Saturday, 20 November 2010
Who is The Real Chief Minister? (4)
Below is the openenig speech to P166/2010 from Deputy Bob Hill B.E.M.
The proposition was, predictably, defeated which demonstrates how natural justice counts for nothing as far as the majority of our elected "representatives" are concerned and accountability is non existent.
Chief Minister Terry Le Sueur and his cohorts were given - by Deputy Bob Hill B.E.M.- the opportunity to wipe the slate clean and put this whole ghastly affair to bed, they chose not to.............The fight for truth and Justice continues.
It is apparent that those wishing to suspend the Police Chief were given a very short window of opportunity which they took with complete disregard to advice given by Crown Officers and the provisions contained within the Discipline Code made under the 1974 Police Jersey Law.
Those responsible have now been identified in a Report paid for at public expense. Some serious failings have been identified and it is quite evident that the Chief Minister has avoided taking the appropriate action to address the failing. This has led my proposition being lodged.
However, the sad truth is that neither myself, nor I suspect any other member, whatever their voting intentions, can genuinely claim to be convinced, or in most cases actually understand, just what the Chief Minister is actually saying in most of his response to my proposition.
The controversy arising from the suspension of the Chief Officer of the States Police in November 2008 has continued for over two years. That is not for any irrational reason. It is because many States Members and ordinary Islanders have genuine concerns regarding those events. These concerns deserve to be treated with respect. They do not deserve to be dismissed out of hand or fobbed off with shallow promises and evasion.
And I regret to say that unless the concerns arising from this issue are addressed today in a clear and transparent fashion they will not go away. My proposition offers members a chance to bring this matter to a close in a proper transparent manner, not brushed under the carpet.
My proposition is also about an important principle. It is about a key position in the good governance of our Island, namely the post of Chief Officer of the States Police.
Break those rules and we are on a slippery slope on which none of us are safe. However we now have evidence that the rules were indeed broken, deliberately, cynically and with intent.
The authority to dismiss the Chief Officer of the Force is vested in this Assembly by law. If members feel that that the authority of the Assembly has been usurped, and there has been a “dismissal by stealth” outside of the legal process, then as States Members we have a duty to do something about, irrespective of whether we are members of the Executive or the non Executive side of Government.
Today we have the opportunity to grasp this issue and to seek some form of resolution because there have been other opportunities but these were not taken by Ministers.
In January 2009 the chance was lost by not approving Connétable of St Helier’s proposition.
In the summer of 2009 another chance was lost when the Royal Court heavily criticised the manner of the original suspension. Ministers who were duty bound to act with neutrality, took no notice.
The Wilts investigation was concluded last November yet no attempts were taken to instigate disciplinary proceedings. In January this year the Chief Officer announced his long expected retirement and said that he would leave the service before the end of July. Again no-one took a grip on the matter. Yet more enquiries were authorised, more money spent, and more time wasted.
In February this year Members had the opportunity to support my proposal for a local and public Committee of Inquiry to review the Suspension. However Members’, who still pinned their faith in the Chief Minister, rejected that opportunity in favour of the Chief Minister’s simpler and quicker review by a Commissioner.
That Report has proved to be at least 5 times over budget and months late. However even though the TOR were watered down the Commissioner has concurred with the Royal Court’s view in that the suspension process was unfair. The Commissioner has gone even further in that he has identified serious failings and named the individuals concerned.
I now turn to the specifics of the proposition; whose purpose is to request the Chief Minister to report on the outcome of a Review he commissioned on behalf of the States. By now Lodging the Napier Report as R132/2010 the Chief Minister, with some reluctance but with no explanation has complied with Part (c) of my Proposition.
Part (i) I ask what action if any , the Ch Minister has taken in respect of the destruction by the Chief Executive of the original notes taken at the suspension . AND
What guidelines if any the Ch Minister has issued regarding the recording of suspension meetings in the future.
Chief Minister has completely ignored the first part of the paragraph.
It is in fact from answers given in the past by Ch Minister that the original notes were destroyed before the typed copy had been agreed by the 3 participants and only signed by former Minister and Chief Executive.
When former Police Chief asked for the original notes, because he was taking the matter to Royal Court he told that they had been destroyed. When handed the typed copy they were not an accurate account of the suspension process. This action is totally unacceptable.
The destruction was not by some probationer police Officer but by the most senior and highest paid civil servant, who apart from being aware of the need for accuracy must have been aware of the seriousness of the suspension and for the need to safeguard the integrity of the process.
Chief Minister gives no explanation for the Ch Executive’s action other than to say that he is satisfied with the answers he has received from the Ch Executive. Sir, this is not good enough.
The second half of the paragraph is again unsatisfactory.
Ch Minister is sidestepping the matter. He says that Policies are already in place but Members not provided with the copies.
Deputy Le Claire asked the Ch Minister for copies during Oral question on 3rd February last year, but still not to hand.
However it appears that if there is a policy in existence then it advises Officers to use their discretion but if in doubt err on the side of caution. I hope that does not apply to the Police because they will in trouble from the Courts. The Ch Minister’s explanation is unsatisfactory and should be rejected.
Part (ii) is about the legal advice and asks the Chief Minister if he accepts the conclusion set out in various parts of the Napier Report that action was taken on a basis which was contrary to the advice of the Law Officers and what action, if any, he proposes to take in respect of that matter.
It is interesting to note that there are any number of occasions when Ministers do not take action expected of them, and when challenged they say that is because they are acting on the advice of the Crown Officers.
However we now have a case where Ministers and senior civil servants have blatantly acted against Law Officers advice and Members are expected to accept that failure without question.
We also now know how this difficulty was dealt with by those involved in the suspension process. Parts of the Metropolitan Police report which suited the argument for suspension were extracted and included in a letter from the heavily conflicted Deputy Chief Officer, who would immediately step into his boss’ shoes when the suspension was implemented.
Those parts of the Met report which did not fit the argument, and in particular the heavy qualifications described by Napier, were excluded. We do not know if the then Minister was part of the arrangement or whether he was misled. But what we can be sure of, is that the stringent terms of the legal advice were not followed and as a consequence this sorry, totally expensive and futile saga was set in motion.
After paying for a Queen’s Councillor to review the suspension process which concurs with the Royal Court’s view, the Chief Minister is now telling Members that those findings are wrong, and he is right.
Apparently the discussion between the former Ch Minister and the former Home Affairs Minister about the possible suspension was overheard by a States Minister who hopefully will clarify that matter.
Mr Napier has been clear in his report, the legal advice was not followed and no matter what excuses the Ch Minister is attempting to make, the facts speak for them selves.
Those involved with the suspension got it wrong and Members have every right to expect the Chief Minister to accept Mr Napier’s finding and inform Members what action he has taken.
Part (iii) deals with the Discipline Code copies of which I circulated to Members over the weekend. I am asking whether the Chief Minister accepts the conclusion set out in various parts of the Napier Report, that the suspension process did not meet the requirements of the Disciplinary Code for the Police Chief, issued under Article 9(1) of the Police Force Jersey Law 1974, and again, what action if any, he has taken regarding the apparent breach of the process specified in the Code?
Having read the Discipline Code and Members will note that there is set procedure to be followed before a suspension can be implemented.
Mr Napier is of the view that there was no justification for an instant suspension. However again, we have the Chief Minister disagreeing with the QC he appointed, although graciously stating the Mr Napier is entitled to his view. However the Chief Minister states that in his view, Mr Napier’s conclusion is not the only one which can be drawn. However unlike Mr Napier, the Chief Minister has not stated how his view can be justified.
It should be noted that in answer to several questions on this matter the Chief Minister has gone on record as describing these matters as "procedural errors". In other words until lodging his Comments he accepted that errors had occurred but has now done a u turn without any explanation.
Given the seniority of the participants it can hardly be said that their calculated breach is no more than procedural. It is a gross interference in the constitutional framework which exists to protect the liberties of us all.
Nor should we be deceived into regarding these breaches as coincidental. The resignation of Home Affairs Minister, just 3 weeks previously, the brief elevation of the former Assistant Minister to Ministerial Office, and his imminent retirement along with the former Chief Minister and the absence of the Chief Officer on a few days leave provided a window of opportunity which was ruthlessly and cynically grasped.
In his Comments the Chief Minister has stated that he has had to weigh up the differing views when determining what action he needed to take, but has not said what action he has actually taken.
Part (a) (iv) asks why there has been no formal presentation of the Napier report to members and no opportunity to discuss the findings with the author. The Chief Minister knows that it is customary for Ministers who commission reports to arrange for its author to be present when the Report is released. At first he gave an undertaking that there would be a presentation to States Members. Later he reversed his position and said that such a presentation was not possible. This is because the customary need to make a presentation was not included in Mr Napier’s contractual responsibilities.
Members will note however that the Chief Minister has not chosen to tell us why this customary requirement was not included in the contractual arrangement and who took that decision. We should insist that he tells us more on this issue, such as why and when did Mr Napier change his mind. The Chief Minister has also not informed Members why he did not make the usual presentation to Members.
Part (v) Requests the Chief Minister to inform Members what training, procedural and other corrective measures he has taken to ensure personnel and disciplinary issues are managed appropriately in the future.
He tells us that such matters are “regularly reviewed as part of normal activities.” I ask how often they are reviewed because in July 2008 only a few months before the suspension, the former Chief Minister lodged R75 of 2008 which reported on the findings following a Review undertaken by Professor Upex.
The Professor was highly critical of the mishandling of the dismissal of another States Employee. We had the usual platitudes that lessons must be learnt and we must move on. But lessons clearly were not learnt because three of the main participants in the dismissal process were also involved with the former Police Chief’s suspension.
The Chief Minister says that there is room for improvement in the disciplinary code for the Chief Officer of Police. I agree but that was apparent 2 years ago. So what has he done about it? What action has he taken to date? What changes does he propose? And by which date will he be presenting his proposals to this Assembly?
The Chief Ministers response is shallow, dismissive and should be rejected by this Assembly. I believe that we should tell the Chief Minister that he must do better and offer something more convincing.
Part (a) (vi) asks the Chief Minister to clarify his position with regard to any disciplinary action in consequence of what has emerged from the report.
Given the gravity of the suspension and the failings that have now been identified, Members and the public are entitled to know whether any disciplinary proceedings have been taken as a result of the findings of the Napier Report and if so, to update Members on the outcome of those proceedings.
I am not the only Member who has asked what action the Chief Minister has or is taking. Members will recall that I received a confidential email from the Chief Minister on 27th September regarding a disciplinary matter.
Members will also recall that at the last States Sitting I asked if the Chief Minister would make the contents of a confidential email available to all States Members but he declined on the grounds that it contained the name of a States Employee.
In the Chief Minister’s Comments he now tells us that the Disciplinary process is now complete and the outcomes remain confidential to the parties concerned.
It is not disputed that the Island’s most senior civil servant destroyed the suspension notes. Mr Napier has also reported that the same civil servant chose not to follow the Crown Officers advice and went ahead with a suspension process which was also contrary the Discipline Code.
The suspension set off a chain of events which saw the former Police Chief dismissed by stealth and has cost the taxpayer around a million pounds. It is not disputed that the Wilts Police produced a set of allegations but they were withdrawn. Therefore legally the allegations do not exist and the taxpayer’s money has been wasted.
As indeed has the Wiltshire Police Officer’s time, although no doubt their officers will have enjoyed spending over £200K on wining and dining at our taxpayer’s expense.
Both the Royal Court and Mr Napier have concluded that the suspension was unfair, yet despite the repercussions, States Members and the public are not allowed to be told what disciplinary action, if any, has ensued.
As the Chief Minister has stated he has taken disciplinary action I believe I am at liberty to divulge the contents of the Confidential email I referred to earlier, but I shall not divulge the name of the civil servant.
The Chief Minister informed me that he was instituting disciplinary action, however the employee concerned was out of the office and he had to wait until the employee returned. I did think the absence was ironic because the former Police Chief was also out of Office when he was called in to be suspended,
Given the time it normally takes to collate the evidence and arrange for a disciplinary hearing I am most impressed by the speed in which the process was completed because it is apparent that the process was concluded by the 19th October because as Members will see on page 9 of my proposition that the Chief Minister stated that he had investigated the disciplinary issues and he had nothing further to add.
It appears that yet again we have an apparently firm resolve followed by back-tracking and evasion. The Chief Minister is not appointed in order that he can be an advocate on behalf of his staff. He is supposed to be the person who holds his staff to account. There are worrying indications that the tail is wagging the dog.
In his response to this part of my proposition the Chief Minister seeks to hide behind the confidentiality rules which normally apply in disciplinary cases. But this is no ordinary case. This disciplinary matter strikes at the heart of our government.
In this debate we should not be hindered by rules created for the protection of public servants. We are the government of this Island. We make the rules. We should demand that the Chief Minister comes clean. We deserve to be told the truth. We do not deserve to be told that matters relating to the conduct of our highest paid employee are none of our business.
In Part (b) of the proposition I ask the Assembly to agree to seek closure of this long running issue by agreeing that an apology should be made to the former Chief Officer.
Members will note that the proposed apology is specific in its terms and relates entirely to his treatment during the suspension process and in particular the denial of those rights and protections to which he was entitled to under the Code.
The entitlements are clearly set out by Napier and are in any event no more than basic decency, common-sense and justice.
The Disciplinary Code which has been circulated to Members forms part of the Chief Officers Conditions of Service. They are his entitlements which are intended to ensure fair play and dignity of treatment.
The Police Chief was entitled to have concerns drawn to his attention at early stage and be given an opportunity to seek a resolution. That did not happen.
He was entitled to be able to argue his case at a preliminary hearing before suspension was considered. Again that did not happen.
What he was not entitled to was to be called into work in the midst of a family holiday and suspended without warning in the space of a few minutes without representation and without a hearing.
The process which was applied on that day in November 2008 was not only a breach of the Code, it was shameful, and by association shames us all. And let us not forget the service background against which these events occurred.
The Chief Officer had a long and unblemished record of service.
He had been decorated by the Queen for distinguished service. HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, Committee Members, the Home Affairs Minister and even the local media had gone on record praising his leadership of the Force.
He was described, and I quote, as a “high performing Chief Officer” who was able to ensure “that the operational independence of the Police is never compromised,” and who “continues to modernise and enhance the professionalism of the service.”
Members might ask “who said that?” I can tell Member who said it. It was none other than the Chief Executive to the Council of Ministers in the Chief Officer’s most recent performance appraisal.
In responding to this issue the Chief Minister has sought to confuse the situation by inappropriate references to the HDLG investigation and making most derogatory remarks relating the abuse victims. He has referred to the now abandoned disciplinary case and has chosen to compound matters by making further unsubstantiated allegations against the former Chief Officer.
I will again remind Members that all disciplinary proceedings were abandoned. No charges were brought and no hearing was called. No compromises were reached and no deals were done.
From day one the Chief Officer challenged Ministers to come up with the evidence to justify what they alleged and to take their allegations to a fair hearing.
In spite of nearly two years and over a million pounds of expenditure they failed to do so. Allegations which emanated from the Wiltshire debacle were withdrawn because I submit it was not in the Minister’s interest to pursue them.
The Chief Minister should accept that the Wiltshire Investigation was a disaster which began with the botched suspension The Chief Minister should have the grace and seek closure. There is no honour in hitting after the bell. The contest is over.
The Chief Officer retired with an unblemished record. It is now clear that the entitlements of his conditions of service were not met. Apologise for that, and that alone, and move on.
I will not dwell on the Chief Minister’s suggestion that the former Police Chief and his Deputy should apologise to those who suffered at HDLG. I don’t know who drafted the Comments on the Chief Minister’s behalf, but Members should ask each one the 11 former residents whose allegations of abuse some 30 years ago are now being considered in the Royal Court. We should ask if they concur with the Chief Minister’s call for an apology.
Without the former Police Chief and his Deputy’s dedication to service to our Island, the allegation which had been swept under the carpet would not have come to light.
I propose my proposition and asked that it seconded. (end)
Submitted by Team Voice..........a media that digs that little DEEPER