Friday, 28 August 2009

Children’s Rights on a Shoestring - The Jersey Way?

We at “The Voice” attended another Scrutiny Panel hearing today with Health and Social Services being in the “hot seat” but as usual it was the same “cosy club” performance and you would never have guessed that this little community has been exposing dreadful scandals like that at Haut De La Garenne (HDLG) and the alleged hospital “suspicious deaths”.

The Health Minister Deputy Ann Pryke seemed to think that although there was not enough money to fund existing services that her department could still cope with a population increase to ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND. The Scrutineers never really challenged this extraordinary claim and nobody asked either if the HDLG was a factor frightening away potential staff (as alleged in Guernsey) and neither the politicians nor their highly paid Civil Servants knew how many staff at Health were currently suspended!

Nevertheless, we took the opportunity to interview Deputy Judy Martin (Assistant Health Minister) about her progress with the “Williamson Report” and we remain very concerned that lack of funding and lack of urgency will ensure that Children’s Services are deficient for many years to come.

The Scrutiny Committee consisted of Senator Alan Breckon, Deputy Geoff Southern and Deputy Debbie Da Sousa. Witnesses were Deputy Ann Pryke (Health Minister) Deputy Judy Martin (Assistant Health Minister) and three senior Health Civil Servants. Two Scrutiny Officers were also present along with three members of the public including a couple of members from Team Voice.

Deputy Pryke refused to be interviewed but it was not all bad news because “The Voice” was allowed to video the committee proceedings, so that was a small victory.
Below is the interview kindly granted to us by Deputy Judy Martin.

Submitted by Thomas Wellard.

Friday, 21 August 2009

The Road to Hell (Jersey) Law 2009

We all know where good intentions lead us but there is a view that paedophiles should be sent there and some would even have them burning for eternity. It’s all very worrying stuff and there is no doubt that the population in this Island needs protective laws – but what laws precisely and what are we trying to achieve?

The Sex Offenders (Jersey) Law will be lodged soon and has been delayed for many reasons including that the “agencies involved” have not yet decided how they would operate it and what resources would be needed.

This is the law that proposes to create a “Sex Offenders Register” and will enable Jersey courts to make orders in order to prevent paedophiles from offending again. But is that just a dream in reality?
It is going to be expensive to run and in the first 2 years the courts will be catching up on the backlog of existing offenders.
And the law will enable orders to be made for the protection of children in certain cases even without a previous criminal conviction.

More legislation is centred on Proposition 121 which is due for debate in Jersey very soon. This arises because the UK laws will change in October so that Jersey will lose access to ENHANCED CRIMINAL RECORD CHECKS.
Enhanced means that additional information will be supplied about SUSPICIOUS behaviour which could render a person unsuitable to work with children or vulnerable adults (and work can mean voluntary or charity activities).

The UK system has been changed without adequate thoughts or consultation about how it will affect Jersey (or the other Crown Dependencies) so once again we must wonder why our
elected “representatives” and our expensive civil servants have allowed this to happen?
So now, all of a sudden, we have to agree to this Order in Council in a panic, just to maintain the status quo and so that we can continue to access the inadequate UK records system.

Another part of the package is the proposed Vetting and Barring legislation in accordance with the new UK procedures that are being introduced following Ian Huntley murdering 2 girls at Soham. There, the police incompetence over years had failed to log his previous activities and because he had no convictions, he did not appear on any register and was able to obtain work at a school as caretaker.

It may or may not be relevant to remember also that a police officer employed on the Soham case was subsequently convicted of child pornography offences so we should not under-estimate the scale of the problem that runs throughout society – both there and here.

In theory, the UK system will ensure that anybody working with children or vulnerable adults will have to be registered CENTRALLY in the UK and will be given a UNIQUE number so that their status can be checked by employers etc. Their status in terms of being barred or not may change from time to time. In theory, those who have nothing against them will be able to demonstrate this quickly. It’s another version of the civil servants favourite gimmick the “ONE STOP SHOP”. It will apply to all people already employed or engaged in sensitive areas as prescribed as well as future applicants.

It is not yet determined how the Jersey system might actually work in conjunction with the UK system but it is anticipated that Jersey will be fully integrated into UK Central but with a local appeals procedure. But how any Jersey tribunal will have authority to correct mistakes or decisions made in the UK is baffling and especially worrying.

Not the least worrying aspect is that so much information that is based upon a name or post code has been shown to be incorrect on computer files. And, with the complexity of spelling for many Channel Islands names - besides “Foreign” ones – and the lack of records for many people from overseas, working or seeking work in the British Isles, the potential practical problems are immense.

The Jersey Home Affairs Department proposes to put on explanatory meetings in September with regard to the Sex Offenders Law for both States members and the general public but does not have any similar plans yet with regard to Vetting and Barring.

Since the whole package needs to be understood and discussed from the outset it seems very silly not to have a proper explanation and full consultation facility offered ASAP.
It will be absurd if we lock into the reformed UK system only to find that it is incompatible with future Jersey Vetting and Barring proposals.

Proposition 121 needs to be treated with caution as the first chapter of a possibly very flawed remedy to some extremely serious problems. Are you sure that YOU understand what is proposed?
Submitted by Thomas Wellard.

Monday, 10 August 2009

No Credit where Accreditation is Due

As we all know – Jersey government already curtails the reporting activities of Bloggers – the Citizens Media – because we are not “accredited press” and are not supposedly subject to the same professional and legal constraints as the professionals.
Yet the letter from Constable Peter Hanning of St Saviour published in the JEP on 8th August 2009 HEREdemonstrates amply just how facile such claims are and shows yet again that the so called “accredited press” is
very likely to be inaccurate in its reporting and there is very little available by way of a remedy.
Constable Hanning bemoans the JEP for poking fun at the recent Visite Royale in his Parish and that “the JEP chose not to report factually or accurately on this scrutiny of the good running of St Saviour.”
Notably the JEP have not allowed the online public to “have your say” regarding Constable Hannings letter.
How ironic this is because Bloggers are being discriminated against at scrutiny panel meetings on the pretext that we might not report accurately or might somehow interfere with any video recordings that we make of these and other supposedly public meetings.
Dubious and discriminatory restrictions are already imposed on Bloggers and Proposition 112 is already lodged by Senator Shenton’s Scrutiny Committee to enshrine these in law. Yet no action is proposed against the JEP when it publishes false or misleading reports about a Visite Royal or anything else and the same double standard is applied to other media outlets in Jersey too. Why?
We as bloggers have not done anything wrong.
No complaints have been made about our reporting of Scrutiny Panel meetings
we do know that some senior States employees and politicians have personal objections to our activities and they are sufficiently influential to interfere with Free Expression and reporting for all of us.
Even Constable Hanning was strongly opposed to our reporting of a supposedly public Complaints Board hearing recently – so he is no defender of Press Freedom.
But we should take notice that there are no effective restraints on the so called “accredited press” and the idea that there are codes or professional standards in place that ensure high standards of reporting or remedies for mistakes – is just simply a myth in practice.
We say that a genuinely open and Free Press that gives everybody the right to express opinions and to have the right to reply is our best guarantee of our rights.
We do not need half baked legislation such as Proposition 112.

Submitted by Thomas Wellard.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Book Now for the VBS Road show

When did you last speak with your Parish Constable?

Well, why not give him or her a call now and ask to discuss Proposition 121 which is coming our way soon.

It is possible that your Constable might know what the SVGA or ISA or POCA or POVA or even the CRB are but my guess is that this is unlikely but since he or she will already have received a copy of Proposition 121 in the States bag of papers – well you never know…….

But be sure to suggest that your Parish should book the CRB Vetting and Barring Scheme Roadshow soon because it’s sure to be a sell-out and you don’t want your Parish to miss out this autumn when Part V of the Police Act 1997 becomes law and you have to agree to apply for an Enhanced Disclosure to stay in your job or when you apply for another one………

Oh, and why not ask if your Parish will have a branch of the new Jersey Vetting Bureau too because it could save everybody a great deal of time and money if you could be put through the vetting process in the comfort of your own Parish – among friends so to speak – rather than be subjected to an impersonal and anonymous “car wash” like process in the UK.

I say speak to your Constable rather than your Deputy or the Dozen Senators who “represent” you because he or she is nearer to the everyday policing process and will no doubt have a much better knowledge of such procedures. And who knows you might be related by marriage or something. Also, since Parish duties carry on all the year round your ever diligent Constable is less likely to be swanning around the Caribbean taking a well deserved vacation whilst the States is in recesss….

And talking of money, ask your Constable if the projected cost of this new Vetting Bureau at £98,000 for 2009 is for the full year because Proposition 121 will only be enacted after October so that the cost for a full year could be considerably more…….

And perhaps your Constable can explain why this legislation is in the unusual form of an Order in Council – like it’s direct from Her Majesty herself – so it must be very important. Ask how this works and how on earth we can possible refuse it if it’s really an Order from the Queen our Duke…….?

And why are we discussing it at all, if we don’t have a choice……..?
Submitted by Thomas Wellard.