Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Committee of Inquiry

The reports by Verita and Williamson on the setting up and terms of reference of the  Committee of Enquiry are out.  Both Channel TV and Rico have been hot of the blocks after the embargo date to publish about it.  See http://www.channelonline.tv/channelonline/displayarticle.asp?id=501560  and http://ricosorda.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-williamson-report-committee-of-non.html

It is worth reading Mr Williamson's piece carefully.  It is also worth reflecting on the title that Channel TV put on their piece. For while it certainly is true that the JCLA and other have been forthright in seeking a Committee of Inquiry, it was not for what Mr Williamson and the CITV headline suggest. Yes, of course, many victims and survivors want to know and have recognised what happened to them, may need that if they are to be able to think of moving on.  That is particularly so for those whose cases the police wanted to prosecute but the Attorney General decided to drop. Their voices and cases have still not been heard nor their plight recognised. But there is also a wider public need.

Mr Williamson's note highlights recent changes and improvements that have been made relating to children services. The rationale being the CoI would not need to go over what has been improved. It is true there have been changes and no doubt a deal of modern best practice thinking from the UK and elsewhere has been incorporated. But there is a logical problem here. Jersey has many individual and peculiar features in its structures and organisation. I need only mention centeniers rights to charge, the AG's incontestable right to drop prosecutions, and the system of Jurats to try facts in cases.  It follows therefore that what might be best practice and sufficient safeguards elsewhere on the assumption of modern services and 21st century institutions may not graft well onto our historical and peculiar system.

We have to get to the facts of what happened, which services and systems and  post holders and individuals failed in their duty of care and why, if the public is to have confidence those changes do in fact safeguard against repetition of disastrous mal treatment of children in States care.   It is  not just the children's services, as Mr Williamson repeats in his note, to be considered here.  What about the police who failed to act on repeated attempts of people to run away, what of the health system that failed to note children with injuries to give two examples of other services.

I do not believe the recommendations from Mr Williamson will deliver the sort of CoI I have outlined above.  His proposals will more likely lead to a narrow look at just the Children's Service historically (note the capitalisation in his report).  If the issues and key problems lay elsewhere they will not come to light.  The other separate review he proposes to look at the prosecution decisions would be behind closed doors looking only at evidence available at the time. It will not shed any light on subsequent issues that might have arisen from that eg the multiple suspensions of Graham Power.

Yesterday Mr Gorst was clear he is in favour of holding a Committee of Inquiry. He has not ruled out simply following the Verita report  recommendations.  Now he has a choice. Take the Williamson route and get some specific answers to a narrow slice of the issues, but risk leaving the poison in the system. Or,  go with Verita's approach with wide enough terms of reference to get to the whole truth and maybe finally get to lance the boil and start ridding the body politic of venom.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Jersey scandal has national implications

Diligence and persistence by a UK MP reveals that 5 children were sent into care in Jersey from Birmingham. Four have been traced, but one remains unknown. Importantly other authorities are also implicated, though some have refused to even check the facts! See MP-report-reveals.html

 It is impossible not to juxtapose charred remains, unexplained pits and now proven at least one missing person. It is not conclusive, but the weight of evidence shifted towards  the most chilling of conclusions. Even if death did not occur, and we really dont know one way or the other with confidence, it is clear that something wrong was happening on a very large scale. 

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

London, Jersey, gets a kicking.

Also an interview with Leah McGrath Goodman at 12 minutes and 50 seconds.

There are a few inaccuracies, but it is  clear to see how the outside world sees the Island, and people out there are taking notice.

Ms Goodman has a blog at http://leahmcgrathgoodman.com/

Monday, 10 September 2012

Democracy and Trust

We have known for some time there is a deep flaw in our politics in Jersey. Turnouts on our main election day get to 40 odd percent of those registered, but many do not register. Including the non registered the 'abstention' rate is over 70%. Across Europe turnout rates have been in decline for some time. In this talk Bulgarian political theorist Ivan Krastev asks pertinent questions and offers some acute observations, though he avoids prescribing answers.

 I rather think a number of his key points are relevant to Jersey. While democracy is the only game in town, it is now one that increasingly people see as not worth playing. The abstention rate is highest among those who have most to gain by voting. It is an issue of trust: 89% of Europeans believe there is a growing gap between the opinions of politicians and those of the people. They have realised they can change governments, but cannot change policies! Until the 1970's increasing democracy was accompanied by increased equality: that has now reversed. We no longer have debate of policy and ideas - political campaigning is focused on manipulation of emotions. Politics is now about the management of mistrust. There's much more - see the video piece: