Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Deputy Montfort Tadier Speech P.20/2015

Following the success of Chief Minister Ian Gorst's proposition P.20/2015 where he was able to persuade the House to approve extra funding for the ongoing Jersey Child Abuse Inquiry, and we were able to report, in an exclusive, in-depth INTERVIEW with the Chief Minister, a positive message for the island in that our parliament has done the right thing. Although not all were in favour of the proposition, to include former Bailiff , and now Senator Philip Bailhache, who, by his own admission, was conflicted but still SPOKE AGAINST THE PROPOSITION regardless.

Deputy Montfort Tadier, as regular readers will be aware, has been a staunch supporter, and campaigner for the Victims/Survivors of abuse and was instrumental in formulating  the Inquiry's Terms of Reference. The Deputy, in his speech below, not only kicked Senator Bailhache's speech into touch but along with Chief Minister Gorst, and all those who voted/spoke in favour of the proposition, helped put Jersey on the map for the right reasons.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Chief Minister Ian Gorst Interview. (P.20/2015)

It is very rare that I am able to be proud of our States Assembly and congratulate it for doing the right thing. Yesterday was one of those rare occasions when 34 of Chief Minister Gorst's fellow politicians supported him, the Child Abuse Inquiry, Victims/Survivors and the Island of Jersey as a whole by VOTING in favour of his PROPOSITION and secured extra funding so that the Child Abuse Committee Of Inquiry is able to continue its work and I feel able/compelled to congratulate the States, as a whole, for doing the right thing.

Chief Minister Gorst stuck his neck on the line bringing this proposition against powerful forces in the background and had he lost the vote then surely his position, as Chief Minister, would have had to be questioned? This proposition, as mentioned in our interview (below) was seen by some as a "Gorst V Bailhache battle" and winner takes all. Now it is Senator Bailhache's position as External Relations Minister that should be questioned.

What the States did yesterday was to put Jersey back on the map for the RIGHT reasons. It (hopefully) sent out a message to the rest of the world saying that we will no longer cover up Child Abuse, we are ready to face the "mistakes" of the past, the Island is (to quote the Chief Minister) "grown up." If Senator Bailhache had of got his wish and halted this Inquiry, mid-flow, then Jersey's reputation (if it's possible) would have taken such a dive that it could have been impossible to recover from. Is this the kind of message we want an External Relations Minister to convey to the rest of the world on our behalf?

Senator Gorst, and the States of Jersey, have been the subject of much criticism on this Blog because we question authority and attempt to hold it to some kind of account, and will continue to do so, but credit must be given where it is due and it certainly is due here.

VFC thanks the Chief Minister for agreeing to an interview and having the confidence in this Blog to report fairly and accurately. Most of all we thank him for having the courage to bring his proposition, we thank the 34 other politicians who supported him, and the Victims/Survivors of horrendous Child Abuse on this Island. Yesterday was a proud day for Jersey and sends out a message of hope that the Island has turned a corner and "The Jersey Way" could soon be a thing of the past?..............Or am I being too optimistic?

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Open Letter To All States Members.

Today the Island's Parliament debate/vote on Chief Minister Gorst's PROPOSITION  asking the States to agree to extra funding for the ongoing Jersey Child Abuse Committee of Inquiry so that it is able to complete its vital work. Deputy Tadier has also submitted AMENDMENTS to which Chief Minister Gorst has submitted COMMENTS.

The Jersey Care Leavers Association (JCLA) has sent an Open Letter to all States Members which we reproduce (and support)  below.

"To All States Members 

Today you will make a decision on the extra funding for the Jersey Care Inquiry. It is to be hoped that this decision is taken wisely and with great consideration for the bigger picture that any failure to agree to this Proposition would have in several instances. 

1. The impact on the very courageous victims who have come forward with their evidence to the Inquiry. This has been extremely harrowing for some who have had to re-visit the abuse suffered whilst in the ‘care’ of the States of Jersey. To reject the extra funding would, to all intents and purposes, be yet another rejection for the victims. This they do not deserve. What they do deserve is answers and closure. 

2. To reject the Proposition would be unprecedented, particularly at a time when Historic Child Abuse is a very high profile issue in the UK at the moment. Does Jersey also want to be seen to still ‘covering-up’ its failures in this very sad and sorry saga? 

3. The ‘reputation’ that Jersey’s Establishment are so keen to preserve will be well and truly damaged even further. The repercussions will be far reaching and the matter will never go away, or move on if the Inquiry is thwarted in any, way, shape or form from undertaking what they have been tasked with in its fullest format. 

We would also ask you to support Deputy Tadier’s amendments, particularly the removal of paragraph (c) (ii) which we feel does potentially restrict the Inquiry in terms of scope and its independence. Whilst no-one would argue that prudence in financial matters is very important the ‘capping’ aspect sits uncomfortably and begs the question, can the Inquiry operate as they would wish without having to make allowances due to the restraints put on it? Nobody with an interest in this Inquiry would like to think that this could be the case. The Inquiry must be allowed to continue as they think best, whilst exercising regard for expenditure. Likewise, and perhaps more so, States agents, lawyers et al should be exercising the same caution. 

One matter that does rather stick in the craw, whilst not directly related to the Inquiry or proposition, is the amount States Lawyers have received in relation to the Compensation Scheme versus the compensation actually paid to Claimants. 

Paragraph (c) (v) is bizarre as the Committee of Inquiry have already been making use of various ‘reports’ etc. In fact, it is States departments which have, on occasion, held up this process by not always being co-operative in the provision of requested documents. It is such actions that undermine the Inquiry and add unnecessary cost to the tax payer. As such, this paragraph is unnecessary and its removal should be supported.

Whilst we appreciate the motives of the Chief Minister in bringing this proposition, and seeking to bring on board those who are concerned about costs, we have been disappointed by the machinations that have taken place with certain Members of the Council of Ministers. 

It is sad that this document has been lodged by the Chief Minister solely and not by the Council of Ministers as a collective. Furthermore, we were disappointed to find out that certain Ministers were asking to meet us to discuss ending the Committee of Inquiry altogether. As such, we have experienced renewed mistrust for the Government and what appears to be their divided stance on matters of child abuse, exposing the cover-ups that allowed it and potential political interference. 

The Northern Ireland Inquiry encountered problems in that their estimated costs also rose quite considerably . Below is a quote from the Belfast Telegraph that would indicate that the money did not have to be ‘fought’ for. 

'Costs for an inquiry into historical institutional child abuse in Northern Ireland could reach £19m, the Assembly has been told.Ulster Unionist MLA Mike Nesbitt, who chairs Stormont's OFMDFM committee, said MLAs had been informed in September that predicted costs had doubled from initial estimates. 

The Strangford MLA added: “On the estimated costs of the inquiry the committee sought clarification from the department whether the figures in the financial and explanatory memorandum of between £7.5m and £9m remained accurate. 

“Officials advised the committee that the estimated costs had been revised upwards — doubled in fact to £15-19m to take into account the complexities of the inquiry and the associated legal costs.” 

Mr Nesbitt said he was assured the necessary funds would be made available from the OFMDFM budget'.

It would appear that the reasons highlighted in red equally apply here. 

Finally a final figure of £50m has been mooted by Senator Bailhache. Interestingly there has been no indication as to how this figure was arrived at, no break-down of costs, or who actually provided this information. Scare-mongering is easy, but as with anything facts are required as proof. 

We sincerely hope that there will be no opposition to this Proposition and that there will be wide support for the amendments put forward by Deputy Tadier. 

Please think of the human tragedies involved here. Do we really want, or need to go here ever again?" 

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Former Honorary Police Officer Blows The Whistle.

John has been an Honorary Policeman (Constables Officer) for more than six years and has served in two different Parishes. That was until he reported his immediate superior for suspected drink-driving to the States of Jersey Police.

For the benefit of our national/international readers; Jersey has thirteen Police Forces. There are twelve Honorary/volunteer forces, which equates to one for each of the 12 Parishes, and the States of Jersey Police who are the "paid" or "professional" Police. The Honorary Officers are elected (mostly unopposed) at a Parish Assembly.

The Constables Officer is immediately answerable to a ventengier/Centenier who is answerable ultimately to the Attorney General. At the Head of the Parish is the Constable who also has an automatic right to a seat in the Island's Parliament.

It is important to note that the States, or paid, professional, Police DO NOT have the power to charge offenders, it is the Honorary Police, or more specifically, a Centenier, who has that exclusive power. Centeniers are more often than not elected unopposed at Parish Assemblies also.

We have interviewed John (below) who has decided to blow the whistle on what he, and many others, believe to be "an old boys network." After doing what he was trained to do (reporting a fellow officer to the States of Jersey Police) he now tells us that he has become a victim of whistle blowing and been ostracised. Fellow Officers, according to John, have turned their back on him, refused to go out on duty with him, at the time of the whistle blowing. John also tells us that these actions were supported by the Parish Constable.

After going through all the "correct channels" he has come up against a brick wall and now feels there is no other option open to him other than to go public and expose, what he calls, "an old boys network" that is the Parish system.

He now believes that if, as an Honorary Officer, you suspect a crime being committed by a fellow officer, keep your head down and turn a blind eye. (The Jersey Way)

VFC has not approached the Parish for a comment (who will no doubt have a different version of events, and strenuously deny the claims made by John,) but offer a right of reply should the Parish wish to make contact.

Time for a long overdue whistle blowing policy.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Jersey Child Abuse Rally 7th Anniversary.

As PREVIOUSLY REPORTED today saw the seventh Anniversary of the first Jersey Child Abuse Rally and it was marked in the Royal Square by around 50-60 people which included Victims/Survivors, Politicians, (past and present) whistle blowers and supporters.

Below are a couple of videos with the speeches given by, in part 1, Deputy Montfort Tadier and former Senator Francis Le Gresley. In part 2 former Deputy Bob Hill and former Health Minister Stuart Syvret.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Support for Jersey Child Abuse Victims/Survivors (7th Anniversary)

Deputy Montfort Tadier, long time campaigner for, and supporter of, Victims/Survivors of Child Abuse has issued a Press Release (below) calling for islanders to show their support for Victims/Survivors of Jersey Child Abuse this coming Sunday at 11am in the Royal Square.

Readers will know that there are political shenanigans afoot attempting to shut down the ongoing Child Abuse public Inquiry by certain members of our government, and elsewhere, by people who have some very uncomfortable questions to answer very soon if the Inquiry is given the extra funds it needs to carry on its work.

The world (and Victims/Survivors) need(s) to know that the good people of Jersey do not support a cover up and want to put the past right as best it can so we can once more hold our heads up high and be proud of our island knowing that we have done everything in or power to support the Victims and Survivors and to get to the truth.

Please show your support by sharing this Blog Posting/Press Release over social media and please turn up to the Royal Square Sunday 8 March at 11am?

Press Release of Deputy Montfort Tadier.

"Islanders are invited to congregate to in the Royal Square this Sunday morning at 11am to mark the 7th Anniversary of the Time4Change rally which was held on 8th March 2008 to remember the victims and survivors of Jersey child abuse, past and present.

‘Much has happened since that date, and with the help of campaigners, bloggers and former States Members, we were able to secure a Committee of Inquiry to look independently into these serious matters; to shine a light into one of the darkest chapters in Jersey’s recent history, and to seek to bring redress, justice and healing.’ Said Deputy Tadier, a long-time campaigner for Justice for abuse survivors.

‘I am very concerned at recent developments to sabotage the Committee of Inquiry, made by some elements that have never wanted the Inquiry to happen – individuals who themselves have questions to answer under the Committee’s Terms of Reference.

‘The Committee is just about to look at some of its key terms of reference, including [No 13. to] Establish the process by which files were submitted by the States of Jersey Police to the prosecuting authorities for consideration, and establish – 

 Whether those responsible for deciding on which cases to prosecute took a professional approach; 
 Whether the process was free from political or other interference at any level. ‘

‘It is quite understandable that some people may not want this to happen and will try anything to obstruct the Committee from being able to do its job.’

‘For my part, I will resolutely oppose any suggestion that the Committee not be allowed to do its job.

‘The meeting brief memorial this Sunday, will allow the focus to be put back where it belongs. On the victims and survivors of abuse.’

Anyone wishing to attend is invite to bring a daffodil as a sign of respect. And to observe a minute silence."(END)

Monday, 2 March 2015

Francis Oldham QC Letter to Treasury Minister.

As we reported PREVIOUSLY there are some concerns over the costs of the ongoing Jersey Child Abuse Inquiry and five months after VFC voiced these concerns the Treasury Minister, Senator Alan Maclean, got concerned and asked (as VFC had) for a breakdown of the costs in a letter to Francis Oldham QC which can be read on page 22 of the PROPOSITION lodged by alleged Chief Minister, Senator Ian Gorst, to request the States to agree to additional funding for the Inquiry.

Senator Maclean's letter started off with this sentence;

"Further to the Council of Ministers meeting on Wednesday 28th January and your meeting with the Chief Officer for External Relations and Constitutional Affairs........."(END)

Wait a minute! "your meeting with the Chief Officer for External Relations?" What on earth has the conflicted Senator Philip Bailhache's Department got to do with the finances of the Child Abuse Inquiry? What is Francis Oldham QC doing meeting with representatives of the conflicted Philip Bailhache's Department on ANY issue?  These questions need to be asked at a political, and indeed at a journalistic level, by the State Media.

Back to Francis Oldham QC's letter/reply to the Treasury Minister (below) which can also be found at page 24 of the alleged Chief Minister's PROPOSITION. Although I don't agree with the letter's contents entirely I believe it is worth a Blog Post of its own and broadly support it and will make comments below.

"9 February 2015-02-26

Dear Senator Maclean

Report on Independent Jersey Care Inquiry Expenditure

Thank you for your letter of 2 February 2015 seeking information as to the ongoing work and costs of the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry. I have responded to your questions in the attached appendices, which I hope will be of assistance to States Members in considering the way forward.

I understand the financial pressures the Council of Ministers is having to address across budgets. It is clear to the panel however that there are extremely serious matters regarding the history of care for children in Jersey which must be fully explored and addressed if the victims and indeed the whole island is to move on from what has been a very negative experience over recent years Importantly we must make a judgement whether current services for children are fit for purpose and provide protection from the failures of care in the past. We ca only do that if we are able to complete our Inquiry in full.

The scope of the Inquiry in terms of witnesses and documentation far exceeds the assumptions in the budget. In May 2014 I raised concerns about the potential cost of the Inquiry.

To date we have heard evidence of the experiences of 150 people who were within the care system from the 1940’s. Whilst there have been accounts of positive experiences, most of what we have hear has related to painful and damaging experiences. The first phase of the Inquiry has been slow and painstaking, not least because of the difficulty many of the victims have had to wrestle with emotionally in terms of firstly giving a statement and then deciding whether to give evidence in public. Given the history of these matters in the island our first challenge has been to gain the trust and confidence of the victims. The fact that in recent weeks more than 20 new witnesses have come forward is, I believe, a good indicator that we have made significant progress in that regard. Many witnesses have been prepared to give evidence in public of the most intimate forms of abuse and in doing so have demonstrated enormous emotional courage.

The feedback we have had from them as to how they have been treated by the Inquiry has been universally positive. Indeed, I understand that some have made this known to the Chief Minister. If we do not now fully address the question of why their care was so often lacking in the system over many decades we will be letting down not only the victims, but the people of Jersey.

This is one side of the story. Equally important is that we now move to the stage which provides the opportunity for those working within the services to tell their side of the story. We will also give those accused of abuse the opportunity to respond.

The Inquiry is also asked to consider whether decisions to prosecute were “free from political or other interference at any level” . As I stated in my address on 3 April 2014, “we will formulate our own view as the Inquiry evolves and when we have accumulated sufficient evidence. Only then will the Panel be in a position to make findings as to whether the process was in fact free from political or other interference at any level”. We are about to embark upon those hearings. It should not be thought that those parts of the Inquiry are severable.  We cannot evaluate and/or make recommendations in relation to any one part without considering the whole.

We have constantly kept under review the running costs of the Inquiry. Public inquiries are, as you will, inevitably expensive if matters are to be fully addressed. This is even more so the case given the very extensive Terms of Reference set for us by the States Assembly. Indeed, we have resisted pressure to add to the Terms of Reference. The nature of this Inquiry is such that the publicity it has been given and the confidence we have engendered  in victims has led to them coming forward in greater numbers than envisaged at the outset.

We remain fully committed to examining how costs can be contained whilst not compromising our duty to act independently and to give you a full report in accordance with our Terms of Reference. Our purpose is to establish the truth; the truth about what happened to children in residential and foster homes, how mistreatment of children remained hidden for so long and what was done when concerns were raised.

Yours Sincerely

Frances Oldham QC

Chair" (END)

Firstly Judge Oldham's letter has given me some much needed confidence in her and her Inquiry. Regular readers will be aware that we have (rightly) challenged a number of decisions made by the Inquiry and in the interest of fairness and balance should also give credit where it is due. Judge Oldham appears to be standing up to the Establishment and refusing to be bullied by them.

Some interesting paragraphs here;

"This is one side of the story. Equally important is that we now move to the stage which provides the opportunity for those working within the services to tell their side of the story. We will also give those accused of abuse the opportunity to respond." 

And this paragraph in particular;

The Inquiry is also asked to consider whether decisions to prosecute were “free from political or other interference at any level” . As I stated in my address on 3 April 2014, “we will formulate our own view as the Inquiry evolves and when we have accumulated sufficient evidence. Only then will the Panel be in a position to make findings as to whether the process was in fact free from political or other interference at any level”. We are about to embark upon those hearings.

So Philip Bailhache is running around SCARE MONGERING quoting (un-evidenced) costs of the Inquiry at £50m just at the time when the alleged abusers, and those working within the services, are going to be called in front of the Inquiry? Does he want the plug pulled before the Inquiry starts to look at the abuse cases that never went to court and starts "to consider whether decisions to prosecute were “free from political or other interference at any level?"

Regular readers will be aware that we were asking why No managers, Senior Civil Servants, high ranking officials have been charged with any kind of neglect, dereliction of duty or Abuse……coincidence?………..or “The Jersey way?” back in November 2011. Now in 2015 it's about time we got those answers.

A word of advice for Judge Oldham would be to make sure every "I" is dotted and every "T" is crossed when it comes to expenses because the Establishment has form when it comes to trashing abuse investigations over moneys.

This inquiry is about DECADES of covered up Child Abuse, destroyed childhoods and lives and how it was able to happen for so long, indeed if it is able to happen still.

Let's not let the Establishment, and State Media, turn this into a story about money as they did with Operation Rectangle or to quote the former Chief Police Officer Graham Power QPM;

The attempts to divert this debate into discussions concerning the trivia of expense claims, is a scandal of which all involved should be thoroughly ashamed.

History should NOT be allowed to repeat itself and the Establishment be allowed to get away with it a second time round. Let's get to the bottom of what went on because until then the Island, its reputation, and Victims/Survivors will not be able to move forward.

Perhaps the most important sentence of Judge Oldham's letter is this;

"not least because of the difficulty many of the victims have had to wrestle with emotionally in terms of firstly giving a statement and then deciding whether to give evidence in public."(END)

Victims/Survivors have shown immense courage in coming forward to this Inquiry and reliving the most horrific memories conceivable. They have been put through enough, notwithstanding the horrors they were subjected to as children, but we must remember they were promised in 2008 by Frank Walker that there would be an Independent Inquiry with no stone left unturned. They were then told by Terry Le Sueur that there wouldn't be an Inquiry. They were then told by Ian Gorst that there would be an Inquiry. Is our government now going to tell the victims/survivors that they can have an inquiry but a few stones will have to be left unturned because despite being one of the richest places on earth Jersey doesn't have enough money to put its past right?

Don't you think it's time to give the Victims/Survivors what they were originally promised? Don't you think they have been through enough? They need closure and so does Jersey.

For those wishing to give evidence to the Inquiry they can do so from HERE.