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.


  1. There are also glaring mistakes and overall sloppiness in the Williamson recommendations, which are in many ways just a poorly considered and watered-down approach to the wholly professional and factually persuasive recommendations of Verita. Not understanding that has led some less informed JEP readers to believe the Abuse Survivors are impossible to satisfy. Indeed, survivors who want a full and accurate COI have embraced Verita's Terms of Reference. The secretive engagement of Williamson to re-do Verita's work is not only suspicious to anyone aware of the back story, but it created an unnecessary duplication of expense to tax payers, and resulted in a mistake riddled poor imitation many abuse survivors will not support.