Frances Oldham QC, Chair of the Inquiry
“Straddles criminal and family matters to great acclaim”
Now that we are in the run up to the appearance of the report of the "Independent Jersey Care Inquiry" into child abuse on the island, it might be an idea to review some aspects of the Inquiry itself to date in order to set a context for evaluating the report.
This inquiry was called for as far back as 2008 and it is only due to sustained pressure from a few States Deputies and bloggers that anything at all has happened. The jury is still out on whether the inquiry is actually independent of the authorities and others whom it is supposed to be investigating.
There have been a number of disquieting developments/events in the period since the Inquiry was set up which would lead to a negative opinion of its competence and good faith.
- under the legislation setting it up it was obliged to consult with the States (parliament) on the finalisation of its terms of reference. It failed to do so and just went on its merry (predetermined?) way with amazing impunity. If you really want to pursue this aspect in depth, check out this VFC post from 2014 as the public hearings were about to commence. I understand Daniel Wimberly never got a satisfactory response to his questions. The main question here was the Inquiry itself restricting its remit in defiance of the wishes of parliament
- it located itself in premises beside those occupied by a law firm which risked being called to account in the course of the inquiry. It used a similar law firm as its agent for the Inquiry itself
- it accepted the Government appointing people, to collate and forward required official documentation, who were themselves liable to investigation by the inquiry
- it facilitated the creation of false impressions from the evidence submitted by allowing alleged perpetrators to appear under multiple identities
- it denied a principal potential witness independent legal advice which led, at least in part, to his not appearing. It then refused to subpoena him. It also, not very subtly, attempted to hide its ruling in this matter on its website
- it refused to use its full powers to acquire official documentation in a timely manner. This resulted in some witnesses being quizzed on documents that they had barely seen, to the detriment of a probing of their more substantial contribution.
- it did not permit cross examination of witnesses, either by the Inquiry's lawyers or other parties. Questioning was limited to clarifying the content of witness statements.
- it apparently permitted a private meeting with a former bailiff/current foreign minister or his representative when the person in question was to appear as a witness.
- it limited press room access to "accredited media" ignoring the central role in this matter played by bloggers on the island. This simply underlined the Inquiry's complete (wilful?) ignorance of the situation on the island where the mainstream media have been complicit in the cover up of abuse.
- it sent highly explosive and confidential documentation in the ordinary post where it subsequently showed signs of having possibly been interfered with
- it refused absolutely to engage via social media when material failed to appear on its website, or appeared and then disappeared, only to subsequently reappear with slightly different meta-data. It never explained or apologised properly for downtime of its website. These may appear small things but they are vital in an environment where there is a lack of trust
- it has made no reference to the fact that in the oral session of Mr. K (an alleged abuser), reference is made to his written statement, but there is no sign of any such statement on the Inquiry's site. Mr. K, who is rumoured to be a friend of William Bailhache (currently Bailiff but then Attorney General), had a prosecution against him dropped by the Attorney General, on grounds that were subsequently shown to be false and so known by the Attorney General at that time. Surely in an atmosphere of lack of trust, precisely the wrong witness statement to be missing from the Inquiry's website?
- initially at least there was a lack of counselling backup for abuse survivors giving testimony. This surely is standard practice these days
- it redacted published evidence to protect the identities of both alleged abusers and abused alike. But it did so in a manner that shows it hasn't the faintest conception of the environment in which it is operating. I have given a blatant example of this in an earlier blog post
And it is even claimed that the Inquiry itself has no legal standing due to the way it was set up and its continuing misbehaviour - a non-vires extension of the Potemkin Village that is the Jersey justice system.
So what does that suggest we will get from the report of the Inquiry when it finally sees the light of day?
I suspect it will be very much a general critique of the appalling system that pertained in Jersey, with no one living individual held to account. This will likely be followed by an enumeration of lessons learned and some admission that there may be more to do to ensure the future safety of the island's children. There will be no condemnation of the illegal suspension of the police chief in 2008. No mention of the lack of separation of powers on the island which has facilitated the continuation of abuse and cover up. No mention of the vicious circle of Jersey "justice" where complaints to Her Majesty's Privy Council arising from the system are simply referred back to that same system to be dealt with. No reference to the fact that the ultimate aim of the Jersey "justice" system is the preservation of the island's financial sector from shafting by abused citizens.
Plus ça change ... ? On verra.