28 March 2013

Option A: Clear. Fair. Simple.

Over the next few weeks, I will be making a series of posts on the referendum, to encourage people to vote, and to choose Option A on 24th April. Remember you have until Wed. 3rd April to register, if you are not currently on the roll. If you have recently moved house or have just completed 2 years in the island, it is worth checking your status. You can find more info HERE

I am pleased to reproduce below a very good letter by Grouville resident, Wayne Le Cuirot, who sets out a clear case for Option A as the only viable reform option on the table. 

The A Team is the official group campaigning for Option A
and is a coalition of groups and individuals from diverse backgrounds
and political persuasions who see fairness and democracy as fundamental to government reform.

'The forthcoming referendum on our electoral system has seen the debate focus on the future role  of the Constables. I do feel it needs emphasising that Option A, while the fairest of the three alternatives, does also provide the opportunity for Constables to stand for the States  in the  six proposed districts. They would also still be head of their parochial system to which they would  have more time to devote towards if unelected to the chamber.

In the rural parishes a contested Constable's election is the exception rather than the rule, indeed in the last 'General Election' three quarters of the Constable  seats did not result in an election whilst in St Ouen the parish had its first such election  in over a hundred years. The  dual role of the Constables as head of each parish's honorary system together with being a States member means that most people do not feel comfortable standing for the role. Contesting an election against a sitting Constable is still seen in many quarters as a surprising thing to do and often intimated to be divisive and not in the interests of the parish. Consequently comparatively few   elections for the post are seen whilst few candidates of any calibre are prepared to put themselves forward. If there is a genuine desire for all States members to be regarded as equals, then the ability of people to stand for such a role should be so too. While it is difficult for a Constable to claim to have any more affinity for their parishioners than their colleagues on the Deputy benches it can be seen that the great majority of issues debated in the States legislature relate to issues for the  Island as a whole and any voting system must reflect this.

The interim report handed to each household by the Electoral Commission  states 'if the Constables are included in a system of large electoral districts, it will make inequality of representation even worse than under the present system.' This clearly indicates that any vote in favour of incorporating the separate position of the Constables into the new proposals  will end up with a system less representative of its people than before! In a world that is keeping ever closer eyes on the workings of this Island, an electoral system that results in 12/42 of the members being in a capacity that rarely faces a contested election will be seen as a move away from a fair and equal system rather than a reform towards one. In effect we would have Senators who face regular elections and an Island wide mandate being dropped altogether to be replaced by a system with a higher proportional representation for members who do not have either.

The  referendum on 24 April can be seen as a most important election which we should all participate in. It should not become a debate  dominated by those who have most to lose and which on election day the Constables' supporters turn out to keep them in the States while the large majority of the rest of the electorate  show their usual apathy and stay away from the polling booths. Consequently by default we will be left  idiotically with  a representative system that by the commission's own reasoning will be worse than the present one and does not meet the requirements of the Venice Convention.

So why is such an effort being made to keep the Constables in the States while the far more representative figures of the Senators are being removed with barely a word? A cynical interpretation could lie in the voting records of the Constables, three quarters of whose default setting appears to be the backing of the large majority of proposed legislation from the Council of Ministers.  Even if as a consequence of future changes the council were reduced by twenty percent to eight ministers, with the combination of the eight assistant ministers and the reliable support of eight Constables any future Council would secure an immediate inbuilt majority by securing 24 out of the 42 members which may be  seen as a recipe for poor government.

The problem of an improved electoral system for such a small Island is hardly a Gordian knot of intricacy. The simplest solution is surely Option A whereby all States members whether they be Deputies, Senators or Constables  stand in whichever of the six already devised constituencies they live in. Whoever gets the most votes gets elected, every elector will have seven directly elected representatives who they could contact whenever they required and that perhaps would be how anywhere else in the world would do it, even Guernsey has managed to follow a similar process with success surely it is not beyond the wit of this island to do the same.'
If you interested in helping to campaign for Option A, then please contact christine@theATeam.org.je

12 March 2013

Keir Starmer, the Dean and the Jersey Abuse Inquiry

Former Children's Home, Haut de la Garenne, pcitured in 2008
Almost five years to the day that a rally was held in Jersey in support of Child Abuse victims, following revelations of widespread 'historic' abuse, spanning decades, the States Assembly (Jersey's Parliament) voted 43 votes to 0 to set up a Committee of Inquiry into the abuse on Wednesday 6th March.
Time4Change Rally, in support of Abuse survivors 8 March 2008

CPS Overhaul

Keir Starmer:
'We cannot afford another Savile moment in 5 or ten years time"
It was the same day that Keir Starmer, Director of the England's Public Prosecutions, announced the need for far reaching reforms of police and prosecution for sexual abuse offences, and just days before the Jersey’s Anglican Dean, The Rt Rev. Bob Key, was suspended for his handling of a vulnerable woman’s complaint of abusive behaviour by a church-warden, Jersey’s The CoI is expected to last one year and cost around £6m (full report HERE)
Jersey's Chief Minister, Ian Gorst

Jersey’s Chief Minister Ian Gorst said: “It is right for us today to approve this CoI but I don’t want members to be shocked by some of the stories that we as a government and members of the community will hear throughout that process, because some will be shocking.

“I hope the CoI will help us to learn lessons from past failings. As I have said, it may not be pleasant, but it is something that we as a government and as a community must face up to.”

'Persistent Lobbying'
“The Terms of Reference for this Inquiry have been disputed from the day they were published.” said Deputy Montfort Tadier. 'In fact, in late 2010, we were told there was going to be no inquiry. But persistent lobbying by campaigners - abuse survivors - Bloggers and a small handful of politicians (past and present) - has ensured that the final TOR are fit for purpose. No aspect of child abuse in Jersey will be overlooked. It is a great victory for grass roots democracy.” (see below for TOR)

Carrie Modral, JCLA Chairman
Jubilant child abuse campaigners welcomed the decision. “It’s a great day,” said Carrie Modral, chairman of the Jersey Care Leavers Association (JCLA).

“The police investigation came to an end in December 2010 whereupon our Chief Minister at the time, Terry le Sueur, tore up the long-standing pledge to hold a full public inquiry. Now, at last, we know that the CoI will happen and we are cautiously optimistic that the abuse victims will be heard.”


 Terms of Reference, as approved by the States of Jersey on 6th March 2013
(Parts in bold are the amendments secured by the lobbyists)

The Committee of Inquiry (“the Committee”) is asked to do the following –

1. Establish the type and nature of children’s homes and fostering services in Jersey in the period under review, that is the post-war period, with a particular focus on the period after 1960. Consider (in general terms) why children were placed and maintained in these services.

2. Determine the organisation (including recruitment and supervision of staff), management, governance and culture of children’s homes and any other establishments caring for children, run by the States and in other non-States run establishments providing for children, where abuse has been alleged, in the period under review and consider whether these aspects of these establishments were adequate.

3. Examine the political and other oversight of children’s homes and fostering services and other establishments run by the States with a particular focus on oversight by the various Education Committees between 1960 and 1995, by the various Health and Social Services Committees between 1996 and 2005, and by ministerial government from 2006 to the current day.

4. Examine the political and societal environment during the period under review and its effect on the oversight of children’s homes, fostering services and other establishments run by the States, on the reporting or non-reporting of abuse within or outside such organisations, on the response to those reports of abuse by all agencies and by the public, on the eventual police and any other investigations, and on the eventual outcomes.

5. Establish a chronology of significant changes in childcare practice and policy during the period under review, with reference to Jersey and the UK in order to identify the social and professional norms under which the services in Jersey operated throughout the period under review.

6. Take into account the independent investigations and reports conducted in response to the concerns raised in 2007, and any relevant information that has come to light during the development and progression of the Redress Scheme.

7. Consider the experiences of those witnesses who suffered abuse or believe that they suffered abuse, and hear from staff who worked in these services, together with any other relevant witnesses. It will be for the Committee to determine, by balancing the interests of justice and the public interest against the presumption of openness, whether, and to what extent, all or any of the evidence given to it should be given in private. The Committee, in accordance with Standing Order 147(2), will have the power to conduct hearings in private if the Chairman and members consider this to be appropriate.

8. Identify how and by what means concerns about abuse were raised and how, and to whom, they were reported. Establish whether systems existed to allow children and others to raise concerns and safeguard their wellbeing, whether these systems were adequate, and any failings they had.

9. Review the actions of the agencies of the government, the justice system and politicians during the period under review, in particular when concerns came to light about child abuse and establish what, if any, lessons are to be learned.

10. Consider how the Education and Health and Social Services Departments dealt with concerns about alleged abuse, what action they took, whether these actions were in line with the policies and procedures of the day, and whether those policies and procedures were adequate.

11. Establish whether, where abuse was suspected, it was reported to the appropriate bodies, including the States of Jersey Police; what action was taken by persons or entities including the police, and whether this was in line with policies and procedures of the day and whether those policies and procedures were adequate.

12. Determine whether the concerns in 2007 were sufficient to justify the States of Jersey Police setting in train ‘Operation Rectangle’.

13. 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.

If, for these purposes, or as a result of evidence given under paragraph 7, in the opinion of the Chairman of the Committee, it would be of assistance that one or more of the prosecution files underpinning any prosecution decision may be examined in a manner to be determined by the Committee.

14. Set out what lessons can be learned for the current system of residential and foster care services in Jersey and for third party providers of services for children and young people in the Island.

15. Report on any other issues arising during the Inquiry considered to be relevant to the past safety of children in residential or foster care and other establishments run by the States, and whether these issues affect the safety of children in the future.