The ‘Bailiff’ of Jersey, Sir Philip Bailhache.
Just a Few of His Gross Failures in Child Protection.
My Resignation from his Consultative Panel.
Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with Sir Philip Bailhache, ‘Bailiff’ of Jersey.
The Bailiff is the chief judge in Jersey’s judiciary – and he is also the Speaker in the island’s parliament.
An extraordinary conflict of interests.
I wrote about him in some detail in my post “A Last Desperate Throw of the Dice.”
Many of you will have heard a half-hour documentary programme about the Jersey child abuse disaster on BBC Radio 4 last Thursday evening. I’m sure you will still be able to hear it for a while if you go to the BBC home page, then Radio 4 and the ‘listen again’ service.
It was an excellent program and I strongly recommend that you hear it.
One of the people featured in the program was a parent of a victim of the Jersey paedophile Roger Holland.
Holland has just been jailed for 2 years; no doubt he’ll be out within 12 months.
The parent of the victim called for the resignation of Bailhache. His reason for doing so is that when Phil Bailhache was Jersey Attorney General, he became aware of the fact that Holland was a convicted paedophile; yet notwithstanding this knowledge he did not prevent Holland from being sworn-in as an Honorary Police officer, and nor did he go back to court after Holland’s swearing-in to seek that he be stripped of office.
Holland went on to abuse children whilst an honorary police officer.
In response to the calls for his resignation by the parent of the victim, Bailhache refused to resign, instead issuing a statement which exhibited all of the arrogance, hubris and sophistry customary on the part of the Jersey oligarchy.
I reproduce his statement below this post and below my e-mail to him.
In particular, I would draw your attention to the following short paragraph of his:
“It is unclear what jurisdiction in law the Royal Court could have exercised had these facts been brought to its attention the following week.”
As I have said elsewhere, Phil was never terribly bright. It’s openly said in Jersey legal circles that he couldn’t hack it in private practice – hence his “elevation” to the Crown Officers. But in this short paragraph of his we see displayed in all its appalling starkness his hubris and ignorance.
He asserts here that it is somehow doubtful that the Royal Court would have had jurisdiction to revisit Holland’s appointment.
This is a most curious assertion, and I will explain why.
I won’t go into all the arcane structure of Jersey politics now, but briefly, the legislature has three categories of member: Deputies, Constables and Senators.
The Deputies and Senators are directly elected members of the island’s parliament. But the Constables are “ex-officio” members of the States. They have a seat by dint of being elected as parish Constable – a position which included being the head of the parish’s honorary police force. This means Constables are classified as members of the parish’s honorary police.
This position renders them answerable to the Royal Court in a way that does not apply to Deputies or Senators.
So what does this all mean?
Some years ago, a now deceased parish Constable, a Constable of St. John’s parish, was convicted of drunk-driving. Following this conviction he was placed under ‘pressure’ to resign his position as Constable; pressure which he resisted.
Therefore he was summoned before the island’s Royal Court – and stripped of Office.
Now – I’m no lawyer, but I’m pretty certain most people will share my understanding of events when I say that it appears most strange indeed – does it not – that a man – sworn-in, and in post – can be stripped of Office for the admittedly serious offence of drunk-driving – but, apparently, the same Court cannot strip a mere Constable’s Officer, as Holland was, of his post.
Even though he was known to be a convicted paedophile?
Perhaps Phil has forgotten about this episode?
But having recollected it for him – we do have to ask ‘just how plausible are his assertions to the effect that the Court’s jurisdiction was somehow “uncertain’?
It just doesn’t stack, mate.
Until last Thursday, I was a member of a Consultative Panel which is appointed by the States to advise the Bailiff on various subjects.
The sheer hubris, insensitivity and sophistry exhibited in his statement was the final straw.
I resigned from the Panel, and I include my e-mail of resignation below.
From: Stuart Syvret
Sent: 17 April 2008 21:04
To: Bailiff of Jersey
Subject: Your Position
I write to formally notify you of my resignation from the Bailiff’s Consultative Panel.
Whilst I had little confidence in you as a person in any event, both your statement to the BBC, and the letter you have issued to States members today are really the final straw.
Quite what ’33 years of service’ – or “acting in good faith” have to do with a matter of this gravity – I’m afraid eludes me completely.
You may have been “acting in good faith” – but that is hardly the issue. The fact is your decision to not refer Holland to the Royal Court was gross incompetence. Most of us are accountable for our mistakes; people lose their jobs over far less serious matters. The fact that you are intent on attempting to remain in post – in this great peace-time moment of crises for the island – a crisis arising from an engrained culture of failure and contempt towards vulnerable children – simply serves to further illustrate your compound inadequacies.
If you possessed the faintest understanding of child protection matters – as a man in your position should – you would know – contrary to the assertions in your letter – that it has been recognised for decades that paedophiles remain dangerous; the nature of their condition dictates that it is so. The fact that your catastrophic failure occurred in 1992 does not, I’m afraid, furnish you with any defence.
It most certainly was known then that paedophiles remain dangerous.
It is not as though this is the only gross child protection failure on your record. Just from memory two others occur to me.
Your failure – when Chairman of the Board of Governors of Victoria College – to act to protect children – when it was known that complaints of abuse were being made – is another appalling example of the complacency you exhibit.
Likewise, your failure to administer a custodial sentence to a paedophile who was grooming and attempting to, essentially, rape three teenage girls goes further to your utter inadequacy.
Yet another example of your contemptible attitude towards child protection can be found in your decision to side with mob-rule by your oligarchy allies – and stop my Christmas speech, in which I was attempting to express some recognition and empathy towards child abuse victims.
The first time ever a States member had stood and spoken in acknowledgment of what had happened – and you stopped it.
Even though every single sentence of my speech was compliant with standing orders and the members Code of Conduct.
The barracking of me by establishment politicians was simply an assault upon democracy, free-speech and the rule of law. Something you were content to embrace – even though your actions had no basis in any recognised democratic procedure.
The Speaker of any respectable legislature would have told those members who were interrupting to ‘sit down and shut up’. Any decent Speaker would have told them ‘no matter if every other member of the assembly hates and disagrees with the Senator’s every word – he will have his say’.
But you – instead – as recently as December 2007 – preferred to silence an expression of empathy for abuse survivors – and, again, fail the vulnerable.
Even if your claim of ignorance in 1992 could be taken seriously – even if it didn’t exhibit gross incompetence of the most dangerous type – your recent actions show, I’m afraid, that you remain utterly incompetent in matters of child protection.
Let me give you some advice; your position is hopeless. Not even the infamous “Friends at court at Whitehall” are going to be able to save you and your colleagues this time. It really would be better for this community – and, frankly, better for you – if you just went – now. And took your colleagues with you.
Senator Stuart Syvret
States of Jersey.
Statement from the Bailiff of Jersey
my statement to the BBC of which only part has been reported was as follows:
“This issue has of course been the subject of investigation by a Committee of Enquiry established by the States, and the 2002 Report of that Committee is in the public domain for all to see.
I am afraid that it is easy to be wise after the event. My decision in 1992 not to refer the election of Roger Holland as a Constable’s Officer back to the Royal Court was made in good faith on the basis of the facts known to me at that time. With hindsight it is certainly possible to say that a different decision ought to have been made, particularly given the harm done to the victims of some of his assaults. We owe it to those victims to make sure that the Island is alert to the problems which arose, and to ensure that they do not arise again.”
The facts have been in the public arena since 2002.
Holland, aged 21, indecently assaulted a young girl then aged 14 but with a mental age of 10, by trying to put his hand up her sweater in his car in 1986. He was put on Probation for 12 months and received psychiatric help. The Court lifted the Probation Order after eight months because Holland had responded well to it.
In 1991 Holland applied to join the Honorary Police of St. Helier and declared that conviction to the parochial authorities. That application was not immediately taken forward, but in March 1992, the then Connétable indicated to him that, as a result of the conviction, he would not be accepted as a probationary officer.
In June 1992 the matter was reconsidered at a St. Helier Honorary Police Meeting. None of the officers present opposed Holland’s election and the view was reached that, if he was prepared to face possible rejection by the Court, he should be allowed to stand.
On 7th July, 1992, Holland was elected unopposed as a Constable’s Officer. The following day, the Parish Authorities wrote to me as Attorney General to give notice, in accordance with standing practice, that Holland should be sworn-in before the Royal Court on 10th July. I was not advised of Holland’s previous conviction and at that time I was completely unaware of it.
Accordingly the Royal Court was not told of the existence of the conviction when the Oath of Office was administered to Holland on 10th July, 1992.
I became aware of the conviction on my return from the Royal Court when an anonymous letter arrived in the Law Officers’ Department. The Parish Authorities were asked for their views and responded that the Parish did not oppose Holland’s wish to join the Honorary Service.
It is unclear what jurisdiction in law the Royal Court could have exercised had these facts been brought to its attention the following week.
Whatever the position in law, the facts confronting me were a man who had expressed a wish to give voluntary service to his parish; had been honest with the Parish Authorities about his conviction; had received psychiatric advice at the time of the offence and had been accepted by the Court as deserving of early release from a Probation Order on account of good progress made; had not apparently re-offended in similar fashion in the six years since; was standing for honorary office with the support of the Parish Authorities, and who had taken his Oath of Office before the Royal Court. I had to balance all those factors, when considering whether there should be a public reference to the Court.
I have said it is easy to be wise after the event. I quite understand the reactions of the victim’s father as reported by the BBC. With hindsight, of course, I would rather a different decision had been taken at the time. But, in context, on the facts as known at the time – 1992, when not as much was known about the long term paedophile tendencies of those abusing children, and before the rash of child abuse investigations which took place in the UK in the 1990’s – I hope the decision seems more understandable.
I have served the Jersey public for over 33 years. During that period, I am sure that I have made mistakes. But I have always sought to behave with integrity, which I believe to be the case in this matter. I have no intention of resigning over this issue.
17 April 2008 Sir Philip Bailhache
Bailiff of Jersey.