The panel of 3 lawyers, a lawyer’s wife and a nurse, has ended the first part of its look at the Jersey Crown Officers.
Your intrepid non-accredited reporter has attended most of the hearings which have largely consisted of lawyers and royal courtiers defending the status quo. Not too surprisingly, they did not have to defend too hard because the level of questioning seldom tested or stretched minds.
From the outset – when Deputy Bob Hill was in the witness chair – Lord Carswell made his bias in favour of his legal brethren and hostility towards most of the rest, abundantly obvious.
Lawyers talking shop – politely of course – has been the order of the day, so don’t expect too much change from this lot in September when their report is published.
The consultation process is not quite finished yet. Your reporter asked about the overbearing dominance of lawyers talking to lawyers and not enough plumbers etc taking part. Lord Carswell promised at least one general public evening session to come - so plumbers or plebs – there is another chance to express views.
However, it has been remarkable how little public interest has been shown in this most important process initiated by Deputy Hill (after a hard fought struggle).
The accredited media have predictably reported only the hearings with the Crown Officers plus a few other safe pairs of hands or VIPs.
The public have stayed away more or less altogether from the hearings – is this contempt for the Crown Officers’ system or the usual indifference and apathy?
The panel received about 45 written submissions according to those published on its website:
About 13 are from the “lay general public,” but since these are often just a paragraph do not generally contribute much to the discussion. As Mrs. B. Murphy wrote “It is my belief that the Crown Officers fulfil their roles well, particularly in these modern times.”
Not exactly a major contribution to reasoned discussion.
Jersey Lawyers 5 Non Jersey Lawyers 3 Acting Chief of States Police 1
States Members 8 Parish Constable 1 Ex-States Members 5
There is a degree of overlap because some ex-States members (like Reg. Jeune) are also lawyers and some Jurats have been States members or Honorary Police but the dominance of self-preserving Crown Officers (all Jersey lawyers of course), Jurats, lawyers and their establishment supporters is painfully obvious.
Thus the Bailiffs and Deputy Bailiffs, past and present, Attorney and Solicitor Generals (past and present) feature prominently and repeatedly along with the Viscount/Judicial Greffier and even the Dean.
Virtually all the serving dozen Jurats seems to have put their names to one or other of the submissions.
Group submissions from the Scrutiny Chairmen’s Committee (just single paragraphs from 4 Scrutiny Panels), the Chefs De Police (signed by Centenier Scaife), the Constables Committee (Ken Vibert) and the Honorary Police Association, purport to present a solid front of loyalty. However, the latter managed only to write that “The Honorary Police of Jersey support the role of the Attorney General and have no wish to comment further.” Again, not a very substantial or challenging point of view there.
The Jersey Human Rights group offered a unique submission from the more “progressive” side of the Jersey way of life but the more traditional, conservative “change nothing” lobby was overwhelming.
Lord Carswell had personally written to the Guernsey Bailiff inviting his comments. No harm in that – but did he write to any plumbers etc in that Bailiwick or even in Jersey, soliciting their views? The Guernsey AG and SG equivalents also responded as did an ex-Deputy-Bailiff.
Is this a case of all hands to the pump on an ancient sinking ship?
Even a UK Judge (Page) aka a Jersey Commissioner rallied to support the cause.
Adrian Lee, the UK Political commentator and BBC political pundit also offered. an academic analysis.
Those called as witnesses included only two “lay members of the general public” and one of those (John Henwood) had sat on the Clothier Panel.
All the other 30 or so called to speak were either lawyers (Jersey qualified or not), Crown Officers past and present, Jurats, States members past and present, Constables or Honorary Police, the Judicial Greffier and the Acting Chief of Police.
Can this really be considered as a representative slice of Jersey opinion on this most important subject? Especially since some of the Crown Officers have been called back to repeat much the same evidence repeated ad nauseum by themselves and others.
Lord Carswell’s panel, it seems, just so enjoyed chatting to them.
Strangely, the texts of the Bailiff’s and Deputy Bailiff’s oral hearings are not yet published on the website and some witnesses (e.g. Frank Walker and Senator Shenton) seem to have appeared as witnesses without having submitted written statements previously. Senator Shenton expressed some very interesting comments on the failures of the Scrutiny system – but who did he speak for and did he seek prior approval from the Scrutiny Panels?
Strange too that so few of Jersey’s so called “progressives” made any submissions at all or showed any interest in this panel’s activities, Why no JDA comment or participation, or the Jersey CAB or the States Greffiers, past and present?
Anybody interested in the future of democratic government in Jersey is urged to look at the website and study the written and oral submissions.
Note especially those from Bob Le Brocq, Advocate Kelleher, John Henwood, Mike Dun, Frank Walker and Nick le Cornu.
For a special treat read the written submission from Advocate Philip Sinel and wonder if he was invited to meet the panel!
For starters he wrote:
“Jersey’s legal system is, in its entirety, fundamentally incompatible with the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (the Convention)” and
“The attitude of Jersey’s authority in relation to the non compliance by the Island with the Convention is one of calculated defiance.”
AND THERE’s MORE.!!!
Remember the public hearing yet to come. You can still have your say.
We cannot wait another 800 years for reform.
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