Friday, 28 December 2018


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I haven't posted on Jersey for a while. This is mainly because not much has been happening. Yes, I know there has been an election and a new Chief Minister, and the "leader of the opposition" has become Children's and Housing Minister and so on. But it is too early to assess the significance of these changes, if any.

What has provoked me into print is a development relating to the Abuse Inquiry. I know I will be accused of being obsessed with this feature of Island life and that does not worry me one whit.

How the authorities react in this area is a litmus test of their sincerity across the board and it is a simple one that is easily accessible.

People will remember that, earlier this year, the Inquiry's web site was taken down pending further redaction to protect the innocent (and maybe a few of the guilty as well). Not everyone believed the reasons given for the take down as it conveniently (for some) deprived researchers of the raw material necessary for an in depth evaluation of the Inquiry and of the authorities' response to it.

Fortunately, some of us had already lost trust in the Inquiry and in the authorities so this may not prove to be as serious an obstacle as it first appeared.

We were promised that the site would be gradually restored as appropriate redactions were made to the content, and, lo and behold, the first phase of the restoration is now finally upon us.

Before I go any further, a technical comment. I would have imagined that the first redaction would have been to upgrade the site's security in line with what is happening generally, including in the case of my own web site and my blogs (at Blogger). However when I try to access the partially restored site under the security protocol (https) my browser tells me:
The owner of has configured their website improperly. To protect your information from being stolen, Firefox has not connected to this website.
This is a serious omission for an Inquiry which has already had its security lapses when in session.

I have had neither the time, nor the inclination at this stage, to examine what has been put back up in any great detail, but there is one glaring omission which screamed out at me.

In the section on Key Documents, there is an index to the "rulings" of the Inquiry on various matters such as media accreditation (of which more another time) and provision of, or funding for, legal advice/representation.

The Inquiry unjustifiably rejected Stuart Syvret's application for such funding despite the fact that he was a key witness and had been put in a very tricky legal situation by the Royal Court.

That ruling was always absent from the index though the ruling itself could be found on the site if one knew how to look for it. The partially restored site not only continues to omit the ruling from the index, but the ruling itself has now been taken down.

In the face of this unjustifiable and provocative piece of vandalism, I have posted the ruling on my own web site so that people can judge this matter for themselves.

I have referred to the restoration as partial. By this I mean that only part of the site has been restored. The word also has another meaning which may also be relevant, we'll see.

Anyway, what has not been restored is the transcripts of the oral hearings and the vast volumes of evidence submitted by participants to the Inquiry. These would be the meat of any assessment of the Inquiry and of the authorities' response to it.

Had these not been posted in the first place, and subsequently clumsily redacted, I would not necessarily have known the identity of the person referred to as 737 and that they were still in a prominent position in the financial sector despite being scheduled for police interview under caution as a suspect in the rape of an adult female.

So the taking down and continued absence of this material is no small matter.

While I'm in full flight, I'd like to refer to a document which has been brought to my attention. It is a discussion by some legal bods on The Jersey Way in the context of moving on from the Inquiry.

While it is by no means comprehensive, understandably so in a document emaninating from within the Jersey legal fraternity, and while it retains a sloppy reference to the infamous "coconut", it does have some sensible things to say on the subject.

It is something of an academic work, containing as it does many references to other sources, but this may be a useful feature as it brings together some of the current thinking in this area.

A central theme is trust and transparency - how to regain popular trust by operating in a fully transparent manner. While Jersey is still a long way from this, it is worth mentioning here some of the observations in the document.

It has an extensive comment on the Inquiry's dealings with Stuart Syvret:

An obvious hole in the Jersey Care Inquiry Report is the absence of former Senator Stuart Syvret’s evidence. Syvret had been an outspoken critic of the way the Jersey establishment had dealt with allegations of child abuse dating back to the 1970’s. In 2007 he was dismissed from his post as the Minister for Health and Social Services after claiming that child abuse cases were being covered up. When Syvret called for an independent inquiry he was accused by the then Chief Minister, Frank Walker, of damaging Jersey’s reputation. Syvret was arrested in April 2008 and charged under the Data Protection Act in relation to articles written on his blog allegedly containing confidential information. The Care Inquiry report noted his refusal to assist the inquiry as regrettable. But Syvret himself told the Jersey Evening Post that he wanted to give evidence, but did not because he was not granted legal representation, something he felt he needed to prevent the breach of any of the court orders that were in place against him.

If the States of Jersey truly wanted to draw a line and turn a new leaf, which is what this inquiry sought to do, then legal representation should have been granted to Stuart Syvret. That would have served one of the strongest possible indications yet that the government wants to move forward into an era of transparency and honesty whilst at the same time demonstrating an element of humility, which has been so lacking in the eyes of the victims.

So I am clearly entitled to attach significance to this ruling by the Inquiry and am not surprised they have gone to some lengths to hide it as it is a perverse ruling and, in my view, undermines the independence of the Inquiry itself.

Furthermore, the document quotes
Specifically, McAlinden and Naylor argue, the inherent limitations of public inquiries, like narrow terms of reference, which are primarily focused on recommendations for law reform, ‘may impede the deeper systemic exploration of the context, causes and consequences of abuse that may be necessary in seeking a just process and outcomes for victims’.
A. McAlinden and B. Naylor, (2016) Reframing Public Inquiries as ‘Procedural Justice’ for Victims of Institutional Child Abuse: Towards a Hybrid Model of Justice, Sydney Law review, Vol.38, p.294.

This particular Inquiry narrowed its own terms of reference and then only went beyond them when it suited it. It ignored the term of reference which obliged it to go back to the States (parliament) before it set its rules and procedures in stone. It went outside its terms of reference in commenting on the Victoria College scandal but refused to comment on the significance of the illegal suspension of the Police Chief although this was a critical event in the attempted cover up of abuse and the effective shutting down of Operation Rectangle. There is no question but that this suspension was slap bang in the middle of its terms of reference. It also refused to follow up on the apparent abandonment of the scheduled police interview with person 737 in the immediate aftermath of the Police Chief's suspension.

Clearly the Inquiry itself baulked at any effort to pursue the trail into the financial sector, the reputation of which it put above its own purpose. And there is no point in saying to me that this was an alleged adult victim and so not relevant to the Inquiry. It was a classic demonstration of the psychology behind the whole cover up, and the Inquiry knew this.

So how could one trust this Inquiry to have due regard to the "deeper systematic exploration" referred to in the quote above.

Anyway, this post has gone on long enough. You can read the legal bods document yourself if you are sufficiently interested. It is worth the read and seems to me to represent some small awakening in the legal profession to the need to raise these issues in public if there is ever to be closure in this horrific area.

Just a parting footnote: I would not like to be taken as ignoring the efforts of Philip Sinel, single-handedly among the Jersey legal fraternity, to do precisely this at no small cost to himself.

Original post here