Thursday, June 23, 2016

Child care in Jersey - So you think its all over?

The Independent Jersey Care Inquiry has now ended its consultation and public participation stage.
The Panel of three led by Frances Oldham QC has gone away to spend the rest of the summer and autumn writing their report and we await the outcome with nervous anticipation.....

But if Alan Collins is correct about the lack of a legal basis for most of the "detention" of children in Jersey care homes and other institutions over the decades then Jersey could be facing law suits and compensation claims that will make the Inquiry costs look very small.

The interview below discusses his final submission to the Inquiry on behalf of the Jersey Care Leavers Association and he certainly spelled it out  to the Inquiry Panel.

But, is it really possible that virtually every child sent into Jersey care, or detention since 1945 (ie within the TOR of the Inquiry) has been detained "illegally"?

Is it possible that the entire legal profession of Jersey from the Crown Officers and the Courts to every solicitor and advocate, the Police, so called trained social workers et al have failed to notice the lack of rules of procedure or the rights of appeal?

Alan Collins cited some extreme examples such as a child remanded for 1,272 days and there are many hundreds of such examples to test before a court.
Assuming of course that, like child abuse itself, such cases are not time-barred and that there is a tribunal empowered to consider them.

The questions posed by Alan Collins should be attracting the urgent attention of the Jersey government now and the public needs to be advised of the official response ASAP. This cannot be allowed to remain "in the air" until the Inquiry Panel forms its own view.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Harmful electronic communications and dangerous power-crazed governments....

“Sticks and stones may break your bones but names will never hurt you” was a childhood chant but whilst the advice was clear enough – just to shrug of silly insults – those in authority never had such broad or forgiving shoulders. They might also generally lack a sense of humour

Thus the use of words, - written or spoken – has led many millions world-wide to miserable “judicial” deaths or extreme punishments.

The allied tool of censorship has become the established means of control of soothsayers, political pundits, dissenters, liberal thinkers and reformers over the centuries.

Presumably it was always thus – but the appearance of the latest troublesome monster called “Google” has those in power across the world reaching for their armories of legal antidotes.

Now the whole world’s populations can potentially communicate their thoughts and aspirations to each other and that does not suit governments or those who exercise the power of “control”.

Such “freedom of speech and expression” has, so it seems, to be restricted.

It is an instinctive reaction – like trying to swat an annoying but otherwise harmless, insect….

It was the same when Caxton printing machines first appeared, when women dared to appear in plays on stage, “Oz” magazine was judged subversive, Lady Chatterley’s Lover obscene, Beatles’ songs unsuitable for broadcasting by the BBC and the words of “proscribed Irish activists” could only be mimed on TV screens ….

When Jersey’s first printed newspaper appeared towards the end of the 18th century, the editor Matthieu Alexandre was almost immediately arrested and prosecuted for “libel” for daring to criticize members of the all powerful but totally corrupt “Royal Court”.

He was financially ruined and ceased publishing for some time.

Now in Jersey we are told that it was the former) Attorney General who initiated the latest attempt to curtail “free speech” under cover of a need to legislate against “Harmful Electronic Communications” aka Google and friends.

Matthieu Alexandre would know full well the implications of the latest proposed law since it carries a punishment scale of 2 years in prison and an unlimited fine for those convicted besides restraining orders which are to be mysteriously interlinked to other, existing criminal law sanctions too.

And, as in Matthieu’s day, it will be the AG who decides who will be prosecuted and what level of punishment should be sought in Court.

Except, so it was revealed at the recent Scrutiny hearing, the “bar” will be set so high with evidential and “public interest” tests so onerous that prosecution will be almost impossible to justify in any cases. And of course the degree of any “offence caused“cannot be measured or defined and complaints can be made “by any 3rd party” against “any comment posted”….and nobody knows what “a reasonable person might find offensive” whilst the interpretation of “grossly offensive” is constantly changing.

Much of the case law will be derived from the UK where “contrary to the basic concepts of decency in society” is often applied but how might such a test be applied in Jersey - especially since the Jersey AG reserves the ultimate power to ignore such precedents and standards when he chooses?

There are no existing codes of practice available locally and no plan to introduce them – either for the guidance of the public or police, so these latest powers will remain vague in the public mind.

Proving Intent will be a particular hurdle – how can “mens rea” be substantiated in court if the accused denies harmful intent or even awareness of the offence or claims it “was not offensive to me”?

Many of those supposedly most at risk of being harmed – or causing harm – will be too young to face prosecution in the Courts of Jersey but supposedly (so it was claimed) be asked to appear at a Parish Hall Inquiry.

Such proceedings will inevitably be secret and even if cases did reach Juvenile Court, the names of those involved and the details of the alleged offences would be largely secret too.

Thus knowledge of the procedures and standards that are applied will not generally become public. Awareness will not be thus promoted.

It was suggested during the Scrutiny hearing (by Deputy Johnson, the lawyer on the Scrutiny Panel) that teaching awareness to children might make it easier to prosecute them if and when they transgress this law since they could not then claim lack of awareness of the offence….hardly a standard which lawyers and others apply to themselves of course!

In fact, it was also alleged that about 3% of the general public have “claimed” to be offended by postings that could fall under this legislation.

The basis of such research was not clarified and it is presumably unlikely that many such instances would ever lead to a prosecution under this or any similar law whilst there are already perfectly adequate remedies under existing laws and several prosecutions have taken place in Jersey.

Especially noted was the now famous prosecution and conviction of a person who tweeted about a planned explosion at Robin Hood Airport (under similar legislation in the UK).

That conviction was overturned on third appeal (the Twitter Joke Trial) when the Judge decided in 2012 that it was all just a joke and there was no harmful intent.

In this case there had been an enormous public protest against the conviction but the heavy handed Yorkshire Police had insisted on proceeding even after the Airport Security has dismissed the incident as not credible and the date mentioned for the explosion was already passed.

Mr. Chambers, aged 28 was eventually charged with an incident “that was of grossly offensive or indecent, obscene or menacing character.” His house was of course searched and all computers etc confiscated in line with usual policing practice.

He was found guilty and fined with costs and lost his job.

Comedian Stephen Fry offered to pay his fine and expenses and even the CPS wanted to drop the case at first appeal but the Director of the Prosecution Service (the equivalent of the AG in Jersey) resisted to the bitter end.

Alluded to at the Jersey Scrutiny hearing, though not fully explained, was the hidden agenda of International Obligations and in particular those arising from the “Istanbul Convention” of the Council of Europe which is primarily concerned with combating gender based domestic violence, especially against women.

One member of the Panel referred to having attended a CPA (Commonwealth) conference where questions arose about Jersey’s international compliance (or lack of it) and it is clear that much pressure is being applied “behind the scenes” for Jersey to step into line with the UK, which has its own international responsibilities for such territories as Jersey.

The UK signed the Convention in 2012 but has not yet “ratified” it so that it does not yet have full affect within its territories.

Jersey has not signed up for the Istanbul Convention but the Home Affairs Minister has claimed that this is intended, when possible so to do.

However, the Istanbul Convention has been introduced by the Council of Europe as a stop gap measure which reflects some of the protections established under the UN Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women” (CEDAW).

The Council of Europe (CoE) convention includes a specific monitoring mechanism GREVID which will presumably have powers to visit and inspect in Jersey.

A similar mechanism was activated under the CoE Convention regarding Torture which placed obligations upon the UK government and resulted in critical visits to the Jersey Prison and several reforms followed.

CEDAW has been ratified by most countries in the world (including the UK) and is a most important international convention – but it has not been ratified for Jersey.

It is a disgraceful omission.

In the meantime, Jersey has to appear to be complying with its requirements so far as preventing domestic violence is concerned. This is presumably why the opportunity is being taken to revise the Crime (Disorderly conduct and Harassment) (J) Law 2008 and why it appears to be so closely linked to the “fight against cyber crime” although they are to a large extent, separate entities with distinctly differing purposes.

The UK government clearly wants the relevant boxes ticked so that it can duly report to the Council of Europe accordingly.

Possibly Jersey’s delay is causing difficulties for London.

As part of that revising process, the punishment under the 2008 law will be increased to 2 years in jail with unlimited fines for breaches of restraining orders.

This will be similar to the punishments available under cover of the proposed “cyber bullying” legislation now being considered.

At Scrutiny it was not made clear why the 2008 law was being modified or linked in this way to the “cyber bullying” proposals.

The Chief Minister (attending because his Assistant Minister Ozouf was absent due to illness) did not seem very fully briefed and he had not attended the States Assembly when the “cyber law” proposal was discussed.

His team, supported by the Home Affairs Minister, left much of the explanatory talking to the AG’s representative lawyer.

In fact the “team” (about 8 in total) might as well have stayed in their offices doing some useful work and let the AG’s representative do all the talking, since he so obviously enjoyed so doing.

Evident too was the lack of consultation on these matters and the very poor response or interest expressed by the public in the proposals on “harmful electronic communications” that gave the title to this Scrutiny Review.

The Home Affairs Minister did not raise the matter of the twitter comments posted during her prolonged absence from the States due to illness and no other local “cases” were discussed either.

It may or may not be that the expression of political views and comments on political personalities in Jersey has attracted an undue or inflated degree of critical attention over many years from those criticized.

But, Google and friends may just be stimulating a freedom of expression that has for too long been suppressed and inhibited.

As always, there will be some who will seek to curtail that freedom.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

CIs COOP 2016 AGM - interviews with President Ben Shenton and CEO Colin Macleod

The Jersey part of the CIs COOP AGM took place at Hautlieu School, St Helier on 17 May 2016.

About 150  attended out of about 80,000 Jersey shareholders.
The President Ben Shenton and CEO Colin Macleod were interviewed following the AGM.....

Ben Shenton below
 Colin Macleod below

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Guernsey - Election Day 27 April it really any different from Jersey?

The following are interviews etc recorded on Guernsey Election Day 2016.
My thanks to all who co-operated;

Guernsey CM Jonathan Le Tocq returned with 1,342 votes in Castel Parish. He says he will now seek the job of "Foreign Minister" similar to that for Jersey
Part One above and Part Two below;

Russell Le Conte below was not elected in Castel and received 241 votes;
Caroline McManus below was supported by UNITE the Union and received 765 votes in St Peter Port North but was not elected - Part One;

Caroline McManus Part Two below;

Bob Lanning of UNITE the Union interviewed in 2 parts - Part One below;
Bob Lanning of UNITE - Part Two below;
3 Guernsey voters below from about 30,000 who were registered;
Some collapsed Guernsey glass - a sign of a collapsing agri-sector? - below;
William Le Marchant - the former autocratic smuggling Bailiff from the 18th century -
gone but not forgotten (below) ;

Monday, March 21, 2016

Jersey's Disability Strategy...another dream project that won't be funded...

Ms Hamon of the Social Policy Team delivered her team's Disability Survey and Strategy this evening to the Jersey Disability Partnership at the St Helier Town Hall.

It is a work in progress and the Disability Discrimination law won't be implemented before 2017/2018 at the earliest so this  dream is probably a long way off  realisation yet.

Bearing in mind all the other "strategic" reviews that are going on at the moment and given the lowly status of  disability issues, the size of the ever increasing black hole and the lack of funding from our austerity government....well this dream will probably vanish over the horizon and into the sunset eventually

How this all fits in with our deplorable housing shortages - especially of accommodation suitable for the 13 - 20,000 people identified here with disabilities - is another major concern.
But add this to the Health Department's care in the community project, the new hospital, reform of primary care and the ageing population....well it all looks rather incomplete and unrealistic...

Nevertheless, Ms Hamon's  interesting presentation was video recorded and appears here in 3 parts below;




At least our government has disability issues on the agenda...

Friday, March 4, 2016

Yet another war memorial for St Helier Jersey?

I am all in favour of more public sculptures but why the obsession with "glorious" war memorials?
I simply want to see sculptures that celebrate and promote peace and human rights.

Please try again St Helier.

Part 1 above

Part 2 above

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Jersey Budget Protest - Royal Square 15 December 2015

REFORM JERSEY organised a public demonstration in the Royal Square outside the States' Building to greet the government members as they arrived to discuss the Budget on 15 December.

The video that follows in three parts shows just some of the footage and amply shows the anger of the public towards this government which is applying an austerity policy and making widespread "cuts" to reduce costs.

Those on the lowest incomes are inevitably the most affected and pensioners are being especially targeted but the removal or curtailment of services as well as axing of jobs are all part of the package too.

With the approach of Christmas and the Royal Square being decorated accordingly the timing of this austerity Budget seems especially poignant the more so since this is the very historic heart of Jersey. Here the Government and administration buildings sit alongside the main church of the Island and are intermixed with Christian and Crown beliefs as integral parts of the political processes.

Thus the videos pick-up on signs and symbolism in and around the square which inevitably guide so much that goes on within the political forum and affect everybody in the Island.

Although some will claim that politics and "religion" are separate matters and it is s private matter whether an elected representative is a Christian or otherwise, the fact is that Christian prayers are said at the commencement of every States Assembly and oaths are routinely sworn by the Members of the States in the name of the "Sovereign" and of a Christian God.

A few Members choose to opt out of that process so far as they are able but when questions of morality, charity, generosity, care of the aged and such like arise it is necessary to understand something of the philosophical basis upon which decisions of government are made.

I suggest here that the Christian imposition amounts to hypocrisy - "humbug" - but I am not a Christian so have no difficulty in divorcing its involvement from my chosen political activities and I do not believe that it is appropriate for the States Assembly to operate as a "pseudo church" either.

Part One video above

Part Two video above

Part Three video above