Thursday, 4 June 2009

COMPLAINTS BOARD! You must be joking – Part 2

Yesterday we posted our comments on the dismal Complaints Board system in Jersey together with Deputy Roy Le Herissier’s helpful observations.

Today we follow up with Deputy Bob Hill’s comments taken from a letter to Greffier, Michael De La Haye dated 2nd June 2009.

Deputy Hill had assisted the complainants present their case against the Planning Department’s decisions regarding a fence erected at “Saval” and we at “The Voice” attended the hearing and tried to video the proceedings.
We have posted several previous blogs arising from this case because it raises many important issues.

Deputy Bob Hill wrote to Mr de la Haye regarding the Complaints Board for the property known as “ Saval “ and how he had assisted the owners with their Complaint which was heard by the Complaints Board at Trinity Parish Hall on Monday 6th April 2009. The result is recorded in RC43/2009 and he says;

“I believe it would be helpful to PPC if I reported my concerns relating to the way on which the Complaint was reviewed. My concerns are about the acoustics in the Parish Hall, the media’s request to film and the issues of the Human Rights Law.”

Regarding Acoustics, Bob Hill did not object to the use of Parish Halls but wrote that there were problems where the public might not be able to hear the proceedings because of poor sound or seating arrangements and concerns had been expressed to him by some attendees. He said that it should not be too difficult for the Chairman to ensure that everybody could hear properly.

Regarding Filming, he explained that he had been asked by Channel TV and “The Voice” for permission to film the hearing and he requested the Board accordingly. But this had been refused within the Parish Hall but that non-intrusive filming of the site visit was acceptable.

“Neither my complainants nor I had any problems with filming inside the Hall but concern was raised by Planning and in particular from its political representative. I gather that the Board is going to discuss the issue of the filming.
The Reviews are supposed to be public therefore I believe there should be no objection to filming provided it is not obtrusive.”

He further observed that “the issue of filming meetings is not going away” and that he was aware that this matter is already being considered by the Chairmen’s Scrutiny Panel and the Complaints Board but he believes that this is a matter “that it would be appropriate for PPC to ensure that consideration is given and that its decision is made known.”

Regarding Human Rights he wrote;

“Part of my case was that Planning had failed to respect the complainant’s Human Rights, in particular Article 8, the ‘Right to respect for private and family life’. The matter was included in my report dated 15th December. Planning had responded to my claim but was of the view that no violation had occurred. I do not wish to comment on Planning’s view other than to say I do not agree with it.”

“However I was surprised and disappointed at the Board’s response in that it chose not to consider Human Rights issues. As one will see at 4.4 on page 9 of its Report RC43/2009it states;
‘The Board did not consider itself to be competent to determine any human rights issues which might be involved and considered that, in any event, if human rights aspects were to be raised by the Complainant, relevant precedents should be presented by the Complainant or his/her representative.’
Human Rights are very much a part of any decision taken by Authorities and it is incumbent on them to ensure that their decisions are compliant. It is also incumbent on any Review Board to be a competent Authority.
I consider it to be most unsatisfactory that the Board refused to consider the Human Rights merits of my case. I had raised the matter in my letter of appeal and if the Board wanted precedents it could easily have asked for them prior to the Review.”

“The Complaints Board is intended to review decisions and it is inexplicable that it did not consider itself competent to consider Human Rights issues. I believe it is incumbent on the Board to have an understanding of Human Rights Law and if it requires precedents to be provided before the Hearing it should make that requirement known in good time.”

Deputy Hill concluded by asking for his concerns to be “considered at a PPC meeting” which he would be happy to attend and that he had informed both Channel TV and “The Voice” of his intentions so to do.

Needless to state, but we fully support Deputy Bob Hill’s efforts and applaud his open and transparent methods of proceeding. We hope others will lobby their own elected representatives and the PPC and that reform might be soon achieved with regard to the ineffective Complaints Board system.

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