Thursday, 4 September 2014

Jersey's Lawmakers, Victims' Group and Operation Rectangle Cop Publicly Decry Blogger Ban.


As a continuance of our PREVIOUS POSTING where we reported how Bloggers were banned from the media room at Jersey's Independent Care Inquiry and all State Media had been granted accreditation, and able to use the media room in the same ruling.

There have been some kind of developments to this but it is still very unclear as to what these developments are and as soon as we get a straight answer from the Inquiry Team we will inform our readers.

We have been contacted by a number of witnesses/victims/survivors, and potential witnesses,victims and survivors who, as a result of the Blogger Banning are reconsidering their decision to give evidence to the Inquiry. Some have threatened to withdraw the evidence they have already submitted.

Of course this is a decision that can only be made by those involved. The banning of Bloggers has caused an amount of distrust in the Inquiry and we are hoping a resolution can be made between Bloggers and the Inquiry very soon.

In this Posting we would like to share with our readers some of the support we (Bloggers) have from key interested parties in the Jersey Child Abuse scandal. This includes the former Senior Investigating Officer of Operation Rectangle and former Deputy Chief Police Officer Lenny Harper. The Chairperson of the Jersey Care Leavers Association, Ms. Carrie Modral, prominent local lawyer, Advocate Philip Sinel, and a number of local politicians who have all written to the Chair of the Committee Of Inquiry, Francis Oldham QC expressing their concerns of our banning and have warned how damaging this could prove to be to the Inquiry itself.

Below are a few of the letters of support and we thank those who have written them.



20th August 2014
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN

We are writing to express our concern regarding the fact that two local bloggers have now been excluded from using the media room facilities available for the Committee of Inquiry, having been granted access from the outset to these same facilities until last week.

Bloggers have been very instrumental in supporting all abuse victims, uncovering many facts which would otherwise have remained hidden from the public. Voice for Children have never published any material that has been challenged or factually incorrect, whereas the MSM have been very economical with their facts, and in some instances been damning of the whole abuse investigation from the outset as clearly demonstrated in the bundles of newspaper clippings submitted to the inquiry team and which has been upsetting for the victims.

Bloggers as an increasingly recognised means of alternative media should be afforded the right to work alongside those of the MSM especially in something as high profile as this. We perhaps need to say that we have read Robert Hall’s comments published on the COI website and his concerns about bloggers being able to use the media room. Having witnessed him attending the hearing on the Tuesday hearing day prior to that when both VFC and Bob Hill were informed that they can no longer use the media room, we can only assume that the legal team for the COI have allowed themselves to be influenced by a well-known journalist from the BBC who happens to be also well connected with Jersey having started his career as a reporter and presenter at Channel Television in the Channel Islands in or around 1977.

Indeed, VFC and other bloggers have also persuaded some victims to come forward and give evidence to the Committee of Inquiry who may well not have done so initially, through fear or scepticism. Furthermore, this decision could jeopardise further witnesses from coming forward and could even result in some of those that have come forward to retract their statements and walk away.

We also feel that, given Mr McMurray’s disability, he is unable to function properly in the hearing room given that he is unable to balance his tablet on his lap and type at the same time with the use of only one arm and it seems unreasonable to expect him to do so.


Finally to conclude, we would ask you to perhaps re-consider your decision. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to these people for all the good work they have done and will continue to do, and would ask that they are permitted to do so with the proper resources available.

Yours sincerely
Jersey Care Leavers Association

14 August 2014
As the former senior investigating officer of the Jersey Historical Abuse Investigation, Operation Rectangle, I have a strong interest in your inquiry being able to get to the truth and reveal the facts about the manner in which children were abused within the Care System and its off shoots in Jersey.  To do this, you are going to have to win the trust of those who suffered and whose previous attempts to find justice have been crushed by the Jersey Government, those working within its so called care agencies and criminal justice system, and the state controlled official Jersey Media.  It is these groups who have labelled the victims "criminals and people with disturbed minds", a description enthusiastically recirculated and repeated by the media in Jersey.  It is essential that you succeed in doing what myself and my team had to do - win the confidence of these victims so that they will come and talk to you and give you their story, knowing you are not in the pocket of the Jersey government.

It was with some alarm therefore that I heard you have withdrawn the authority to use the media facilities from Neil McMurray of the Voice for Children Blog, and Bob Hill the former member of the States.  These two individuals are two of a very few people who are trusted to tell the truth by those who have suffered abuse in Jersey.  I will speak more about that below.  I believe that the action has been taken in response to a rather unreasoned and bitter series of attacks launched by another blogger, Former Senator Stuart Syvret, from the very media room in the last day or two.  Now, everyone knows that Mr Syvret has been fighting a battle for some years, and has been unremitting on his attacks on the behaviour of the government and their treatment of himself and abuse victims.  Not everyone approves of the manner in which he behaves, and the sometimes wild and random nature of his written attacks, but there is some understanding of the way in which the corrupt behaviour of the Jersey establishment has driven him to the point where he feels that he has nothing else to lose.  Notwithstanding, I do understand that some of his comments yesterday cannot be tolerated or accepted.

However, it must surely be possible to prevent Mr Syvret from having access to the media room and thereby the opportunity to abuse the facility, without taking a scattergun approach and banning the two people from whom the abuse victims look to for truthful information.  They will not get it from the Jersey media. Even tonight, the Jersey Evening Post is continuing with its campaign to discredit victims and the investigation.  Victims will NOT want to engage with your inquiry if they believe that the truth is again going to be suppressed - and that is exactly what the Jersey media are perceived to have as their main agenda.

I know that VFC and Mr Hill applied for Accreditation and were told it was not necessary.  Then, after Mr Syvret's attacks, both of them are banned in what a number of the victims have already said to me is an attempt to suppress the truth again.  I do not believe that Mr Syvret applied for an accreditation.  Surely, rather than run the risk of alienating victims who rely on the other two individuals, it would have been easy to exclude Mr Syvret, either because of his intemperate behaviour or his lack of application for accreditation?  It hardly needs pointing out, and the victims are only too aware, that it was Mr Hill and VFC who were among the main reasons, with one or two others, why the Jersey government reluctantly agreed to this inquiry, and why victims have come forward to talk to you in the first place.  Furthermore, Mr Hill played no small part in making sure the Terms of Reference were not totally ineffective.

In closing, who you allow into your media room is a matter for you.  However, if you wish to gain, or retain, the trust of victims, and indeed, people like myself, then restricting reporting of your proceedings to the blatantly corrupt and conflicted Jersey mainstream media, is not the way to do it.


Yours faithfully,


Lenny Harper"


01 September 2014

As one of the key political proponents of the Committee of Inquiry, and an originator of some of the terms of reference, it is with some reluctance that I write to the Committee, as I had wished to simply be an observer of proceedings, letting your body continue in their complex task unhindered from political interventions.

I am, however, moved to write to you to make representations on the recent decision to debar bloggers from the media room on what appear to be questionable grounds.
It is not necessary for me to go over arguments that have perhaps already been made by other parties, however, I would be grateful if the Committee would reconsider their decision and adopt what I would consider a less draconian and more liberal approach.

I am also concerned that one of the bloggers, Mr McMurray, without whose tireless and exacting reporting (in stark contrast to some of the 'official' media) the inquiry would not have gained the momentum to have happened, is being prejudiced, given his disability, by not having adequate facilities to be able to make notes, , as any other member of the public, because electronic devices seem to be banned from the public area (is this correct?).

It seems paradoxical that the journalists who command the most respect and trust from the care leavers themselves are the ones being denied adequate facilities to be able to report.

Your sincerely,

Deputy Montfort Tadier

Dear Mrs Oldham

29 August 2014

I have been consulted by Neil McMurray who as you are aware writes the Voice for Children blog spot. It is a popular, respected, widely read and long established blog.

In Jersey the position for a long time has been that the blogs are the only media trusted by a large portion of the population, this notwithstanding the disparity in resources and the fact that the blogs have no backing from any national or international organisation and that they produce no revenue and carry no advertising.

It is not in a way of exaggeration to say that without the activities of bloggers in Jersey there would never have been an enquiry at all; the remaining media have historically have been complicit in endeavouring that the truth was shaded or buried.

I am instructed that Mr McMurray and indeed Mr Hill (of Bob Hill's blog spot) applied for media accreditation back in April of this year. However no media were provided with accrediation. The blogger in conjunction with other media were simply afforded the use of the media room.

Arbitrarily on 12/13 August Mr McMurray and Mr Hill were informed that they were not allowed to make use of the media room but simultaneously accreditation was granted to other media representatives. In one case this was done by prearrangement with Eversheds staff. Additionally the BBC were allowed to swamp the room.

The effect upon the credibility of the enquiry of the this development cannot be overstated. Many Islanders were cynical before the start, this does not help. I therefore ask that you address this matter immediately and that Mr McMurray and  if he so seeks it, Mr Hill, are granted accreditation before the enquiry restarts on 3 September 2014.

Yours sincerely

Advocate Philip Sinel"(END)

For reasons of brevity we have not posted all letters of support for Bloggers to Francis Oldham QC, as we believe there are more to be written and we will look to post them in a part 2.

Readers of our PREVIOUS POSTING will be aware that the Inquiry Panel is able to work with lightning speed when it was able to make a ruling, almost overnight, to ban Bloggers, get that ruling in place and published on its website within days.

All correspondence to the Committee of Inquiry is supposed to be published on its own WEBSITE but the letters of support for Bloggers have not made it on there yet. If only they could act as quickly copying and pasting a few letters as they did with an overnight ban perhaps the Inquiry Team might get a little more credence?







23 comments:

  1. Dear VFC

    Good to see so uh support for Bob Hill and yourself against this damaging - and I believe clearly Establishment-manipulated decision to ban 'bloggers' whilst allowing the events unfolding as victims and witnesses give their testimony to be reported to the wider public by the very organisations who have failed to tell the truth in the past. Even worse in some cases actually deliberately misinformed the public to try and trash the investigation and those who led it after decades of shameful State silence. As you know I have just written a letter in support of Mr Hill and yourself this very day. I will forward it to you for publication (should you so wish) once I have had its reciept acknowledged by the Chairman. Frankly, as the politician both you and fellow blogger Mr Rico Sorda approached with many of your concerns several years ago - a politician who took these concerns on board and actually chaired the inquiry into the Finances of Operation Rectangle which spelt out so much of the MSM/State Media lies I find this decision both disheartening and above all a new betrayal of the victims who have put so much trust in Jersey's bloggers like you and Mr Hill.

    Trevor Pitman (former Deputy)

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    1. Just to apologise for the above typo: the first line should of course refer to it being' good to see so MUCH support for Bob Hill and yourself'. Anger at this decision and typing clearly do not mix! Good luck with getting this shocking decision overturned.'

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    2. Trevor.

      The Review undertaken by you, and your scrutiny sub panel, can be read in its entirety HERE.

      Readers are encouraged to read it and ask why it is only the State media the COI wants using its media room?

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  2. If this COI is destined to be a planned whitewash, or a watered down version of widely known abuses already documented, Ms Oldham has done herself and the oligarchy no favours by tipping her hand in this way. Whatever the weak level of trust the outside public had before has been reduced to rubble with this. Everyone, including the oligarchy, knows this COI would never have been launched without your tireless voice.

    If the COI won't reverse this decision, it will be examined in future exposures of the Jersey system, showing injustices against every single activist and truth teller, heaped on top of abuses of those the system harmed.

    The paid reporting staff of the accredited media must have an incredible resentment against you for your ability to do what true journalists do, something they cannot ever be allowed to try themselves - in Jersey. Real journalists stand up for the rights and treatment of their fellow journalists. We see it all the time in cases where governments oppose free speech and fellow journalists rally in support of oppressed colleagues from other media organisations.

    The role of Jersey's mainstream media as bullies for their masters, BBC in particular, is yet to be examined at the national and international level, but it will be. It must be.

    Elle


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  3. Aren't the bloggers still allowed to attend the actual hearings, just not the media facilities? so where exactly is the whitewash if they still have access to monitor and report on events?
    If some people spent a little less time on here bigging themselves up and a bit more time thinking about the actual realities of this decision they might agree that this ban makes no difference to the transparency the bloggers seek to protect.

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  4. Fail. Try reading the letters above, then see if you can comprehend, troll.

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    1. Charming. I'm a troll, merely because I fail to see how being excluded from one room stops anyone reporting from another?

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    2. But have you read the letters above? VFC needs a desk to write on due to a disability, and electronic devices aren't allowed in the public area.

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    3. I see that even Bob Hill has stated this snub, as he puts it, will not interfere with the bloggers ability to cover the hearing. Maybe VFC can insist on having a desk within the hearing room as a compromise? I imagine to would be difficult for the CoI to deny him that without looking seriously conflicted.

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  5. I cannot believe that this has happened - well, I can, knowing how the rest of the child abuse scandal has been stage-managed by the authorities in Jersey. As Lenny stated above, without the local blogs and sites like Planet Jersey, the abuse scandal and cover up would have been left unrevealed. For the inquiry to ban the very people who have been responsible for revealing it and for liaising unofficially with the victims, is just an outrage. It sends a clear signal that it is business as usual for the States of Jersey and that they still have no real respect for the victims and their supporters. It also shows that they cannot bear the sound of independent voices that reserve the right to criticise the official line and provide their own interpretation of the given facts.

    Bloggers should be given equal access to facilities as the so-called accredited media. We all know that the coverage of this whole thing by the BBC, CITV, and JEP since 2008 has been a joke, so it is infuriating that they are given privileged access from the comfort of their armchairs when bloggers (who have risked their health, safety, and careers to get the facts out) are excluded. If the bloggers are not reinstated, there should be a campaign to withdraw support for the Inquiry.

    Also, Neil has a disability and in line with normal anti-disability discrimination, should be provided with any extra facilities he might require.

    Stuart's actions are a separate problem that should have been addressed individually and not used as a pretext to excommunicate the blogging community. What a disgrace!

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  6. Bob Hill says on his blog: "Having waited for over 2 weeks I can inform readers that the Panel has not allowed an appeal and has informed me that it is not going to alter its decision." Are you hearing something different?

    http://bobhilljersey.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/independent-jersey-care-inquiry-5-not.html

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    1. Rob.

      I have been asking how to appeal this decision since April this year, before it was even made. I was getting strong signs that the State Media would be, and were being, given preferential treatment and that Bloggers (Jersey's only independent media) were going to be marginalised.

      Of course events have proven my foresight, back in April, to be correct. I have sent a number of e-mails recently asking how to appeal the decision only to have that question completely ignored. I will look to publish the said ignored e-mails in the near future.

      In answer to your question, no, I've not heard anything different, indeed when it comes to appealing the decision, I've literally heard nothing!

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  7. Ah, Jersey never surprises me with its backwardness and its willingness to suppress freedom of expression. A new law has just been introduced in the UK giving any member of the public or media (notice, they are treated equally!) the right to report live on local council meetings (film, tweet, and blog): https://www.gov.uk/government/news/press-freedom-boosted-by-new-right-to-report

    The best way to resist this discrimination and suppression of your rights would be to organise a protest and boycott of the inquiry involving as many of the witnesses as you can.

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  8. PS That announcement uses a term new to me, 'hyper-local journalists':

    Following the passage of both primary and secondary legislation, the move opens councils’ digital doors, covering broadcasters, national press, local press, bloggers and hyper-local journalists and the wider public. The new law aims to end active resistance amongst some councils to greater openness. Councils have even called the police to arrest people who tried to report, tweet or film council meetings, or claimed spurious ‘health and safety’ or ‘reputational risks’ to digital reporting.

    http://journalism.about.com/od/citizenjournalism/a/hyperlocal.htm

    Weird, that we have Mrs Thatcher to thank for transparency in local government, or maybe not. How's that going in Jersey by the way? Can you film, tweet, and live blog from the States?

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    1. Rob.

      Bloggers are still not allowed to film in the States, and not even allowed to take a photograph at PUBLIC Scrutiny Panel hearings let alone film.

      The State Media has breached a number of Scrutiny protocols and never been held to account and are still able to film/take pictures. Bloggers who have not breached any protocols are still marginalised.

      Same goes with the Committee of Inquiry, State Media has breached protocols, to include the BBC filming in the Inquiry building, the JEP breaching Press Embargoes and so forth, yet do not get held to account and it is the Bloggers who get banned from the media room and not the State Media.

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  9. "Bloggers are still not allowed to film in the States, and not even allowed to take a photograph at PUBLIC Scrutiny Panel hearings let alone film."

    They don't like the light of day, do they. What are they ashamed of?

    Anyway, I sincerely hope that this ridiculous ban on you and Bob Hill is overturned. It will be scandalous if it is not and will simply bolster the impression that this inquiry is another in the long line of 'our-chap' inquiries that the States have held since this all came to light.

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  10. It is certainly pretty rich that the Jersey BBC who manipulated this were illegally filming victims INSIDE the Care Inquiry building - yet have not been barred by the Chairman? The Jersey Way is alive and well it seems and even has some new recruits.

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  11. Thanks for putting the link to the report by the ESC & Home Affairs Scrutiny Sub-panel. I had never seen this but just flicking through the pages it seems to me there is ample evidence here that Jersey's mainstream media have never been able to be trusted on the abuse scandal. This is an official report! What more does the inquiry Chairman need? Unbelievable.

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    1. The report has been described as the most defining report of its era. It demonstrates that the State Media is one of two things. It is either incompetent beyond comprehension or it is complicit in the Jersey cover-up. Either scenario does not bode well for its credibility yet the COI believe it should have preference over Bloggers (Jersey's only independent media) which, equally doesn't bode well for the credibility of the COI.

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  12. VFC you write above that "All correspondence to the Committee of Inquiry is supposed to be published on its own WEBSITE but the letters of support for Bloggers have not made it on there yet. If only they could act as quickly copying and pasting a few letters as they did with an overnight ban perhaps the Inquiry Team might get a little more credence?"

    Is it really true that the COI should publish letters sent to it? I ask, because the 15 page submission letter which I wrote to the chairman and panel on Friday 18th July, asking them 13 questions certainly has not been put up on the website!

    The gist of my letter was a) that the COI had put out the message to many abuse victims that they were not wanted at the Inquiry by focussing exclusively on "children in care"; and b) in doing so they had breached their own Terms of Reference and the wishes of the States who want them to look at ALL abuse on the island and c) that Jersey is a polarised society and mistrust is widespread and for good reason so their credibility is of the utmost importance. Those are all important, and true statements.

    No ruling on my letter has been published on their website. Yet they have replied to my letter. And the tone of their letter is pretty final. And it begins: "The Panel has given due consideration to all of the points that you have raised. It is their view that . . . . "

    I will be replying to their email, which is quite unsatisfactory, and have let them know this. But the point here is that their email sounds like a ruling to me. But it has not been published as a ruling. Why?

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    1. Daniel.

      Yes it is correct that ALL correspondence is to be published on the Inquiry's website which it clearly hasn't. The correspondence that has been put up is incomplete and very selective.

      It also appears that the Inquiry can make any ruling it likes and these rulings are not appealable.

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    2. OK so all correspondence should be published. I write a 15 page submission - 2 page letter, plus 3 pages spelling out my 14 questions, a 6 page appendix setting out the justification for the claims which I make about the way they are running this Inquiry, a 1 page Appendix setting out why mistrust in the political apparatus is so deep-seated in Jersey, and a 2 page Appendix detailing the times and places where the Inquiry speaks ONLY abouit "care" and "children in care" to the exclusion of all other settings within which abuse took place, thus sending a message to others who were abused that they are not really invited. (see footnote). And it is nowhere to be seen!

      It would be useful if you could publish where this requirement on the COI to publish correspondence can be found!

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