Tuesday 27 January 2015

Jersey's Dean--- Let Sleeping Dogs Lie.

Sir Michael Birt has just retired after twenty years service to the Island serving as Attorney General, Deputy Bailiff and for the past five and half years as Bailiff. As is customary he was asked of the highs and lows during his term of office. When speaking of the lows he cited the difficulties encountered by the Dean and the way in which he had been suspended, the split from Winchester and failure of Bishop Dakin to publish the Steel Report.

I always found Sir Michael to be fair and courteous and respect his views above however I can think of lows that would come far higher on my list. Given that the Dean was party to much of his own misfortunes of which he has admitted and apologised for he can hardly be seen as an innocent bystander. The Bishop of Winchester has publicly stated that no disciplinary action is being taken against the Dean or his colleague but has not said that the Dean has been exonerated of any wrongdoings as reported by some of the media. The Bishop has also stated that the Steel Report highlighted a number of significant concerns about safeguarding in Jersey. As the Dean is the Head of the Island's clergy is he not responsible for the concerns?

When it comes to suspensions I can think of dozens of ordinary States employees who have been suspended yet when I sought support for them to be represented by a friend at disciplinary meetings, I failed through lack of support. Among those suspended were equally illustrious employees such as the former police chief who was left on suspension for over 18 months until his retirement day whereby he was effectively dismissed by stealth. There was also the senior gynaecologist who was left suspended for far longer whereby he was deskilled. However unlike the Dean their plight was not worthy of support from the perceived great and the good. When propositions seeking support for enquiries into the suspension of the police chief and gynaecologist they were vigorously opposed, where is the consistency, where is the fair play? 

The failure of the Council of Ministers led by the Chief Minister to support the proposition to establish a committee of inquiry into Jersey’s historic child abuse must come high up on everyone's the list of lows. The disturbing reports coming from the Inquiry is not only justifying the decision to establish the Committee of Inquiry but says very little for those who opposed or were silent when it came to supporting the proposition.

Sir Michael also commented on the split form the Diocese of Winchester. The split was down to Dean and the Bishop of Winchester being unable to work together. Where was the peace and conciliation and how could Canterbury consider the vanity of two of its senior members to be greater than 500 years of tradition? 

Regarding the issue of the publication of the Steel Report, whilst I can understand concerns being raised about the delay the more serious concerns should be why was the conflicted Dame Steele appointed in the first place? Also why did the Terms of Reference not include the arrest at the Dean’s behest, of the lady at the heart of complaint and her eventual deportation and being left destitute at Southampton airport on a cold October evening? One may also ask why Dame Heather did not interview the lady concerned or give me the transcript as promised of my meeting with her in which she was uncomplimentary to HG.

It should also be noted that the Bishop had been advised to carry out an Impact Assessment to consider the likely impact of the Report on HG. He has assembled a small group of suitably qualified professionals to carry out an assessment and would be providing them with a copy of the report and other relevant information once he had received Counsel’s advice. He was asking them to advise him how the Steel Report can be published in such a way as to minimise the impact on ‘HG’ and the risk of harm to her. If the Report is likely to harm HG how Christian is it to press for its publication?

Radio Jersey has reported that following its enquiry with the Bishop's PR company a spokesman said "We don't yet have a date for publication, as the Steel Report is currently continuing to be reviewed by legal and safeguarding experts."   That answer could have been given months ago and in months to come.

The Sir Michael Birt's call for the report has been supported by some Jersey Synod members however there has been no call for any support for those affected by the Dean and Bishop's actions where promises have not been kept and continued speculation of the date of the Report's publication is causing distress.  Those who have followed the sorry saga will be aware of a catalogue of errors that have occurred from the time when HG first made contact with the Dean in July 2008 to this very day. For the reasons given above to publish the discredited Steel Report would be another.

It is said that publication of the Report will bring closure for Dean and Church, that is wishful thinking. Enough hurt has been caused and needless money has been spent on ego trips which have achieved nothing. Now is the time for closure and to let sleeping dogs lie.

These 2 related links will be of interest to readers. I am grateful to BBC Radio Jersey for this link which can be opened by clicking HERE

Following the Dean's reinstatement I published a blog which can be opened by clicking HERE 

Friday 2 January 2015

2014=== A Reflection

As another year passes it is customary to review it. When looking back at the blogs published last year I note that I covered a variety of subjects and in no particular order I will comment on some of them.

The Plemont debate saw how a small number of States Members were able to “cook the books” to provide a get out of jail card for their colleagues who were then able vote in support of restoring the headland on the grounds that it was not at the taxpayer’s expense. The money came from the Criminal Offenders Confiscation Fund which is intended to be spent preventing, suppressing or otherwise dealing with criminal conduct and/or the consequences of crime. There is no way that money from that fund should have been used to purchase Plemont but a device was found and thus Plemont was “saved.”

What is ironic is some money in the near £8 million Confiscation Fund comes from criminals found in possession of cannabis and other illegal substances. Last month the States debated whether those suffering chronic illness should be permitted to use cannabis for medicinal purposes. Unfortunately none of those Members who wanted to spend money from the Fund on Plemont gave any thought of taking money from the Fund to fund cannabis based but legal “Sativex Spray” to ease the pain of those Islanders suffering from debilitating diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis.

In the lead up to the debate some Islanders admitted that they had to resort to breaking the law to obtain cannabis for medicinal purposes. If the Fund is intended to prevent crime would it not have made sense to use some of it to provide comfort for the suffering rather than putting them at risk by illegally purchasing cannabis for medicinal purposes or simpler still funding the cannabis based “Sativex Spray which is licensed but only available to those able to afford it. 

One positive move was the arrival of the Residential Tenancy Deposit Scheme which had been in the pipe line for many years. Regretfully there will always be bad tenants and land lords and there will be teething problems but the Scheme should prevent the abuse that has been all too prevalent for far too long.

One of my highest readerships was my blog on the bankruptcy of Trevor and Shona Pitman and how they were made bankrupt whereas Ian Christmas the Island’s former Magistrate was not. The Pitman’s pursuit of justice ended in bankruptcy and loss of their livelihood. Ian Christmas and his cohorts were involved in criminal activity which led to some Islanders losing their savings which will never be recovered. They could have received some compensation had the culprits been stripped of all their assets as was the case with the Pitman’s; however it was not to be. Who says that crime does not pay?

I published a blog about Connetable Crowcroft’s proposition which requested Members to agree that with the impending retirement of the Bailiff, the States should honour the Clothier recommendation that the Bailiff’s dual role of Chief Judge and President of the States should cease. The proposition was scuppered by the former Bailiff and brother of the next Bailiff, Senator Bailhache who felt the matter should be addressed via a referendum. The issue will not go away and we could be in for an interesting year where the Deputy Bailiff and Attorney General are both moving up a notch and a new Solicitor General and Attorney General taking up Office.

The role of those 4 unelected Members of the States conveniently leads me to the other unelected Member that being Jersey’s Dean who was not slow in coming forward when speaking in support of the Plemont proposition but was conveniently out of the Chamber during the cannabis debate. If it is deemed necessary for the Dean to be an unelected States Member is it asking too much of him to speak for the sick and needy.

It would appear that it’s not only the Dean who has been keeping his head down, has anyone seen Bishop Dakin or Bishop Gladwin and Dame Heather Steel or their Reports?

Whilst on the subject of reports I published a number of blogs relating to the Independent Care Inquiry which commenced with much optimism but is now coming up with more questions than answers. History is littered with Inquiries that started with good intentions but failed to deliver because those tasked with seeking the truth were more concerned with protecting the guilty than exposing the truth.

£6 million has been set aside for the Inquiry therefore the public, victims and those whose reputations were tarnished and careers ruined are entitled to know the truth and it is incumbent on Frances Oldham to deliver without fear or favour. The Terms of Reference appertaining to Operation Rectangle will feature this year and I’m sure it will spark interest and controversy.

I covered the Taser issue but am still unsure whether Tasers are a necessary evil, however if they are intended to be a substitute for firearms because they are supposed to be less lethal, then why are the US police officers are still using firearms and killing members of the public?

Jersey experienced its first ever General Election albeit that 17 seats were uncontested. Our Chief Minister was re-elected and will head an Executive which will operate a collective responsibility system which I understand extend to Assistant Ministers. In his Christmas message the retiring Bailiff commented on the reduction of propositions and questions lodged. Jersey does not have a party system however one of the features of our parliamentary system is that Members who are not part of the Executive can attempt to bring about change through propositions.  

What is of concern is that too much power is now with our Executive which will be required to close ranks and stifle what opposition is left among backbenchers. This will lead to even fewer propositions and questions being lodged and also to less transparency and accountability.

2014 was an interesting year and who knows what this year will bring. On Sunday morning just after the 10am news I will be appearing on Radio Jersey’s Politics Hour with Ben Queree and Amy Vatcher looking ahead to what could be the key issues for Jersey in 2015. As always population and unemployment will feature but I do hope that our Government will look to addressing some of the social issues such as why there is increasing number of people relying on charity to survive and of the widening gap between the rich and the poor.

On a personal note I am falling way behind with the book I am trying to write about the St Martin’s farms which I must devote more time to and prioritise my work load. One simple way is to cut back on the time given to blogging. 

I therefore I wish inform readers that I will be cutting back on the time I give to blogs which will mean that I will be publishing a lot less this coming year.  

I would like to thank readers world wide for their continued support and look forward to an interesting and informative year.