example of Deputies Green and Young and Dr Zoe Cameron who are seeking an Island mandate in their endeavours to become Minister. They will receive one of my votes not just because of their example but they have the credentials to be Ministers.

I hope to publish other blogs before the election on 15th October which is not only to elect members to the States but includes a referendum where the electorate will be asked “should the Constables remain as members of the States as an automatic right?” It might be a simple question but it requires an informed answer and I very much regret that votes will be cast on sentiment rather than knowledge.

I respect the role of Connétable/Constable and know most of the post holders however as sensible and mature people why were they sitting as a body at the Senatorial Nomination evening. Why were they there, who asked them and how could they justify being there?

Now that 11 of the Connétables/Constables will not have to knock at doors it is hoped that they will find time to upload their manifestos on to  and also organise Parish Assemblies to arrange for independent speakers to discuss the merits of voting “Yes” or “No” before the forthcoming Referendum.

Monday 15 September 2014

Jersey's Dean---Steel and Gladwin Reports---Update

It is now 18 months since Tim Dakin the Bishop of Winchester suspended Jersey's Dean Bob Key and announced that there would be an investigation into the Dean’s handling of a complaint against a Church Warden.

The suspension arose from the findings of report by Jan Korris who had in November 2011 been commissioned by the Safeguarding Panel for the Diocese of Winchester. What has never been established is why the Korris review was instigated in the first place? However is should be noted that Tim Dakin was not appointed Bishop until April 2012 so was unlikely to have played any part in that decision.

The Korris Report is dated March 2013 but must have been viewed by Bishop Dakin some time sooner because on 8th March he announced that he had suspended Jersey’s Dean.

At the time of the suspension Bishop Dakin said “Firstly I want to give my unreserved apologies to the complainant for her treatment. Protecting the vulnerable is at the heart of the Church of England's mission. With that comes a duty to ensure those in need are properly looked after. It is vital that robust safeguarding policies are in place and, above all, that they are properly implemented."

“This Independent Report suggests that, put simply our policies were not implemented as they should have been. I am particularly disappointed that the Dean of Jersey refused to cooperate with the review and I have now ordered an immediate and thorough investigation. In the wake of the report, difficult but necessary and decisive actions are required to ensure that, in the future, procedures will be followed properly.”

18 months on it is worth looking to see if there is an outcome of the “difficult but necessary and decisive actions.” On 26th March last year it was announced that John Gladwin the former Bishop of Chelmsford would head a Visitation/Inquiry whereby woolly Terms of Reference were published. This eventually led to the Inquiry being separated with John Gladwin looking into the complicated Constitutional issues and Dame Heather Steel being appointed to investigate the Dean’s handling of the complaint against the Church Warden.

It goes without saying that Bishop Dakin soon sailed into troubled and uncharted waters and was quite unaware of “The Jersey Way” of handling matters particularly if it affected establishment figures or constitutional matters. Soon after the former Bailiff but now Senator Bailhache wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury protesting at the Bishop’s handling of the matter whereby the Dean’s suspension was lifted.

The process had all the hallmarks of a “done deal” because the Dean offered a meaningless apology for failings in his administration. I may add that the Archbishop of Canterbury had also offered public but not personal apologies to the victim.

Given the importance of the matter let alone the obscene cost one would have hoped that by mid September 2014 the Gladwin and Steel Reports would have been published. It is worth reminding readers that last November Bishop Gladwin announced that Dame Heather was finalising her Report but based on her findings no disciplinary action was being taken against the Dean and the other clergy member.

I have always maintained that the Steel Report would be worthless for a number of reasons, such as she did not interview the two main witnesses, she did not, as recommended by Jan Korris address the issue of the complainant’s deportation from Jersey and being left destitute in the UK. Dame Heather is a former colleague of Senator Philip Bailhache a well known supporter of the Dean and in a 3 hour meeting with me she was less than complimentary to the victim and displayed a bias in favour of the Dean. It should be noted that Dame Heather reneged on a promise to provide me with the transcript of the meeting.

In May this year the Bishop informed Jersey’s Bailiff that Dame Heather had sent him her Report and that she had informed him that it was her final report. One gets the impression that Dame Heather had submitted a number of “final” reports and had got fed up with continually making amendments at the Bishop’s behest.

The Bishop made some further but very relevant points in that he was forwarding the Report to Counsel in London to look at defamation and confidentiality but hoped to publish the Report shortly. He had also assembled a small group of suitably qualified professionals to carry out an Impact Assessment to consider the likely impact on the person at the heart of the matter.

The Bishop went on to say that the Report highlighted a number of significant concerns about safeguarding in Jersey, including some which were directly connected with the Canons and the laws of Jersey.

We are now in mid September and one is perfectly entitled to know what is going on at Winchester and ask why the Reports have not been published and what if any steps have been taken in relation to the Impact Study and addressing the significant safeguarding concerns in the Island which were also raised by Jan Korris in March 2013.

I have tried to get answers from Winchester and Canterbury but needless to say I have not received replies. If 18 months ago Bishop Tim was of the view that it was vital that robust safeguarding policies are in place and, above all, that they are properly implemented it would be helpful if he, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of Dover who now has oversight for Jersey or the Dean would make it publicly known what new safe guarding policies are in place and that when someone makes a complaint against a Church Official they wont end up being deported and left destitute in the UK.

At the same time it would also be helpful for the Bishop to announce that he will not be publishing the Steel Report as it has been so redacted it is now as meaningless as his apologies.

Today the Dean has announced that the Church is to seek the views of Islanders in relation to same sex marriages. It makes one wonder where the Church’s priorities are.

Thursday 4 September 2014

Independent Jersey Care Inquiry (5) Not so Independent???

In my previous blog I wrote about the COI Panel’s decision to ban both me and Neil McMurray of the Voice for Children Blog from using the Media Room and had appealed to Frances Oldham. Having waited for over 2 weeks I can inform readers that the Panel has not allowed an appeal and has informed me that it is not going to alter its decision. It is not just the ban that leaves a nasty taste but the manner in which the decision was arrived at and the repercussions that is of real concern. If there is so little space to permit two local Bloggers then there cannot be room for any other applicant from wherever they come.

Also despite Frances Oldham stating that the Inquiry was exploring the provision of WiFi in the public areas, as far as I am aware no provision has yet been made. Therefore even when the Media Room is only half full, non accredited media personnel will not be able use it or have access to any other link facilities within the building. As interest in the Inquiry grows there will be applications from a number of the Media from outside the Island such as Sky, CNN and the UK and World’s Press but if the Inquiry Team has any integrity it will have to reject any future applications because there is no room.

The way the Inquiry Team has handled the accreditation is worth placing on record as it’s evident that from the outset the Panel did not know what to do when its first two applicants for accreditation were Bloggers.

On 3rd April after Frances Oldham had opened proceedings a number of Protocols were distributed which can found on the COI website HERE. One of the Protocols covers arrangements for applying for Media accreditation which was not defined.

Applicants applying for accreditation were told they would be informed within 14 days as to whether their application was successful. This was not to be because it was not until 14th May that Frances Oldham circulated a letter to the 5 applicants informing them that as only a small number of applications had been received no decision was necessary until it had received more applications. 

The letter included details of the applicants (for readers benefit I include the date of application) Voice for Children 3rd April, Bob Hill 4th April, BBC National Robert Hall, 9th April, The Jersey Evening Post 14th April and Channel TV 30th April.

It seems odd that accreditation was not given within the stipulated 14 days because accreditation should not depend on the number of applications but on the credibility of the applicant, particularly as the Protocol had made it clear that there was limited space in the Media Room and access would be on a first come first served basis and local media would be prioritised.

It should be noted that after the 14th May letter, Channel 103 applied on 15th May and BBC Radio Jersey on 16th June. Therefore why was there a further delay in giving accreditation? There were no further applications before the perceived overcrowding occurred on 12th August when Stuart Syvret and a reporter from the Bailiwick Express were in the Room, neither of whom had applied for accreditation. If it was known that space was limited why were they allowed in the room, the same could be said of Robert Hall of the National BBC who was in the Island on holiday and could well have sat in the area set aside in the Hearing Room for the media?

Although the room was a little crowded it could hardly be likened to a rush hour London tube and I left the room just before 11am to keep a blood donation appointment. When I returned the same number of people were in the room and I was not refused re-entry because of lack of space.

Whilst recording and social media updates are not permitted in the Hearing Room the Protocol does not have the same provision for the Media Room therefore there was no reason why anyone could not “tweet” or for anyone to submit live reports. Surely that is the purpose of it being there in the first place. It is apparent that the Panel and Media Team are still living in the Ark and are unaware that social media means tweeting, face book and blogging and are now very much the modern form of instant communication, therefore banning Bloggers from the Media Room is either through ignorance or prejudice.

After lunch a person entered the Media Room to inform everyone that tweeting was not permitted, again I ask why because the Protocol does not say that tweeting is prohibited and it has not been amended since.

It is evident that what went on in the Media Room on the 12th was discussed soon afterwards and a reason had to be found to ban the Bloggers. Without consulting us to identify our needs it was decided to ban us on the grounds that we did not require the electronic facilities listed. How could it make that assumption without enquiring of our needs. Did it ask the other applicants of their needs? However before anyone was informed Anna Averkiou of the Media Team contacted the Bailiwick Express the next day making it aware that it had not applied for accreditation and it was advisable to do so ASAP.

This is a copy of the relevant email.

From: James Filleul  Sent: 13 August 2014 14:59 To: Jersey Care Inquiry Press
Subject: Accreditation for Bailiwick Express

Hi Anna,
Thanks for your calls today. To confirm, we would like to be accredited to cover the Care Inquiry. The journalists involved will be either myself, Ben Queree, Natalie Jardine, Guy Le Maistre (freelance) or Julia Hunt (freelance). It’s most likely to be Guy. I am the main point of contact, and my number is xxxx or with my e-mail. My news editor is Ben Queree, on the same number or I will ask Guy to bring photo ID with him when he attends, as will any of the others names above. Please do let me know if you need any further info at all.
James Filleul,

If the “not so” independent Media Team had been even handed it would have also contacted Stuart Syvret offering the same advice however it is evident that the decision to ban Bloggers had been taken and the friendly call to the Bailiwick Express was to ensure that its application was safely in place before the letter from Frances Oldham was circulated the next day.

Whilst I am not happy at the way the Bailiwick Express was contacted the fact that it has been given accreditation lends support to claims of bias and discrimination.  This is because the Bailiwick Express can best be described as a Blog with adverts therefore if it can be given accreditation why can't other Bloggers? Blogs are very much part of daily life and read the world over and the likes ours and the Bailiwick Express are now seen as a threat to mainstream hard copy newspapers.

Regretfully, although I have again asked to meet Frances Oldham I don't expect a reply and the ban will remain in place. However it is evident that the mechanism used and the reason given to ban Bloggers does little to enhance the Inquiry's reputation. And before anyone accuses me of not giving the COI a chance to get going they should be reminded that the Inquiry is costing in the region of £6 million so taxpayers are entitled to receive value for money and an Inquiry Team which is efficient, transparent and fair minded in all its deliberations.