LOOKING INTO THE MICROCOSM
THE DISINTEGRATION CONTINUES.
Another Jersey Politician Doesn’t Agree with The Leader;
So Let’s Unlawfully Oppress Him.
“I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: ‘O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.’ And God granted it!”
Though its genesis is disputed, the following quote is also famously attributed to Voltaire:
“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”
Just as is this observation:
“It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.”
I was reminded of these famous bon mot when observing the startling juxtaposition of the newly published report of the Commons Justice Committee – with the brazenly simultaneous conduct of the Jersey oligarchy.
Some people are of the view that the island of Jersey possesses political and judicial safeguards that make it a modern, functioning democracy.
It grieves me to say of Jersey that that is not so; that most of its incumbents in power possess neither the wisdom nor knowledge to recognise just how extraordinarily dysfunctional their habits have become.
You see – in all functioning democracies – well, at least all those I have considered – it is recognised that being the dominant grouping, does not confer upon you the right to then oppress and harass the minority grouping.
Most of us would recognise that democracies require opposition, of some description. And if the dominant group has no opposition – then your democracy is no democracy at all – but rather, a chimera; a simulacrum.
And that is what we have in the British Channel Island of Jersey.
Because in Jersey – so ignorant – so backwards – so wholly unused to that necessary function of alternative views; of challenge – is the traditionally dominant oligarchy – that they regard it as quite normal and acceptable for the majority grouping to use and abuse its powers – to intimidate, harass and oppress the minority grouping; the de facto ‘opposition’.
And we have had yet another example of such ignorant and dysfunctional behaviour these last few days.
One Jersey politician – Establishment Party member, Senator Ben Shenton – didn’t like the fact that another politician, independently-minded Deputy Bob Hill – had expressed disapproval and distrust of Jersey’s political leader, Chief Minister Terry Le Sueur.
Deputy Hill – like most islanders – does not agree with the frankly extraordinary conduct that has seen Jersey’s highly respected, decorated Chief of Police, Graham Power, QPM, improperly driven from his post – because the political establishment didn’t like him investigating their decades of failure to protect vulnerable children.
So, Senator Shenton reported this unacceptable “dissident” opinion of Deputy Hill’s to the ‘disciplinary’ body of the Jersey parliament – the Privileges and Procedures Committee, which then proceeded to summon Deputy Hill to appear before it – to answer for his heinous offence of expressing a disrespectful opinion towards Jersey’s Glorious Leader.
The States of Jersey’s Privileges and Procedures Committee is, to all practical purposes, a puppet-body of Jersey’s Crown Officers – the Attorney General in particular, who has an automatic right of attendance at the committee’s meetings. And, as though that were not bad enough, the committee, its Chair and the secretariat of the Jersey parliament all have to take any necessary “legal guidance” – from the Crown Officers – usually, the Attorney General himself.
The unelected and unaccountable, London-appointed head of the infamous “Government within a Government”.
The former Attorney General – only recently appointed to the post of Deputy Bailiff – being largely the driving-force behind the unlawful suspension of Chief Constable Graham Power – and a whole load of other obstructions of justice, too.
However, we must add to this that so archaic and decadent are the habits of power in Jersey, that PPC always insists upon holding its ‘disciplinary’ hearings in secret.
An utterly contemptible and preposterous state of affairs.
So Deputy Bob Hill – to his great credit – had the good sense and courage to dismiss this farrago, and treat it with the contempt it deserves – by refusing to participate in its secret hearings.
In response to the absolute refusal of PPC to embrace transparency and accountability, Deputy Hill issued this statement:
“STATEMENT BY DEPUTY BOB HILL
“Justice must not only be done, but seen to be done” is an important principle. It is enshrined in Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights that anyone facing a determination of “civil rights or obligations” or a criminal charge has a right to an independent and impartial tribunal, established by law, sitting in public.
Connétable Gallichan has written to me to say that “PPC has consistently taken the view that out of fairness to all parties and to avoid unwarranted speculation, complaints should be dealt with in private until the Committee has come to a decision”. I believe that this is wrong and not in accordance with Members’ rights under Article 6 of the Convention. The evidence-taking part of an investigation should be held in public and the Member against whom a complaint has been made must have the right to call his or her own witnesses and to cross-examine anyone who gives evidence to PPC.
Standing Order 157 does not state that investigations by PPC have to be carried out in private. PPC therefore has discretion as to whether to take evidence in public or private. In order to comply with the requirements of Article 6 of the ECHR, it is in my view necessary for PPC to take evidence in public. Even elected politicians have human rights! It is especially important that an elected politician should have any allegations of misconduct determined in an open way. The right to open justice protects not only the individuals whose rights are being determined but also the rights of others (including the news media) to be present to see the proceedings.
The Human Rights (Jersey) Law 2000 states that “functions in connection with proceedings in the States Assembly” are not covered by our local human rights law. For the purposes of this morning’s hearing I accept that this means that the 2000 Law does not apply to the investigation of this complaint by PPC.
This does not, however, mean that Article 6 of the ECHR itself does not apply.
Two all-party parliamentary committees in the UK have concluded in recent years that Article 6 applies to disciplinary investigations against MPs and Members of the House of Lords, even though the UK Human Rights Act 1998 has a provision similar to the one in the Jersey law (that “functions in connection with proceedings in Parliament” are not covered by the British human rights legislation).
In 1999, the Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege, chaired by Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead, a law lord, stated:
“Although proceedings in Parliament are excluded from the Human Rights Act 1998 and from the jurisdiction of United Kingdom courts, they may nevertheless be within the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. The existence of this jurisdiction is a salutary reminder that, if the procedures adopted by Parliament when exercising its disciplinary powers are not fair, the proceedings may be challenged by those prejudiced. It is in the interests of Parliament as well as justice that Parliament should adopt at least the minimum requirements of fairness.”
In 2009, the Joint Committee on Human Rights accepted that Article 6 applies to disciplinary investigations against Members of the UK Parliament. The Joint Committee concluded that the following basic rights of procedural fairness should be followed by a parliamentary committee hearing a complaint against a Member:
a prompt and clear statement of the precise allegations against the Member;
adequate opportunity to take legal advice and have legal assistance throughout;
the opportunity to be heard in person;
the opportunity to call relevant witnesses at the relevant time;
the opportunity to examine other witnesses;
the opportunity to attend meetings at which evidence is given, and to receive transcripts of evidence.
In 2002, the UK Committee on Standards in Public Life recommended that “evidence-taking aspects of the disciplinary proceedings” in the UK Parliament should be carried out in public. I understand that this practice is followed in the Scottish Parliament, where the Standards Committee of that legislature holds evidence-taking sessions in public.
It is legally and politically unattractive for a committee of the States of Jersey to claim immunity from the European Convention on Human Rights, while expecting courts and tribunals and other public authorities to follow the spirit and letter of the human rights law. Everyone, including States’ Members, should be entitled to the basic human right of a fair hearing in public.
To conclude: in order to ensure that the investigation of the compliant made against me by Senator Shenton is carried out in a way that complies with Convention rights, the evidence-taking part of the investigation must be held in public and I must be allowed the basic rights of a fair hearing that I have just listed.
Deputy Bob Hill.”
But Deputy Hill is not alone in having to take a stand against such Kafkaesque conduct by PPC.
I, too, have suffered various examples of tyranny-by-the-majority at the hands of this States of Jersey body. And I too have also rejected its non-justice – its secrecy.
In early 2007 PPC sought to oppress me for expressing a public opinion which the ruling, de facto party did not like. It, apparently, being unacceptable to engage in satire. And I responded to the anti-democratic, anti-justice, secret conduct of PPC in a similar way to Deputy Hill. I’m not certain of the exact draft of the statement I issued to PPC and subsequently published, having attended the committee – only to be told the hearing would be in secret, but I believe it was this:
“STATEMENT TO THE PRIVILEGES AND PROCEDURES COMMITTEE
BY SENATOR STUART SYVRET
The Privileges and Procedures Committee, having decided that this hearing shall take place in secret, and having done so without any prior warning to me, has forfeited any claim of criticism against me for my decision to decline to take part in this meeting.
In any event, PPC has no power or justification in respect of attempting to interfere with free expression by the elected representatives of the people, at least when such expression takes place in the public sphere and outside the bounds of, and protection of, parliamentary privilege.
PPC, when involving itself in events which have taken place outside the bounds of parliamentary privilege, is bound by the same rule of law as the rest of society. Thus PPC has no locus standi to disregard human rights, natural justice, freedom of expression and the right to a fair hearing when examining events that take place in the public sphere.
Therefore this procedure has no credibility, is illegitimate, and is unlawful.
My presence here in no way grants or implies acceptance on my part of the vires of this procedure.
My presence here in no way grants or implies the assigning of my human rights.
PPC has, inter alia:
1: Repeatedly refused to explain precisely what is under investigation.
2: Resiled from a previous commitment to explain the precise issues it wished to focus upon, thus again leaving me unable to mount a defence.
3: Has repeatedly refused to tell me who the anonymous complainants are.
4: Has committed a prima facie breach of Standing Orders itself, by acting on such anonymous “approaches”.
5: Denied me a proper period of time to prepare a defence.
The actions of PPC are not compatible with democracy, human rights, natural justice and freedom of expression.
I therefore reject any claim that PPC’s conduct, and specifically this procedure is legitimate.
Senator Stuart Syvret”
So – here we are – three years down the road – and still the very body that should be defending the rights and freedoms of the electorate – by protecting the electorate’s representatives – instead continues to oppress and harass politicians.
Perhaps if many more independently-minded members defy the Jersey oligarchy – they too will end-up being raided by ten-strong police squads – and be locked-up in tiny, windowless police-cells for seven and a half hours – whilst having their homes turned over from top to bottom – without a search-warrant – under the orders of the unelected, unaccountable Crown Officers?
At this rate – we may be able to form a ‘Government in Exile’?
By another curious juxtaposition – the Jersey oligarchy – in order to avoid a real review – recently appointed another Ourchap body – to examine the laughably incredible and unsustainable conflicts of interest that beset and hedge-about Jersey’s Crown Officers.
As though the concept of a separation of powers still required arguing about.
As though the last 200 years simply hadn’t happened.
And – you know – in the Jersey context, perhaps they didn’t?
What’s the betting that the latest Ourchap exercise also concludes that ‘everything in the garden is rosy’?
In straight defiance of all evidence and history?