Friday, 3 July 2015

The Parish Hall Inquiry

As the Jersey Evening Post reported:

"It emerged that a paedophile who was handed a life sentence after carrying out a sustained campaign of rape and sexual assault had appeared several times at parish hall inquiries in the past for a range of alleged sex offences against children."

"It emerged during his sentencing that although Bartlett had no relevant previous convictions, he had three prior incidents of ‘sexual misbehaviour’ between 1986 and 1995 all of which were dealt with by parish hall inquiry."

"The judgment said: ‘Almost certainly those cases would today have been charged and indeed would have been referred up to the Royal Court by the Magistrate.’"

Parish Hall inquiries in the 1980s could be rather informal affairs. I knew of someone who had left their car in a public car park, not realising that it counted as liable under the law for not having an up-to-date road tax disc - this was in the days when the law required an annual disc to be paid for and displayed. They thought it only applied if they took the car out of the car park onto the road.

The inquiry, where the Constable of the Parish was present, was a rather informal matter, no charges made, no notes taken, and the person in question, who was known to the Constable, was just told by the Constable to ensure they got their disc as soon as possible. It was a caution, but not in any formal manner. There was not even any requirement to check that the required action had been done.

Logs are kept now, and minutes are taken of the meetings, where there are two members of the Honorary Police present, one as witness to the meeting. Being a member of the honorary police now requires a lot more work, and adherence to legal guidelines. This is best explained in a recent letter by Peter Pearce in the JEP:

Letter From Peter Pearce.

As a former Centenier I read your leader `Did parish inquiry fail victim?' (JEP 12 February 2015) with interest.

It is clear that there is a basic misunderstanding of the functions and proceedings at a parish hall inquiry.

Firstly it should be understood that the parish hall inquiry is part of the formal criminal justice system. There are checks and balances all the way - to make the suggestion that the offender was `given the benefit of the doubt by an honorary system' is impossible. The report of an offence of this nature is covered by the prescribed offences legislation and therefore has to be investigated by the States Police. They send a report to the parish concerned with a police inspector's recommendation of further action.

When the duty Centenier receives a report his task at the Parish hall inquiry is manifold.

Within rigid guidelines passed down from the Crown officers he has to first decide if any offence reported to him is sufficiently serious to be taken before the higher authority of the courts. Having satisfied himself of that, he then has to examine the evidence presented to him and make a judgment as to whether or not it is sufficient to obtain a conviction.

If not satisfied he can return the matter to the States police for further investigation. When satisfied he can charge the offender and present the case before the court.

In all these deliberations he has access to advice available, should he require it, from the Crown Officers or the police legal adviser.

But there are further considerations. At a parish hall inquiry involving a child as witness to the offences briefly described, the Centenier has to consider the child's vulnerability, credibility and ability to stand up to possible aggressive cross-examination by defence counsel. A representative of the children's office would be present and to advise as to the desirability or otherwise of that child being in court as a witness and so prolonging, re-affirming and cementing those, maybe horrific, moments in the child's memories. Also, with a minor, the parents might exercise their right and not allow their child to give evidence.

In this sort of case the probation service, and other professionals, would have interviewed the offender and would make recommendations as to preventing re-offending and possible non-court based sanctions. A probation officer would attend and offer advice. Consideration of all these factors and more might result in a multiple year `voluntary' supervisory probation order being made by the Centenier with the threat of further action in the case of non-compliance by the offender.

All these factors would be recorded and passed to the States Police Criminal Records Office, the local equivalent, and part of what you refer to as the national police database more correctly called the Police National Database (PND) on the Police National Computer (PNC). It was from this office that the bare facts presented to the Royal Court came. On receipt of the result of the parish hall inquiry report the states police review the decision and have the right to appeal through the Crown Officers if they feel justice has not been served.

In my experience Centeniers make very few decisions that vary greatly from the recommendations they receive. My personal method when this rarity occurred was to seek out the reporting police officer, who had done all the hard work of the investigation, and talk through the case so that we reached a mutual understanding of each other's point of view.

I can only recall two instances of this approach failing, but, in both cases the police officers and I still remained friends.

In the UK these decisions are made by the Crown prosecution service and many of the UK based police officers I have discussed these matters with would much prefer to have a system as transparent and answerable as ours.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

St Catherine’s Woods

St Catherine’s Woods

On the hottest day of the year so far – recorded temperatures of 32C at highest – Katalin and I decided to have a walk in St Catherine’s Woods, where the shade of the trees kept it cooler than a lot of places on the island.

Strange as it might seem, St Catherine’s Woods is one location that I have never actually been to before in Jersey. It’s a lovely woodland walk, from the reservoir, along by the small stream, with the stepping stones to cross, up towards the path meandering past a wild meadow on the right. Although we didn’t see many birds, the sound of birds singing was prolific throughout our walk, a lovely sound.

At night, bats are around and Natterer’s Bat was recorded in April 2014. The more common resident is Soprano Pipistrelle, also observed in July 2014.

This site is one of the largest woodlands in Jersey and apparently the entire woodland and its meadows cover an area of 18 hectares.

During the German Occupation (1940 - 1945), a lot of woodland was felled for fuel. Since 1941 fuel had been rationed and by 1944 the Island's supplies were pretty much exhausted. It is estimated that more than 200,000 trees were cut down and sawn into logs for heating and cooking around this time.

A lot of trees were felled in St Catherine’s Woods, but a surprising number escaped compete felling. There are large multiple stemmed trees which were cut down during this time and have since re-grown, and there are many still trees which are among the oldest in the Island.

The wood is made up of a variety of different features - natural glades, fallen trees, rocky outcrops, the stream, a reservoir (with fresh water fish, and angling allowed by permit, and wet meadowland. It is considered to be the most ecologically important woodland in the Island.

In January 2010, it was noted that three trees were cut down, apparently without permission in St Catherine’s Woods and the Environment Department appealed for Islanders with any information about who cut down the trees to contact them.

As the JEP reported: “It is believed that the trees – an oak and two willows – were cut down at the start of December. The felling was discovered on one of the regular area inspections carried out by the department.”

But commenting on this story, the Chef Tenant of part of the land said:

“To put the record straight about who owns St. Catherine’s Woods. It is a number of landowners and a small amount the Crown. It is often mistaken as 'public land' - it is not”.

“In general terms the Fief de Rozel owns the North side of the stream and some 4 landowners the south side. Included is the Fief de la Commune de la Reine which gives a number of other major house/farm owners(Chef Tenant) in St. Martins the rights to cut wood , keep livestock and enter Mont Orgueil with a cart full of belongings during time of threat. This right is at least 1000 years old and is at risk from the SSI designation which makes no comment about this deep and ancient heritage “

“Without condoning the arbitrary cutting down of trees by third parties, these are NOT yet absolutely 'protected' by the Planning Department.”

In simple terms, in Jersey, a fief was a parcel of land, owned to all intents and purposes, by the Seigneur... In the larger fiefs, the seigneur retained possession and farmed some of the land, his domaine. Possession of other lands was given to tenants who held subject to the performance of services and duties and the wastes and commons were subject to a seigneurial regime

Ancient rights, as the case of Le Pas Holdings and the Fief de la Fosse have a habit of turning up unexpectedly. St Catherine’s Woods has been a a proposed site of special ecological interest for some considerable time, with not much happening to change that, and the possession of some of the land by ancient fiefs is probably one of the causes.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Joey’s Last Flight

Joey’s Last Flight

“An aircraft that has served the Channel Islands for nearly 40 years completed its final flight on Sunday. G-Joey, which has a fan club, flew from Southampton to Alderney and then to Guernsey, arriving 10 minutes late at 19:40 BST after celebrations en route. The Trislanders, operated by airline Aurigny, are due to be phased out next year, and replaced by Dornier 228s.” (BBC News)

The average age of the Trislander was apparently 37 years and parts and maintenance costs were getting higher each year.

For the technically minded, Wiki says this:

“The Britten-Norman Trislander (more formally designated the BN-2A Mk III Trislander) is an 18-seat three-engined piston-powered civilian utility aircraft produced in the 1970s and early 1980s by Britten-Norman of Britain. These STOL capable aircraft were produced on the Isle of Wight. They were also produced in Romania, and delivered via Belgium to Britain for their certification.”

I remember flying to both Guernsey and Alderney on these little yellow planes. If the sky was clear, it was a great experience, and you could see the sea and islands as you flew along.

I didn’t like it nearly so much if the cloud cover was low, however. Having just whiteness outside all the windows gave the cabin a very closed in and claustrophobic feel. Not only could you not see where you were going, you also felt as if you were imprisoned in a white void, and apart from checking the watch, had no feel of distance, just the drone of the engine.

Flights were regular and frequent, so even if it was foggy, they soon caught up, or they would put on a larger plane for the backlog. The planes seemed very reliable; incidents were few and far between, but I do recall one place having to do an emergency landing on the Five Mile road!

There was even a series of books about the adventures of Joey which we bought for our children. It was rather like Steam trains – these little planes had a charm all of their own. Like Thomas the Tank, Joey the Trislander had a personality!

The original series of six books saw Joey flying through thunderstorms to save Snorter the bull, tackling oil slicks, solving crimes and dealing with a mischievous stunt plane. The last book in that series was written by Peter Seabourne in 1982

There’s a lovely blog posting about Joey on

“On fair weather days, flights on Joey were wonderful as you got a great aerial view of the islands. But on days where even birds found flight challenging, Aurigny, apparently, did not. I would arrive at the airport and see all other flights canceled except there's. Like lambs to the slaughter, we would board Joey and be bumped, rattled and rained on; (rain drops through a center joint above). With senses reeling, shaken and disheveled, we somehow always got there...”

“During particularly challenging flights, Joey seemed determined to fly sideways, land in fields, or overshoot the runway: You can't see the pilots face as you sit two-abreast behind him; what you see is him appear to wrestle a the horns. Then there's the troubling sound of the engines; either whining desperately as Joey fights through turbulence, or sudden heart-stopping splutters as Joey drops a few hundred feet.”

“Since the advent of Joey, a series of children's fiction books have been written about this little airplane and his courageous adventures. In truth, I could write a few factual, equally adventurous stories about the courage of the passengers!”

Farewell, Joey. We shall miss you.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

The Eurovision Tax Haven Blacklist

The Eurovision Tax Haven Blacklist

I’ve been looking at the recently published EU Blacklist, and there are some interesting features of the finer detail.

Jersey is listed by Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Portugal and Spain,

Guernsey is listed by, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Poland (Sark only), Portugal and Spain

Isle of Man is listed by, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal and, Spain

It is notable that economies like France which are stronger and our close neighbour – despite issues in the past – do not list Jersey:

France lists, Botswana, British Virgin Islands, Brunei, Guatemala, Marshall Islands, Montserrat, Nauru, Niue

And the same is true of Germany – no listing of the Crown Dependencies.

So what is going on? Precisely what credibility can we give to economies like Greece, for example, which are hardly shining examples of economic rectitude?

Costas Meghir, Professor of Economics at Yale University recently described the Greek economy in these terms:

“Greece has no tradable goods sector to speak of. In other words Greece cannot export much except for some agricultural products and, of course, tourism. Both are low value added and belong to sectors exposed to intense international competition....There is no serious export sector to respond to this decline in costs because overregulation of the Greek economy, corruption and bureaucracy prevents serious investment from taking place.”

He suggests that one of the ways Greece can improve is as follows: “Corruption should be stamped out and tax evasion should be credibly pursued across all income and professional groups.” And he notes that there is “rampant tax evasion” in Greece.

And this is a country putting Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man on a blacklist!

The Guernsey Press comments:

“No problems from Germany or France, instead Guernsey is skewered by Greece, Spain and Portugal, each of which has bigger issues on their economic plates than finding time to sign tax agreements with a small island in the Channel. And by using out-of-date information, Italy, with whom Guernsey has signed a tax agreement, is also drawn into the net.”

Bermuda notes that:

"At least five of those 11 EU member states that have us on their national blacklist have not performed their obligations in one way or the other. Two of the five were to give beneficial recognition to the Multilateral Tax Convention in their blacklist criteria; one is still in the process of considering recognition of the Multilateral Convention; one has not kept their promise to send Bermuda documents to sign to take us off their list; ... one of the two EU member states I earlier mentioned has not even signed up to the Multilateral Tax Convention, and one publicly announced earlier this year that it had taken Bermuda off its blacklist."

It is notable that the former Netherlands Antilles (also named the Dutch Antilles) are still blacklisted as such by 8 EU member states - although they have been dissolved on 10 October 2010!

When we come to look at Spain, their list seems to include any place they can think of!

Spain lists Andorra, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Brunei, Cayman Islands, Cook Islands, Curacao and Sint Maarten, Dominican Republic, Falkland Islands, Fiji, Gibraltar, Grenada, Guernsey, Hong Kong, Isle of Man, Jamaica, Jersey, Jordan, Lebanon, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Macau, Mauritius, Monaco, Montserrat, Nauru,, Northern Mariana Islands, Oman, Panama, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Seychelles, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, US Virgin Islands, United Arab Emirates, Vanuatu.

Meanwhile Spain is still annoyed. Although they flagged up Gibraltar, too few other EU countries did, and Spanish Treasury Minister Cristobal Montoro said Spain has “more than sufficient reason to view the Gibraltar as a tax haven.” I think it is pretty clear that politics is playing a part in this rather than any criterion!

Meanwhile Spain has to contend with “Unexplained payments to public officials received from Switzerland, shares in obscure wind farm companies resold for hundreds, even thousands of times the initial capital invested, home mortgages paid off by opaque entities, homes renovated by generous donators, etc. Some names and amounts are already known, but these suspected officials decline to comment. One of them now lives in Poland.”

The Spanish blacklist is probably a very good way of burying bad news.

Commenting on the list, Pierre Moscovici, the EU's top tax official, said: “"Our citizens can no longer tolerate that certain companies, often the most prosperous, avoid fair tax contributions and that certain tax regimes encourage them on this path"

And yet the list was designed to exclude any voting on fellow EU states, where some of the most flagrant avoidance of tax by companies takes place! This gives a very distorted picture.

Meanwhile, with considerably less fuss and media press releases, as the Jamaican observer notes:

“The Commission also opened tax investigations last year into Apple in Ireland, Starbucks in the Netherlands, and Amazon in Luxembourg. On June 8, it set a one-month deadline for Estonia and Poland to provide long-overdue information about their tax practices or face court action”

Poland, it may be noted, was a country listing Sark!

The Guardian was even more scathing on the lists:

“A blacklist of the world’s 30 worst-offending tax havens, published on Wednesday by the European commission, includes the tiny Polynesian island of Niue, where 1,400 people live in semi-subsistence — but does not include Luxembourg, the EU’s wealthy tax avoidance hub.”

“Niue, situated east of Tonga in the Pacific Ocean, has appeared on tax haven lists before. But the island, which has an economic output estimated at just $10m (£6.3m) a year, has rarely been cast as a major threat to the tax receipts of Europe’s largest economies.”

Avinash Persaud, commenting on the list, noted the lack of publicity to “in house” tax avoidance:

“The Netherlands, Ireland, and Luxembourg are under investigation by the EU Competition authorities for facilitating aggressive tax avoidance that formed the basis of their own international financial centres. These investigations followed the leaking of documents to journalists that showed Luxembourg had entered into 548 private tax rulings between 2009 and 2013 to allow 340 of the largest companies in the world to avoid paying taxes in EU countries." 

"The companies included Pepsi, Amazon, Walt Disney, Procter & Gamble, IKEA, Heinz, Deutsche Bank, and J.P. Morgan. Yet Luxembourg, Ireland, and the Netherlands are not on the European Union’s list. Instead of tarring and feathering the countries representing the greatest source of tax losses to the European Union, they have chosen to be judge and jury over 30 small countries, powerless to defend themselves against wrongful accusations.”

“The European Union’s actions would make former FIFA vice president Jack Warner blush: be thick in the middle of hundreds of deals avoiding billions of taxes, then accuse Niue, a Pacific island state with a GDP of $10 million, as a major threat to the tax receipts of European governments”

“Incidentally, FIFA, under investigation for corruption and bribery, is headquartered in Switzerland, another country that does not appear on the EU list. The European Union is saying that Swiss activities are far less a threat to EU tax revenues than those that take place in Niue, Montserrat, Liberia, Vanuatu, St. Vincent, St. Kitts, and the Cook Islands.”

The list resembles nothing so much as a Eurovision Song Contest, where the quality of songs doesn’t have as much to do with the ratings as political point scoring. A document which gives details of criteria used to assess countries on the lists gives no real details at all. What we need, above all, is not list listings, but details. If there is cause for concern – this country on the list fails to measure up because of x, y, and z.

That – to be fair – was why Jersey was temporarily on a French blacklist. It was a case involving a TIEA in which the French authorities took the position that the Jersey courts were dragging their heels and essentially trying to avoid compliance. Jersey has reviewed the processes it used to deal with tax information requests, and subsequent changes to the law limited the ability of those who are the subject of a TIEA request to appeal to the Jersey courts.

It was a bit of a shock for Jersey to be on a list, but the reasons were clear, and the changes made were agreed with the French authorities, and as a result the position regarding TIEAs is more robust.

But this list has no examples, nothing apart from a blanket prescription to those on the list to “clean up their act”.

The “Discussion paper on criteria applied by EU Member States to establish lists of non-cooperative jurisdictions” which is the closest we get to methodology gives no details, but does note the following rather damming points:

“Member States apply a range of criteria in assessing other countries' tax systems, which may raise an issue of relevance of the criteria chosen.”

“Member States' assessments under identical or similar criteria vary quite significantly, which may raise an issue of consistency”

Pascal Saint-Amans, the OECD’s top tax official, said:

“As the OECD and the Global Forum we would like to confirm that the only agreeable assessment of countries as regards their cooperation is made by the Global Forum and that a number of countries identified in the EU exercise are either fully or largely compliant and have committed to AEOI, sometimes even as early adopters”

“Without prejudice to countries' sovereign positions, we are happy to confirm that these jurisdictions are cooperative and we would like to commend the tremendous progress made over the past years as well as the cooperation and integrity of the Global Forum process”

“In addition, the inclusion of harmful tax practices or "other criterion" in determining inclusion in a national blacklist makes it impossible to determine how this independently reflects on a jurisdiction compliance with the Global Forum standards.”

In conclusion, the EU Tax List lacks any transparency, consistency, appears to be politically motivated in some listings, and may even be used to draw attention away from internal defects of tax systems within the EU, which have not received such a high profile and headline news.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Sir John Lanier by A.C. Saunders

Some more from A.C. Saunders “History of Jersey in the 17th Century”.

A few notes.

A "tod" is an old English measure of weight, usually of wool, containing two stone or 28 pounds (13 kg).

Currency is in pre-decimal English sterling - 12 pence (12d) = 1 shilling (1 s, sometimes put as 1/), 20 shillings equal 1 point (£1). The pound has changed value, but still remains.

Spellings are as original in Saunders per the documents. A cautionary note for grammatical and spelling fanatics - the language and grammar of the 17th century in the Island was still very much in a state of flux, and the Jersey spellings appear to follow a phonetic pattern. In particular note the final ‘silent’ "e" -which was sometimes a acting as a marker of a ‘long’ vowel in the preceding syllable.

Sir John Lanier by A.C. Saunders

In the 16th May 1679, Sir John Lanier was sworn in as 0 governor of the Island. He was a very distinguished soldier, who had fought under Monmouth in France where he had lost an eye. He did not remain long in the Island, but during that time he was very unpopular and was always in opposition to the Bailiff and Jurats.

In 1684 the opportunity was taken by the death of the Earl of St. Albans, who had in 1665 sold his life interest in the governorship of Jersey for an annuity of £1,000 a year, to appoint Lord Jermyn to be Governor and Lanier was recalled. He was made Colonel of the Queen's Regiment, afterwards 1st Dragoon Guards, and in 1688 promoted to be a Lieutenant General. He did good service in Ireland, and was at the Battle of the Boyne and later on became General in Flanders but being very severely wounded at the Battle of Steenskirk on the 3rd August 1692; he died a few days later.

During his early career as Governor of Jersey, he was so frequently away from his post, that an Order in Council was issued on the 28th July 1681, directing him to return to his post, and it was further directed that no Governor must leave his command without special leave.

The dispute between the late Governor, and the Bailiff and Jurats continued, the one asserting certain rights which the other side disputed. The Governor, who had been accustomed to order men to do this and that, irrespective of right or wrong, took very badly the opposition offered to him by the Bailiff and Jurats. His proposals were met by a quotation from the ancient laws of the Island, which limited the power of the Governor and possibly much irritation was caused by a considerable lack of tact on both sides.

At any rate when Bailiff Edward de Carteret supported by Jurats Charles do Carteret, Philip Payn, George Dumaresq, J. Poingdestre. Ph. Le Geyt, D. Bandinel, E. Bisson, Ph. de Carteret, Dean C. Le Couteur, Thos. Poingdextre, Recteur de St.-Sauveur, A. de Carteret, J. La Cloche, G. La Cloche, Ph. Richardson, Constable of St. Martin and Ph. Robin, Constable of St. Pierre lodged their humble remonstrance for themselves and the rest of the inhabitants of the Island and they certainly made statements which proved how much they disapproved of the conduct of their Governor. In the same remonstrance they had called attention to the many irregularities which had taken place during the time Sir Thomas Morgan was in Military charge of the Island.

As we have seen in a previous chapter, the Bailiff and his friends had lodged a complaint which had been read at a meeting of the Privy Council held on 24th May 1679, and their Lordships had directed that such grievances should be redressed and the order was registered in the Royal Court. However Sir John objected to the Order and obtained a suspension of same " pretending Y they had ben obtayned unknowne to him, & Y they conteined an empairement of his just dues, & were contrary to Yo. Ma. Service."

At first Sir John had assured Sir Philip and Sir Edward de Carteret " of his pticular furtherance of all Y blight conduce to Ye good of Ye Island." But evidently on second thoughts, he saw that if the said order was put in force the privileges of his office would be considerably curtailed ; therefore, we find that from henceforth he and the Bailiff were fighting for what each considered to be his just right and privilege.

In their reply to the Privy Council, they submitted a " fewe reflexions upon the subject " and blamed Sir John if they had to cast blame upon his predecessor, although they had refrained from complaining against Sir Thomas, at a time of danger, when wee thought more expedient for Yor service to endure those pressures from a person otherwise useful to this place, than to overhasten them."

The danger was not so pressing and the fear of invasion was passing by, and thus the military qualification of the Governor were held in lesser value. We must also remember that the tendency of the age was to get as much as possible by any means available, and the Governors probably found it somewhat difficult to keep up their positions in the Island on the regulated pay allowed to them. They were anxious to benefit by as many perquisites as possible.

Charles had granted to Mr. O'Neale, the power to levy a tonnage due on vessels for his lifetime, and the Governors, at his death, considered that they had a right to continue collecting the Revenues as a perquisite of their office. This was one of the complaints, which by their order of the 21st May, the

Privy Council had decided that the authority by which it was levied in the first instance in Jersey had not been sufficient, and that such authority should have been issued by Letters Patent under the great seal of England. They also pointed out, that the levying of the said tonnage dues was unpopular, and was against the interests of the Island.

Then they had the grievance of the 500 tods of wool which Sir John wished to continue. The Bailiff pointed out that Jersey wool was first used in the manufacture of stockings about the year 1599, and that as the trade increased, King James had first granted the Islanders a licence to import.400 tods out of England, and King Charles of blessed memory had added another 600 tods to the amount. That the " Usurper " had doubled the amount, and the allowance had been continued by King Charles II.

It was therefore very unfair for any Governor, to claim one quarter of their allowance as his perquisite, and sell the same at 2/6 a tod to any person in Jersey or England, who was willing to pay this amount, and thereby deprive the Islanders of their just allowance under the licence. There is no doubt that the Bailiff and Jurats were right in contending against the evil practice which had grown up, and they justly contended that such dues to the Governor could only be allowed, if supported by an Order under the Great Seal of England.

Sir John was following the action of previous Governors, and resented any question of his collecting the dues.

Then they questioned his rights to issue certificates for goods landed in the Island. They contended that although it was necessary, in his military capacity, for him to know what was being brought to Jersey, yet the Bailiff and Jurats had more permanent interest in the Island, and were better qualified to see that the regulations were properly carried out.

They also objected to his having the sole right to issue passports to ships, and passengers, and the seizure of ships and goods without an order from the Royal Court.. They also strongly objected to his having the appointment of the " Customer who should be an officer of great trust and authoritye having a large power to exercise either in good or evill, is at Yr sole and entire disposall of Ye Governor who placeth in each part a common soldier without any knowledge of Yor Royall Court or any oath taken there of faithfully discharging his Trust. And if he finds them not for turn, turns them out at pleasure."

No wonder there was unanimity among the Justices of the Island in fearing that the Governors were endeavouring to return to those old days when Bailiff Herault had fought their battles so yell. They were determined that the orders of the Privy Council on the subject should be upheld to the letter, and the Governor restrained from taking action outside the duties of his Office.

They had a grievance contained in twenty-nine articles, and the Bailiff and Jurats justified themselves by producing evidence that the Governors were attempting to encroach upon the privileges of the Royal Court to the great disadvantage of the people of the Island.

Lanier was a military man who had seen much good service and met many people. Probably he thought that he could carry on as he was accustomed to as a senior officer in the army, where whatever order he issued was immediately carried out and possibly he could not understand the Jersey character, and more or less looked down upon the Jersey laws and customs, as something not applicable to a man in his position.

But the Jerseymen stuck to their guns, and when opportunity came, Lanier returned to military duties, and died bravely, when fighting for his country, as a general in Flanders in August 1692. As a soldier, he left a name in history, but in his Governorship in Jersey, he was unfortunate in trying to maintain these irregularities of office which he had inherited from his predecessors.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

A Book of Witnesses

The sunset concert was attended by over 3,000 people. Some came early; some came late. Some came prepared, with rugs, others with fold-up chairs. Some had picnics in old fashioned style picnic hampers, others had a few beers, some sticks of French bread, and a little pate. And as the music played, more came, some moving as close as they could, some happy to sit at a distance. Some stood and chatted, some stood and danced. Quite a few left at the interval, and others just drifted away. There were the very young and the very old. There were no visible clergy, however; if present, they dressed casually just like everyone else. Some people didn’t come; they stayed at home, or they attended the Island Games opening ceremony.

I’m sure there’s a parable in there somewhere but I’m not exactly sure what it is.

That’s rather like life, rather than a clear cut story with a message, it is more like a story in which everybody can see themselves present in one way or another.

And that is very much I think how people find themselves in the modern world. They think of themselves as “spiritual” – except for the fervent atheists who stand out and seem rather more like people with some kind of belief. They may believe in god or some kind of divine presence. They have a vague idea of providence, and are upset when bad things happen to decent people.

Against this are the dark and very visible acts by fanatics. They may be Christians blowing up an abortion clinic. They may be Buddhists attacking a Muslim minority. Or, as at present, they may be fanatical Muslims, bent on destroying the lives of ordinary people, and laughing while they do it.

One of the strangest texts to emerge a few years ago was the “Gospel of Judas”. The press made quite a lot of noise about it, and in particular, about the sentence “Jesus laughs”. But when you read the whole paragraph in which it is set, it is not a nice laugh. Jesus is laughing at the disciples, because they do not understand him, or the vast cosmic designs. It is a condescending laugh, a sneering laugh, a nasty laugh.

The Gospel of Judas has a very twisted idea of God; an idea of a Jesus that is for those who have secret knowledge, those who are thereby apart from others, and can dismiss them as of no importance; it’s about condemning those who don’t fit to destruction and laughing at their ignorance.

The Gospel of Luke by contrast is all about Jesus being with the outsiders in society. The prostitutes, the poor, the unclean, the tax collectors etc. It is all about compassion and love for those rejected by society, pushed to the fringes. It is about the kindness of strangers.

How should we believe? Perhaps in today’s fragmented world, a better question should be: how should we behave? We may all believe different things, but we can all appreciate and give to others small acts of kindness. Individually, they may not seem much, but that’s because they are mostly invisible.

They may not always succeed against the fanatic. But they are the right way to live, and even if the fanatic takes our lives, we are witnesses to that truth. And that, after all, is the original definition of the word “martyr” – someone who witnesses. We can tell stories of the kindness of others, we can act with love and compassion ourselves. We can become a book of witnesses.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Time Flight

Time Flight

On freshwater lakes, you took flight
Fifty five million years in our past
Where pterosaurs had been in sight
Back in the deepest time so vast

On freshwater lakes, downward swoop
Beak open wide to catch your prey
Catching fish in hooked bill scoop
Back in the past, that distant day

Evolved to sea water, on coastal shore
Still soar and swoop to catch your prey
And seen by Darwin, in days of yore
Back when the Beagle came this way

Frigatebirds in the Galapagos Islands
As time flows by like grains of sands.