Monday, August 07, 2017

OLD HAM SOON FORGOTTEN?


Click any image for a larger version

The Oldham Report has now been published for just a month and there has been time for initial reactions from players and commentators. So I thought I should add some reactions of my own given that I have followed certain aspects of the Inquiry in some detail.

The Inquiry's final report can be accessed here.

The Inquiry's home page also gives two links to Frances Oldham's summary statement on the publication of the report. The first of these (to Part 1) does not work and this is the second (to part 2). The page also gives links to the vast trove of documentation which covers both the appearance of witnesses and the documentation supplied by them.

Be aware that the Inquiry's website is a bit of a mess and has been very unsatisfactory throughout. So much so that many people have taken to downloading aspects which are of interest to them for fear they would vanish (as some have) or be further edited (which some were) or become otherwise unavailable, particularly now that the site has been abandoned by the Inquiry team and handed over to the States of Jersey.

How the States intend dealing with it and whether there are any plans to clean up the site and make the material more accessible is unknown at this stage.

What was expected from this report?

Different people had very different views of the nature of the Inquiry and what it might have been expected to produce.

At one extreme, some saw it as a court which would deliver a verdict on the behaviour of individuals, hold them to account and even throw them in jail.

At the other extreme the Inquiry was seen as a PR exercise, or whitewash, by the establishment which would lead to an admission of past failures, limit the apportioning of blame to institutions rather than individuals, and make some recommendations for future improvements.

I did a post in the run up to the publication of the report setting out what I expected to see in it. In that post I referred to a number of negative aspects of the Inquiry's behaviour to date and to my expectation of a very limited outcome.

What was in it?

The outcome is broadly as I expected but with some differences.

The report did criticise people, principally these five: Andrew Lewis, Philip Bailhache, Bill Ogley, Tom McKeon and Mario Lundy.

The criticism of Lewis looks like being the only one which will have any consequences for the individual concerned.

Lewis - Minister

To put Lewis in context, he is a weak man who was catapulted into a ministerial position to do the bidding of the establishment and then hung out to dry when he started digging himself (and others) into a hole and wouldn't stop.

His major gaffe was to have allowed himself to be the fall guy in the suspension (effective sacking) of the Police Chief in a process that broke every rule in the book.

He subsequently repeatedly lied in an effort to redeem himself and scared the pants off the establishment who feared that he might thereby put their corrupt and clandestine hold over the polity of Jersey in jeopardy.

The point at issue was the legality, fairness and reason for the suspension of the Police Chief. The case against Lewis, and his puppet masters, was that (i) they had planned the disposal of the Police Chief from way back but falsely presented it as a spontaneous reaction to a negative report from the Deputy Chief, (ii) they did not observe due process in the suspension, in fact they acted against legal advice, and (iii) the reasons for the hasty and botched suspension didn't hold water.

The Inquiry found that the had lied all over the place.

Philip Bailhache - Bailiff

Philip denied putting the welfare of the financial sector before the safety of children but accepted that his Liberation day speech, which may have given that impression, was unfortunately worded.

The Inquiry judged his words a serious political error but, it should be noted, did not absolve him of the attitude implied in his wording.

Bill Ogley - CEO

Bill was at the heart of carrying out much of the conspiracy. The Inquiry did not accept his version of events, particularly regarding the purported spontaniety of the suspension of the Police Chief.

The Inquiry also alluded to his form in these matters when he had earlier unsuccessfully attempted to involve the Police Chief and another officer in the sacking of the whistleblowing Minister Stuart Syvret.

Tom McKeon & Mario Lundy - Managers

The Inquiry censured these two managers for lying about the frequency of use of secure accommodation and their failure of management which led to inconsistent and at times excessive use of force by adults towards children.

Stuart Syvret

The Inquiry did also criticise Stuart Syvret on two grounds, namely that (i) his public attacks on civil servants were inappropriate and did not assist his cause, and (ii) his refusal to participate in the Inquiry.

The Inquiry (generously!) found that Syvret's actions did not amount to political interference in Operation Rectangle but that the manner of his dismissal was outside their terms of reference.

And in a paragraph that will surely go down in history for sheer brazen neck, it held:
Stuart Syvret has not given evidence to this Public Inquiry. Requests to him were made on a number of occasions seeking his assistance and any relevant evidence he might have. As a States member for many years, latterly as the Minister for HSSD, his contribution to the work of this Inquiry may have assisted. His refusal to assist is to be regretted.
My view is that Stuart Syvret was constructively excluded from the Inquiry and it doesn't take a genius to work that out.

He had been oppressed by the establishment, including through imprisonment. He had been subject to a supergag order (as far as we know) and he requested legal protection before he would bear witness to the Inquiry. In spite of the massive legal bills incurred in other aspects of the Inquiry his request was refused and the refusal was then hidden, unlike all the other Inquiry decisions, in an obscure corner of the Inquiry's website.

It is also significant that the Inquiry, while admitting his relevance, refused to subpoena him, an action which might effectively have led to him getting some degree of legal protection. In fact, he was not the only relevant witness who was not subpoened and this lack of action does not reflect well on the bona fides of the Inquiry itself.

It should be pointed out that Syvret has cast doubt on the vires/legality of the whole Jersey administration and also on that of the Inquiry itself. Nevertheless, it is quite possible that he would have chosen to participate given appropriate legal protection.

Suspension of Graham Power

I have already done a fairly long post on Graham Power's evidence to the Inquiry and don't intend repeating myself here.

I know I run the risk of being accused of being obsessed with this aspect of the case rather than the core matter of the abuse of children. However, one of the Inquiry's terms of reference involves its looking into whether there was any political interference in the earlier police inquiry into abuse of children.

As far as I am concerned, Graham Power's suspension is a text book case of such interference. It is also a litmus test for such interference. That's why I make no apology for stressing it.

The Inquiry itself went on to
... record our disquiet at the manner in which the suspension was handled and in respect of some of the evidence given to us about it. We refer, in particular, to the following issues:
  • Graham Power was suspended with no notice in respect of alleged past failings, when there was no suggestion that those past failings could have an effect on his ability in future to carry out his duties;
  • Those responsible for his suspension did not heed the advice of the Solicitor General or Attorney General about the risks of reliance on the Metropolitan Police interim report, the need to show any report to Graham Power and permit him to comment on it, or the wisdom of awaiting the full Metropolitan Police report before taking action;
  • David Warcup exaggerated to Bill Ogley the extent to which his own concerns were supported by the Metropolitan Police interim report;
  • Andrew Lewis used the interim report for disciplinary purposes, knowing that this was an impermissible use;
  • William Bailhache QC, as Attorney General, understood that the decision had already been made by the evening of 11 November 2008 that Graham Power was to be suspended. His evidence to us on this point was at odds with the evidence of Bill Ogley. We prefer the evidence of William Bailhache QC;
  • It is clear to us that, when Graham Power attended the meeting on 12 November 2008, his suspension was inevitable. We accept Graham Power’s evidence that he was given time “to consider his position” – in other words, to resign as an alternative to suspension;
  • Andrew Lewis lied to the States Assembly about the Metropolitan Police report, pretending that he had had sight of it when he had not;
  • Andrew Lewis told Dr Brian Napier QC that he had discussed the suspension of Graham Power in October 2008, while telling us that he knew nothing about it until 11 November 2008;
  • Andrew Lewis denied that he had discussed with Wendy Kinnard and Christopher Harris the possibility that Graham Power would be suspended. We do not accept his evidence in this respect
Nevertheless, the Inquiry came to a very firm consclusion that the suspension was in no way intended to derail Rectangle, that it did not affect it, and that the Inquiry's own terms of reference did not therefore permit it to consider the matter further.

This is a significant funk on the part of the Inquiry and they have no way of knowing to what extent Power's suspension may have affected matters out of the public gaze.

For instance, Rectangle Senior Investigating Officer, Mick Gradwell, had already scheduled, for the week following Power's suspension, an interview with John Averty, as a suspect and under caution. Now John Averty was being investigated in relation to alleged serial rapes of an adult female or females. And John Averty was one of those people who Graham Power identified as possibly being behind his suspension. John Averty is a very influential member of the Jesey establishment.

So, did the Inquiry check whether this interview took place or not? If the interview did take place, what was the result? If it did not, should this not be taken as prima facie evidence of outside influence on the conduct of the Inquiry?

All this was known to the Inquiry as it is contained in the evidence submitted to them by Graham Power and (however incidentally) by Mick Gradwell.

The Inquiry would not have been justified in ignoring this on the basis that the allegations did not refer to children. Interference is interference and would be indicative of a prevailing culture. Over the years many victims/survivors have complained that their complaints were not taken seriously or that they had been intimidated into withdrawing them.

Strangely, the Inquiry took a completely opposite approach when it came to the older Victoria College scandal:
The SOJP investigations into Victoria College, Paul Every and the Sea Cadets are not within the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference. We considered evidence about these investigations on the basis that the conduct and attitude of Police officers and others to those investigations might be relevant to the Police response to allegations of abuse of children in care.
This raises the question of whether the Inquiry itself has, despite all its protestations, been subject to interference.

The Legacy

So was there any point to this Inquiry? Were there any positives? What will happen next?

As far as I can see the the main achievement of this Inquiry has been to assemble and record evidence of the widespread abuse which permeated the Island for years. This may have brought some consolation or closure to victims/survivors whose complaints had not been heeded over the years. It may have given others the courage to come forward and bear witness and this may have helped them come to terms with their predicament.

It may just have awakened people in Jersey to what had been done to their children for decades and might, hopefully, lead to them reclaiming Jersey politics for the people - though this bit of wishful thinking might be stretching it.

The Inquiry has been quite hard hitting in those matters it chose to follow through on. But the big omission is in the raft of people it has not held to account. you can see a sample of questions not asked by the Inquiry or in some mainstream media reports here.

It has also ducked some of the deeper questions by just mentioning them in passing. The Bailiff's control of the legislature is one, and perhaps something will be done about that. But the vital missing element is the lack of a firm finding that the UK, or some Higher Power, needs to intervene to ensure that the Island has a properly independent prosecution system and that there are adequate channels of appeal when justice is miscarried on the Island.

As things stand there is effectively no appealing the decisions of the Jersey courts or the actions of its Crown Officers. The Lieutenant Governor is a joke. And the Queen's Privy Council refers all complaints back to the Jersey courts.

The Inquiry has recommended the establishment of a Children's Commissioner and work is in hand to appoint one. There seems to be some confusion in Government as to the degree of independence of such a Commissioner and to whom or to what body the Commissioner would report. Hopefully this will be sorted and the Commissioner will not end up simply reporting to the Chief Minister as was suggested in a recent Government news release.

The Website etc.

The Inquiry's website has been a disgrace from day one. It is not user friendly, particularly when it comes to finding material. It was not used to communicate with the public except in the most cursory way. In fact virtually all of the Inquiry's communication with the public has been one way. Material has come and gone and been redacted and re-redacted without any commentary or explanation from the Inquiry.

Bloggers were denied full press facilities when they constituted the only independent media on the island. Written queries to the Inquiry were either not answered or were acknowledged in a dismissive way. And to cap it all the "press conference" introducing the report to the public resembled a bootcamp Tannoy, with its quasi-stripsearches and no Q&A.

Person 737

To those who may wonder at my cheek in naming John Averty as Person 737, I would simply point out that it is not me what dunnit Gov. It was the Inquiry itself which failed miserably to protect the anonymity it originally conferred on him, as I have pointed out here.



8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Brilliant summary Polo. This is really useful, thank you.

Póló said...

If you followed the links above you will have seen the relevant paragraphs of Graham Power's submission to the Inquiryregarding Person 737.

Philip Sinel is an independent Jersey lawyer who has significantly suffered at the hands of the Jersey establishment as a result of his independence. He has made a submission to the Inquiry which exposes the lack of separation of powers on the island and reveals the role (or non role) of the Lieutenant Governor and ERII.

In the course of his submission he refers to his own personal investigations into the activities of Person 737. Despite the redactions it makes for chilling reading.

You can read his submission in full online at the Inquiry site:

Link (page 581)

or you can take a quick look at the relevant paragraph (82) here:

Link

voiceforchildren said...

Polo.

Once more an excellent, well researched, and informed Blog. Your contributions to "The Jersey Problem" are vital in our work to try and clean the place up and get the truth out there.

You, and your readers might be interested in this exclusive interview with former Senior Investigating Officer LENNY HARPER.

Póló said...

Thanks Neil.

Checked out Lenny's interview. Very clear what his priorities are, and have been all along - the victims/survivors. That determined how the whole investigation was conducted and you can feel his pleasure at their vindication by the report. Hopefully some of them will also have got closure along the way.

It is interesting also that he pointed out that the COI's criticisms were mainly of institutions with most of the constituent members of those institutions getting an easy ride. I have mentioned the few exceptions in the post above.

His exegesis of the COI's language made me smile. Clearly, where there is a majority there also has to be a minority, but I think it's clear there were places the COI didn't want to go.

Full marks to you for your enduring standing with the people who matter as opposed to those who just think they do.

Basil the Sharrock said...

I concur with both of you. Lenny Harper is the best police officer Jersey has ever seen along with Graham Power and if it wasn't for blogs like these they would never have been able to get the truth out there. Thanks Polo and all those who blog the truth.

Póló said...

Jesus Basil. Off the Stella at last. Congratulations.

Tiddle To Thrill said...

Mr Sharrock is right and I want to echo his sentiments. Lenny Harper and Graham Power are the best cops Jersey has ever seen. And the blogs are the only place to truth gets told so keep up the good work guys.

Póló said...

I hope you guys are gushing all this stuff in comments on the JEP site. There's a serious need for some balance there. Some fierce negative weirdos over there.