Wednesday, 30 April 2008

The Neglect of Youth

 The Neglect of Youth

A Paper on the Need for Leisure Provisions for Young People on the Island of Jersey


There are glaring deficiencies in addressing the youth of the Island of Jersey. Little provision is made for young people aged between 12 and 17, as they are barred from many adult premises until 18 years old. But this is overlooked; all that is seen is youth violence, disturbances, crime, drink and drug abuse and social unrest, and how to deal with that.

In one sense this is correct. As an article in New Statesman (1) points out, "crime is very significantly a youth activity. We know that a half of all young men and a third of young women between 14 and 25 admit to having committed a crime. The Audit Commission last November estimated that under-18s committed 28 million offences a year against individuals, retailers and manufacturers". The figures for Jersey will be less, but the proportion of youthful offenders is likely to be the same.

The general public notice this, as they notice the large numbers of youth of the Island hanging around public places, involved in disturbances, and they are usually dismissive of any absence of alternatives. "When we were young, we used to amuse ourselves" is the most common and clichéd reaction, failing to address the realities of the much larger youth population, and the loss of more traditional centres of activity (2). The general public need re-education into the needs of the youth.

So part of the problem is surely the neglect of the youth, and the inadequacy of any decent provision for them. It is instructive, in this respect, to consider the French approaches. This paper sets out to examine in more detail what we can learn from those cultures, and how this could be applicable to Jersey.

Discussion 1: French Approaches

The French crime prevention programme is centered on two principles:

"Firstly, in simple economic terms, it is cheaper to invest in prevention than to pay for police and court time, secure accommodation for young offenders and expensive medical treatment for addicts and alcoholics. Secondly, the state has a vested interest in the young and a duty to protect them."(3)

A radical rethink was forced upon the French authorities after serious violence erupted in parts of Lyon and Marseille in the summer of 1981. This was addressed by the publication of the Bonnemaison Report which gave rise to two responses:

  • "The immediate response was the introduction of a major programme of summer camps and activities (the été-jeunes programmes) for young people in urban areas
  • The longer-term response of the government was to set up an inter-departmental commission to find solutions to the underlying problems of unemployment and the social isolation of young people"(4)

The important principle that guides the été-jeunes activities is that they should, as far as possible, respond to the interests and wishes of young people themselves rather than being imposed upon them.

That is not to say that sport and recreational facilities are not provided for summer activities, but there are a wide variety, and the use of a 'summer activities passport' enables young people to choose for themselves, and this is logged and used for the future redirection of resources.

Lastly, and of equal significance for Jersey, the été-jeunes programmes "have played an important part in 'penetrating' immigrant populations without threatening their cultural and religious identity and integrity".(7)

For the longer term measures, feedback from the young people is also sought and they are encouraged to develop initiatives themselves. To give an example, among the projects proposed by young people themselves were a multi-racial theatre workshop, a series of monthly boums (teen-age dance parties), the creation of a sports club, a camping holiday and a study holiday. Not all of these would be appropriate economically or logistically for a small Island like Jersey, but the same emphasis should be on facilitating and rewarding initiative rather than stifling it, of getting the young people themselves to develop ways of overcoming obstacles to their ideas.

Two examples are worth noting:

In Les Moulins, where there is alcoholism and a general lack of facilities, young people have been helped by grants with their own proposal of a non-alcoholic cafe. This not only provides employment and skills training, but is also a meeting place for young people, and "a venue for musical events, video screening and photographic exhibitions"(5). It might also contribute to the prevention of alcohol-related disturbances.

The Metro station 'Place Rihour' in the city centre, and the surrounding square was a meeting place for young 'drifters', many of whom spent the entire day hanging around the Metro entrance. Whilst there was little evidence that they engaged in serious criminal activities (other than a few involved in drug dealing), their presence was generally perceived as threatening, particularly by the elderly." A project to deal with this took the form of a video drama, which was written and performed by those who hung around the Place Rihour almost permanently it was directed by a professional theatre director. "It was an imaginative and original response which attempted to incorporate the apparent needs of these young people to exhibit themselves before an audience and find a legitimate avenue for the expression of their 'outlandish' and often disturbing behaviour. By reconstructing the self-image of these young people and the image they present to others, the project facilitated the re-direction of their behaviour and their energies into constructive and legitimate channels that appealed to their own sense of what is meaningful and real."(6)

These are just a few of the examples of the imaginative responses and facilitation of the youth, but they demonstrate that things can be done, and the mindset that shoots ideas down in flames (on grounds of cost, logistics etc) needs to be more open to trying to make things happen rather than just look for obstacles (7).

A possible opening in Jersey might be to open the Parish Halls as a meeting place for young people, and this is considered briefly in an appendix.

Discussion 2: Guiding Principles

In Germany, Peter Hubner has become well known as an architect behind several very successful youth club initiatives. It is worth considering his work, even if Jersey might not be able to fund a dedicated building, because of the principles which his approach reveals. He "organised brainstorming sessions with the local youth to gather their suggestions for the club"(8), and the facilities available and organisation therefore involved young people from the start.

We can take this is the key note for the guiding principles of youth facilities in Jersey - to listen to what young people want, and help them (by "brainstorming", for example) to think hard about what they want.

The other way of finding what is needed is to design a questionnaire, both multiple choice and open ended. This has the advantage of finding out initial expectations - Are young people prepared to take the initiative? How do they rate existing types of facilities (list)? Do they have access to them? How could they be improved? Would they be prepared to take responsibility on for an initiative? Both these kinds of questions, and more open-ended ones, in a fairly short questionnaire, can provide a useful demonstration of the need for better youth facilities, how they are best organised (co-responsibility). Most importantly, they provide a quantitative determination of the need which cannot be easily overlooked or dismissed.


In his conclusion to his report on crime prevention in France, Michael King notes that "the English approach to the is dependent upon it being able to demonstrate an immediate and identifiable impact upon levels of crime"(9). This is the reactive approach, which is like trying to put fires out when they have been lit. It is very much a short term approach, while in contrast, the French approach is to take the longer view. This takes longer to have an impact on society, but is none the less more effective. It is an approach in which "the best projects are those which emerge from the bottom up, involve local people and arise out of the identification of local needs. Ultimately, projects need to be developed in response to local conditions and by local people taking responsibility for their own actions. For young people, this is in itself the key to becoming fully responsible citizens."(10)

I think the time has come to take a fresh initiative for the youth of the island. There has been too widespread a neglect of youth, and if this manifests itself in crime, we have only ourselves to blame. Particular responsibility must, however, go to those in authority, who have the best opportunity both to see this and take action to remedy the situation.

If this was to be looked at as a parable, it would be like a story about roots and branches in a tree. Insufficient watering and neglect of the roots leads to problems with the branches, but to tackle the problems with the branches alone will not make a healthy tree; the only way to do that is to return to the roots.

If we are to build a just and responsible society, it is time we looked again at the youth of the island, and make sure we do not neglect or starve these roots.


(1) "Club 14-25 Seeks Minister" in the New Statesman. Volume: 126. Issue: 4330. (1997)

(2) For example, the Churches were more involved in youth culture, scouting and guides were more larger per head of population, Parish and farming events also played a part.

(3) "Crime Prevention in France", Journal article by Michael King; Canadian Journal of Criminology, Vol. 31, 1989

(4) Op. Cit.

(5) Op. Cit.

(6) Op. Cit.

(7) The problems of a closed mindset in finding opportunities to change are discussed very cogently in "20 Steps to Better Management" (1996)

(8) "Youthful Exuberance" by Peter Blundell Jones, "The Architectural Review", Volume: 196. Issue: 1170, 1994.

(9) "Crime Prevention in France"

(10) "Crime Prevention in France"

Appendix 1: Notes on Questionnaires

Questionnaires are fine as far as the Data Protection Law is concerned, as long as they don't have any personal identifiers (names, etc) on them.

The design of the questionnaire is important, and can be either open ended (i.e. people put what they want), or multiple choice (yes, no, undecided or choices and don't know, always important to allow a non-committal answer); these should be as unambiguous as possible. Usually you would have both, with a group (5-10) of multiple choice questions followed by a single "comment" question. The multiple choice questions are good because they lend themselves to easy statistical analysis (80% said…) which is more difficult to infer from open ended comment type questions, but those can reveal more important personal opinions which would otherwise be forgotten. The open ended questions are termed "non probabilistic sampling", and while they can be useful as a commentary on the multiple choice questions, alone they are not considered good statistical practice. Small scale interviews are also problematic in this regard, they can easily be dismissed as "anecdotal".

If possible the questionnaire should not be too long, say a page or a double sided page, so it is not too long to complete, especially if relying on goodwill of school staff.

It is important to know total numbers of possible respondents (i.e. pupils attending the school), so that the number of questionnaires can be given as a percentage against them. For various reasons, you will never get 100% response. However, if you can show the sample you have obtained is more or less representative of the whole (in terms of age, gender, school), it does not matter even if you only cover say 25%. What is to be avoided though is the voluntary entry and return of forms, which leads to bias (because of the non-returns).

While names are not included, such information as states/private/parish/age/male, female are useful in breaking down the data in different ways which can be informative. (Technically, this is known as stratification)

Collation of data can nowadays be done by spreadsheet for multiple choice questions. Usually these would be written up in a report with the "comments" providing a more detailed analysis of the data. The better this is done, the more credence it will have.

Ideally, a small sample questionnaire would be used in a pilot scheme, and any defects of this remedied in the full scale survey. The standard report takes the form: Overview, Data, Discussion, Conclusion, Recommendations. The Discussion area could also look at other countries (and also Guernsey would be useful as it is a similar sized Island to ours).

Appendix 2: Young People Meeting Place based on Parish Halls

This considers the suggestion that Parish Halls could be open to the youth. Some matters that must be considered are:

  • What is the ratio of minimum adult supervision (on the premises) to young people going to be?
  • Do health and safety requirements need a specific minimum?
  • Who is going to ensure that too many people do not come to a Parish Hall (because of fire regulations, insurance)?
  • What other locations are possible (you are very limited in St Helier, a heavily populated Parish, if all you are looking at is a Parish Hall)? Are any Church halls available?
  • What facilities are going to be available?
  • If there is equipment (disco, pool table, etc), how is it to be stored?
  • If refreshments, where are these to be kept? Who will handle the finances? Will proper books be kept?
  • How is alcohol and drug abuse to be monitored?



Monday, 28 April 2008

Time for Talk?

The "Time for Change" meeting got underway this weekend. According to Nick Le Couteur on BBC Radio, this is going to be the start of a new political party, the "Reform" group. He was also saying they were committed to doing away with GST, although when pressed, he had no alternatives.

Montford Tadier was also interviewed. He was concentrating on the Clothier kind of reforms needed in his talk, or the bits in the interview, and how it was disappointing that only 50 people came, and a lack of young people.

Robert Duhamel was quoted as saying that Jersey was very good at complaining about the status quo, but not very good at translating that into action for change, in terms of voting.

My comments, for what they are worth:

a) Do we need yet another political party? We have the JDA, and the last election saw the JDA and Centre Party played off against each other, to the detriment of both. A split vote in any electoral district is always bad on a first-past-the-post voting system, as both history and mathematical analysis of voting systems (see a recent New Scientist for a summary) have shown.

b) If we need a party like "Reform", I would suggest a simple affiliation, e.g. reform of the states, as for instance, along the Clothier guidelines. One or two very basic objectives, rather than getting all kinds of other baggage (no GST etc) on the way, which I am afraid will only lose support. In the long term, most people will grudgingly accept GST because there is nothing better proposed, and the GST issue muddies the waters over electoral reform. In the post-War period, the States were reformed (no Rectors or Jurats) because the movement to change it was committed just to that. A loose affiliation means lots of people can sign up to it, but also have their own independent ideas on other matters.

c) Existing parties, like the JDA, need to be working on clear policy guidelines if they are to get anywhere in the next elections on party lines. In particular, how would they improve existing systems to help the least well off. What would do with micro-adjustments, and what needs a complete re-think?

Friday, 25 April 2008

Tu Quoque

A peculiar argument by Senator Walker's "going on the offensive" when questioned on the BBC Radio 4 programme, "The Investigation".

Here he attempted to divert and deflect criticism of Jersey by saying at once that Jersey has been appalled by the child abuse scandals in England. That's like commenting on Paisnel, "The Beast of Jersey", for example, by saying that "well, we've had him, but you had the Yorkshire Ripper", as if that somehow makes it fine!

It is an example of the logical fallacy known as Tue Quoque (or "you too")
A makes criticism P.
A is also guilty of P.
Therefore, P is dismissed.

In this case, P is incidence of child abuse, and failure to deal with it.

My book of logic states: "Tu Quoque is a very common fallacy in which one attempts to defend oneself or another from criticism by turning the critique back against the accuser. This is a classic Red Herring since whether the accuser is guilty of the same, or a similar, wrong is irrelevant to the truth of the original charge. However, as a diversionary tactic, Tu Quoque can be very effective, since the accuser is put on the defensive, and frequently feels compelled to defend against the accusation."

In this case, however, the interviewer refused to be deflected!

In fact, he had mentioned UK cases as an example of what had gone wrong elsewhere, and it is interesting that if you trawl back at these cases - for example, a particularly bad one in Wales, which has some similarities with reports of victims from Haut de La Garrenne, especially with regard to some of those in charge.

Other matters the report on the Wales case relate have particular relevance to the "culture of concealment" in Jersey, and suggest positive steps to remedy this.

I have highlighted the relevant proposals by the report, as it will be interesting to see if Andrew Williamson's report (surely overdue now?) comes in with the same kind of recommendations or avoids them.

Refuges that turned into purgatory
Report condemns oversights and inadequacies of a system that allowed children to be abused for 10 years

This article appeared in the Guardian on Wednesday February 16 2000 . It was last updated at 22:12 on February 15 2000.

On the outside it looked like a somewhat forbidding Elizabethan manor house set in ample grounds, but the children who lived in the Bryn Estyn home, near Wrexham, north Wales, were in purgatory, according to the report published today into the biggest child sex scandal Britain has known.

Between 1974 and 1984, Bryn Estyn, became "the worst centre of child abuse in north Wales over a period of 10 years, undetected by outsiders".

After a three-year tribunal of inquiry into abuse in children's homes and foster homes across north Wales, chaired by Sir Ronald Waterhouse, the report, Lost In Care, says: "The evidence before us has disclosed that for many children who were consigned to Bryn Estyn, in the 10 or so years of its existence as a community home, it was a form of purgatory or worse from which they emerged more damaged than when they had entered and for whom the future had become even more bleak."

After registering 259 complaints and listening to the painful testimony of 129 people, the tribunal concluded that widespread sexual abuse of boys occurred in children's residential establishments in the now-defunct region of Clwyd between 1974 and 1990. It also found that there were incidents of sexual abuse of girl residents, though they were comparatively rare. Physical and sexual abuse of young residents in the neighbouring county of Gwynedd also occurred.

Local authority homes in Clwyd most affected were Bryn Estyn, where two senior officers, Peter Howarth and Stephen Norris, sexually assaulted and buggered boys over a 10-year period and Cartrefle, where Norris continued to abuse boys from 1984 until his arrest in June 1990. The tribunal also found evidence of sexual abuse at Little Acton assessment centre, Bersham Hall, Chevet Hey and Upper Downing. And there was widespread sexual abuse of boys in private residential establishments in the Clwyd area and abuse of children in five foster homes.

The report also found physical abuse and the unacceptable use of force in six local authority community homes in Clwyd. Once again, Bryn Estyn was the worst offender. It had "a harsh institutional regime in which, for many, there was a heavy atmosphere of fear".

'Grossly poisoned'

About 140 former residents of Bryn Estyn between 1974 and 1984 made allegations of physical or sexual abuse and the inquiry listened to the evidence of 48 of them. The overwhelming majority of complaints were made against Peter Howarth, assistant then deputy principal at the home.

The report found: "The lives of these already disturbed children were grossly poisoned by a leading authority figure in whom they should have been able to place their trust. They felt soiled, guilty and embarrassed and some of them were led to question their own sexual orientation. Most of them have experienced difficulties in their sexual relationships and their relationships with children ever since and many have continued to rebel against authority. Even more seriously, their self-respect and ability to look forward to the future have been shattered."

Howarth invented a regime at the home where he would post a flat list which named boys who were invited to his flat for recreation. Staff did not remark on its inappropriateness, leading the inquiry to conclude that there was a conspiracy of silence.

"It was Howarth's daily practice to invite resident boys, usually from the main building, to his flat in the late evening for drinks (including some alcohol) and light food for the privilege of watching television and for other recreation such as playing cards, board games etc ... Attendance was part of the agreed programme of activities available to boys in the evening and the names of those attending would be entered into the activities log. The sessions would begin at about 8.30pm and the boys attending, usually five or six or even more at a time, were required to dress in their pyjamas without any underwear. If they were wearing underpants under their pyjamas, they were ordered to remove them."

The inquiry discovered that Howarth had a number of favourites, known as "bum boys" and it was they who were the main victims of his sexual assaults. The report says: "They would be detained on some pretext when others were leaving, at which point, buggery or some indecency would occur. Quite often, however, similar conduct would occur in the kitchen of the flat, for example, whilst others were still present in another room watching television."

Howarth was convicted in July 1994 of one offence of buggery and seven indecent assaults and received a total of 10 years in prison. He died in April 1997. Stephen Norris's offences at Bryn Estyn and other homes were of similar nature to Howarth's but his method of operation was different. The report found he was "a coarse man of poor general education who should never have been placed in charge of a unit providing for the needs of immature and disturbed boys".

Norris pleaded guilty in November 1993 to three offences of buggery, an attempted buggery and three indecent assaults involving three former Bryn Estyn boys and received seven years in prison. He had already served 3 years in prison imposed in October 1990 for sexual offences committed at Cartrefle.

The report concludes that for two senior members of staff to be habitually engaged in major sexual abuse of many of the young residents without detection was "truly appalling".

Applauding the bravery of those who gave testimony to the inquiry, the tribunal lays the blame for the failure to detect the abusers at the doors of a number of agencies. Staff at the homes were criticised for their failure to blow the whistle on their colleagues. It found there were few complaints of abuse from the children in the homes because they were discouraged from doing so. There were no procedures in any of the establishments to enable members of staff to voice concerns.

The inquiry also found that social services failed to provide at the most senior level effective and positive leadership to ensure that the first consideration was the welfare of the child. Senior management was subject to frequent changes and was confused and defective.

There were no coherent arrangements by Clwyd social services for the management, support and monitoring of their care homes which allowed Bryn Estyn, in particular, to be run without any guidance.

The Welsh office comes in for a great deal of blame, with the report saying it "cannot absolve itself of ultimate responsibility for the fate of children in care by referring to legislation that successive governments themselves initiated from time to time, whether or not with expert advice". It discovered that "lack of leadership" in the Welsh office meant "forward planning was allowed to wither and die".

The tribunal also concluded that central government must bear responsibility for what happened. It said that for more than half the period under review children's services were given insufficient priority, including a failure to take action before the children act 1989 to regulate private children's homes and a failure to take steps to ensure that adequate facilities were made available for the training of residential child care workers.

The tribunal found that the police investigation of child abuse in Clwyd from 1991 was carried out "thoroughly" and "sensitively".
The report, however, criticises investigations into complaints about Gwynedd made by care home head Alison Taylor. The police work, it says, was "sluggish and shallow" and "seriously defective". The role played by Det Supt Gwynne Owen was inappropriate and the size of the investigating team inadequate. There was no liaison with social services and relevant documents were not seized.

The inquiry found no evidence of a paedophile ring in north Wales which was said to have involved high-profile public figures but said it had very little documentary evidence to go on. It had no evidence "to establish that there was a wide-ranging conspiracy involving prominent persons and others with the objective of sexual activity with children in care".

There was nothing to suggest there was a paedophile ring operating recruitment at Bryn Estyn. But there was a paedophile ring in the Wrexham and Chester areas "in the sense that there were a number of male persons, many of them known to each other, who were engaged in paedophile activities and were targeting young males in their middle teens".


The report makes 72 recommendations. An independent commissioner for Wales should be appointed to ensure children's rights through the monitoring and oversight of the operation of complaints and whistleblowing procedures and the arrangements for children's advocacy.

Every social services authority should be required to appoint an appropriately qualified or experienced children's complaints officer to act in the best interests of the child.

  • An abused child should not be transferred to another placement unless it is in the child's best interests.
  • Every local authority should promote awareness by children and staff of its complaints procedures for looked-after children and the importance of applying them without any threat or fear of reprisals.
  • There should be the establishment and implementation of conscientiously clear whistleblowing procedures. And consideration should be given to making failure to report actual or suspected abuse an explicit disciplinary offence.
  • A field social worker should be assigned to every looked-after child while in care and for an appropriate period of time afterwards and should visit them not less than once every eight weeks.
The report says there is a need for coordinated action by the new local authorities responsible for social services in north Wales. It raises as a cause for concern the adequacy of financial resources allocated to children's services and recommends a review of pay structures.

The tribunal found that the provision for appropriate management training is required and says the problem of recruitment of suitable residential care staff for children needs to be addressed urgently.

It says that positive action to encourage whistleblowing is needed. There should be increased vigilance among teachers, members of the medical profession and police officers.

There should be an inter-agency review of the procedures followed and personnel employed in all investigations of this nature with a view to issuing practical procedural guidance for the future. Social service and police files should be preserved and police should be allowed access to social service files. It also recommends the sharing of information generally for criminal investigation and child protection purposes.

Social services departments should be reminded periodically that they must exercise vigilance in the recruitment and management of their staff with similar vigilance being applied to all applications for approval as foster parents.
There should also be appropriate and timely induction training. Senior staff of children's homes must be qualified social workers.

Main points

•An independent children's commissioner for Wales should be appointed to oversee complaints and whistleblowing procedures
•Every social services authority should be required to appoint a complaints officer to interview children alleging abuse
•An independent regulatory body should be set up to inspect all children's homes, foster homes and other child services
•Social workers should be required to visit every child in their charge and in care at least every eight weeks
•Local authorities should have clear procedures to encourage staff whistleblowing

Thursday, 24 April 2008

The Last Emperor

The Last Emperor

Resplendent on his throne, looking down

Enfolded in his richly red-coloured gown

Passing judgement on all that come here

Sentence carried out, but mistakes so dear

But inscrutable, he admits only past error

And for the criminal now, tells of terror

Severe words given, as befits a learned man

But casts his mind back, but one short span

Would that he had been so learned that day

And would that he could undo, and unsay

Children suffered abuse, his bad decision

But he is a mandarin, immune to derision

Even so, sometimes, he has sleepless nights

Hearing the cries, pondering all the rights

So he will admit to past mistakes, after all

We all make errors, stumble, sometimes fall

After all, people were not as sharp in the past

But no sackcloth and ashes, penitential fast

He may regret, but apologise for the wrongs

A pious man, he goes to church, sings songs

And confesses his mistake, a private creed

That turns its back on those calling in need

Compassion, reaching out a hand, saying sorry

These are matters for which he has no worry

And there he is, upon his throne, once more

So deaf he does not hear a knocking on the door

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock", a voice

But he has long ago made his way, his choice.

Culture of Concealments in Australia and Jersey

Jersey is not the only place to have a "culture of concealment". It is interesting how the following crops up:
a) it is not isolated, but pervasive, permeating the whole bureaucracy
b) it occurs on a governmental and bureaucratic level (politicians and civil servants)
c) it is "top down", with those further down encouraged to be complicit
d) complaints are suppressed, because they don't look good on the departmental CV

The "Queensland Public Hospitals Commission of Inquiry Final Report" makes interesting reading, especially where it notes that:
It is one thing to identify isolated instances of concealment. It is quite another if the disposition to conceal existed at a high level throughout the relevant period and was pervasive, encouraging others in leadership positions within hospitals to themselves conceal facts.
Successive governments followed a practice of concealment and suppression of relevant information with respect to elective surgery waiting lists and measured quality reports. This, in turn, encouraged a similar practice by Queensland Health staff.
6.718 Queensland Health itself, by its principal officers Dr Buckland and Dr FitzGerald, implemented a policy of concealment and suppression of events, the exposure of which were potentially harmful to the reputation of Queensland Health and the government.

6.719 The conduct of officers of Queensland Health, together with its strict approach to surgical budget targets enforced by penalties, led to similar practices in hospitals, especially with respect to complaints about quality of service and it also led to threats of reprisal in some cases. These caused suppression of complaints which ought to have been exposed earlier.
6.720 In my view it is an irresistible conclusion that there is a history of a culture of concealment within and pertaining to Queensland Health.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Regret without Guilt

Deputy Sean Power has issued a message in which he comments on the child abuse incidents coming to light in Jersey, and downplays it in various ways.

"I try to imagine the pain and suffering that occurred in this Home to those unfortunate few children that may have paid the ultimate price."

Given that the number of former children contacting the police about child abuse matters is now in excess of 200, and a good many of these relate to Haut de la Garenne, I'd really wonder what the "few" is doing in his comment.

He then comments scathingly about the media reports.

"There has a great deal of unfairness, inaccuracy and downright sensational reporting. "

True in some cases, but there has also been a lot of sharp, acute and accurate reporting. For instance the BBC Panorama, the BBC Radio 4 Investigation, etc. And there is no freedom of information act in Jersey. The Sharp Report, the Kathy Bull Report, and countless other investigations remain confidential, under wraps, not able to be checked by the Islanders. Mike Vibert says the Sharp Report could not be made public domain because it mentioned names of victims; if there is one name of any victim mentioned, I will donate £50 to a charity of his choice. (I don;t count the adult individuals involved in covering it up - Jack Hydes, Piers Baker, John Le Breton as "victims") So there has been a great deal of unfairness, inaccuracy, and downright misleading information handed out locally as well. Is it any wonder the UK media dig deep and don't accept the presentation of the Jersey authorities at face value? Why should they?

"In my opinion, the biggest threat to the Island is from within. There are those who are born here and living here that would strip our individuality, independence and self-governing sovereignty and turn us into part of a UK constituency."

This is a "straw man" tactic, designed to ensure that any criticism from within is done by people wanting to remove Jersey's independence. Cecil Clothier recommended the separation of powers of Bailliff as president of States and head of Judiciary, back in 2000, as did the late Vernon Tomes. The call has come again, but it is hardly new (8 years ago now), and the impetus, as with Clothier and Tomes was to reform the States, to make it better, more independent, less conflicted, and certainly not to do away with the States altogether.

"It would be very easy now to turn inwards and attack all our institutions. That is not the correct thing to do, nor is it the Jersey way."

Sound robust criticism of failings is not "turning inwards". Turning inwards is what the ostrich mentality does, when it buries its head in the sand, or - as reported on the BBC Investigation programme - when a Parish Constable is in denial about child abuse and says "it doesn't happen in my Parish" (I know the former Constable in question, and although I like her as a person, she is always sure that she is right).

That is turning inwards, closing one's eyes. The former prison governor's remarks on the BBC Investigation also speaks about "bullying" people who speak out, and civil servant officials in authority, with little or no experience of the Prison Service, who tried to block all his attempts to improve the prison, and bring it up to modern standards. Those are the people "turning inwards", and by doing so they are shamefully betraying our heritage.

"Above all else, we must believe in the independence, competence, ability and integrity of Jersey's Crown Officers and especially the Attorney General and his department."

Having seen how the Bailliff, as Attorney General, behaved over the Roger Holland affair, and read his statement, which mentions "mistakes" but makes no explicit apology to those who were victims because of those mistakes, I think that the current holder of the office of Bailliff has shown little competence or ability in that action, and the lack of apology speaks realms about "integrity". When the late Senator John Rothwell was in tears about the mistake he made dumping potatoes at Beauport, and offered to resign, that was integrity.

That is not to say the office should be one to which we should be dismissive; it is simply that the current holder has acted in such a manner as would in other jurisdictions bring that office into disrepute (as noted by the BBC Investigation).

"This is a time for calm collective thoughts. This is a time for collective responsibility and justice. "

This translates, I think as (a) don't speak out it anger at the fact that this was allowed to go on for so long, and comment on the ineptitude of officials or ministers (like Frank "shafted" Walker) (b) keep a collective silence on the matter.

It is the adjective "collective" that what Ernie Rea (BBC Presenter) would term "weasley words"; it is a time for responsibility and justice. Why does Sean Power need the adjective? It seems he is caught between the Scylla of Collective Responsibility and the Charybdis of Indifference.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Merlin (or Myrddin)

Merlin (or Myrddin)

The earliest English traditions regarding Merlin (such as Geoffrey of Monmouth) place him in the dark ages, and as a cross-over or nexus between Christianity and Celtic Magic traditions; in him, there is no separation of the two, he combines them together, and coexists in both words without condemnation from either. Merlin is the "wild card" within the developing tradition of courtly romance, in which he does not really fit.

It is clear that Geoffrey is drawing on older traditions from the 6th century and after (such as the "The Presage of Britain" of 930), and he alters the name of Merlin from Myrddin. Merlin features in three books by Geoffrey, the Prophetiae Merlini , the Historia Regum Britanniae , and the Vita Merlini.

The older traditions appear to have been Welsh, which is what we would expect from historical fragments from the Dark Ages, when the Celtic/Christian traditions were taken by the Britons to Wales, Cornwall and Brittany when they were forced out of England by waves of invading and settling groups (Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, Danes). In some of the original forms, Myrddin appears much more as a poet-prophet than a magic worker, and with the Celtic tradition, as a Seer (or future teller). There are also traditions of similar figures in Irish history such as Suibne. In this stories, there is also a fusion between the figures of "wildness" and "hermit-saint".

Whether Merlin is legendary or not, it is also significant that when the stories arose in the 12th century, there was no condemnation of the linked Celtic Magic and Christian traditions. In fact, Geoffrey of Monmouth became Bishop of St. Asaph in 1151. Clearly, at this time, there was not a conflict between the roles played by Celtic Magic, Seer and Prophet.

The Twelfth Century Black Book of Carmarthen (The Welsh name of Carmarthen is Caerfyrddin ( Caer+ Myrddin ); contains examples of poetry attributed to Myrddin. Many are general, or comments on the history of the time. But here is an example of a more prophetic poem:

Hail, little pig, with sharp claws,
An unmannerly bed-mate when you went to rest,
Little knows Rhydderch Hael tonight at his banquet
What share of sleeplessness was mine last night:
Snow the height of my hip with the wolves of the wilderness,
Ice in my hair, and my state was sorry.
It will come, that Tuesday, the day of fury,
Of battle between the Lord of Powys and the host of Gwynedd.
And Hiriell shall arise from his long resting
To fence from their foemen the bounds of Gwynedd.

Other sources include the "Song of Myrddin in his Grave", which is very prophetic in nature, and speaks so:

There will be ploughing without reaping in a world of war,
Better the grave than living for all that are needy.
Maidens stripped bare, women wanton,
Kinsfolk that love not their kindred.

Later, the Merlin traditions were domesticated and changed almost beyond recognition by Tennison, TH White, or Disney (who borrowed from TH White).


Cyfarwyddyd: Welsh Tales and Foreign Adaptations:

A History of Welsh Literature by H. Idris Bell, Thomas D. Parry; Clarendon Press, 1955

The Celts by Otto Hermann Frey, Venceslas Kruta, Sabatino Moscati, Barry Raftery, Miklós Szabó; Rizzoli, 1991

The Development of Arthurian Romance by Roger Sherman Loomis; Hutchinson University Library, 1963

Perfect Fools: Folly for Christ's Sake in Catholic and Orthodox Spirituality by John Pasca Saward; Oxford University, 1980

The Feudal Transformation: 900-1200 by Eric Bournazel, Jean-Pierre Poly; Holmes & Meier, 1991

Studies in Irish Literature and History by James Carney; Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1979

Care Leavers

Interesting sites that I hadn;t come across before, regarding children who (for a multitude of reasons) were placed into care homes in the past, or foster parents etc. Jersey also features.
This is the main site:

At the moment, our main priorities are our campaign on Access to Records and, because of what is in the news about the abuse of children in care in Jersey, on abuse in the care system. If you want to know more about that subject, read the news story below. However, we also do lots of other things and welcome care leavers of any age from 18 upwards. We are a diverse, lively, tolerant and committed bunch of people and will do our best to help you to feel welcome in the CLA.

The CLA has helped to produce an Early Day Motion that will be published in Parliament today, Thursday 28th February. This motion was written by John Hemming MP, with help from us at the CLA. The motion reads as follows:
"This House notes with sadness the revelations from Jersey on children in care; recognises that English local authorities have placed children in Jersey; recalls that there have been numerous proven reports of abuse in care in England; endorses the call of the Care Leavers Association for a Public Inquiry into abuse in care; and calls for the law to be changed to ensure that children can speak out about their treatment in care in all circumstances prior to adulthood."

CareleaversReunited is a site for people who have spent time in care to get back in touch with friends from their childhood. It is completely FREE to use and currently includes homes from seven different countries. The site is run by the Care Leavers' Association (, which is an independent UK-based charity

and this is the new story they ran in February this year:

Abuse of Children in Care in Jersey

The Care Leavers' Association has condemned failings in the child care system in Jersey that have led to one death and an ongoing investigation into widespread past abuse of children in care on the island. We have issued the following press statement:
The Care Leavers' Association, the only organisation in the UK that represents all adults who were in care as children, notes with anger and concern, but not surprise, the revelations of a death, and widespread abuse, in the Haut de la Garenne children's home in Jersey. Many of our members are the victims of physical and sexual abuse in care in the UK during past decades.
Despite several inquiries, there has never been a proper accounting for the abuse that took place across the United Kingdom in the twentieth century and there remain many unanswered questions. The Jersey case is the latest in a long line of abuse scandals afflicting the child care system in the UK. We note the words of the former Jersey Health Minister, Stuart Syvret, that this discovery is "not surprising". Nor is it surprising that both Senator Syvret and former care worker Simon Bellwood were forced out of their posts for doggedly pursuing abuse allegations on Jersey.
Denial and cover-up have been a relentless feature of the history of past abuse in the child care system. In the circumstances, the claim of the Jersey First Minister that "children today in Jersey are safe from this type of abuse" is complacent beyond belief. This was the same First Minister who led calls for the sacking of Stuart Syvret for his courageous stand in revealing past abuse.
We call for a Commission of Inquiry into past abuse in the UK child care system; the evidence of adults who spent time in care as children should be at the centre of the inquiry. We are not confident that current safeguards are adequate for protecting children from abuse, in Jersey or elsewhere.
Until there has been proper recognition and acknowledgement by the State of the inadequacies of the past, there must remain major question marks over the present. - Visit the 'Abuse in Care' section of our home website ( or see the link on the front page) if you want more information on our views and on the history of abuse in the child care system.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Guernsey Elections

Guernsey goes to the polls this week to elect a new set of States deputies. It is interesting how different their system is from ours. I've just been on holiday there, and noted:

a) they only have one kind of member of the States

- as recommended here by Clothier, and still showing no signs of getting there

b) they are elected for a period of four years

- as recommended here by Clothier, recently rejected again by the States

c) they have multi-seat constituencies (larger than some Parish boundaries) to ensure fair distribution of voting population, rather than small parishes with disproportionate seats, and also to ensure that the voters have a wide number of candidates to vote for, rather than only for their own parish, hence making an election more democratic (more chance to vote out candidates).

- as recommended here by Clothier, rejected by the States (who would prefer to tinker with Parish level representation and remove Senators, thus making less chance to vote out candidates)

d) they have elections in mid-April, when the weather (while wet at the moment) is certainly better the the old October/November dates they had (and Jersey still has), so that instead of going out in freezing, wet, dark, blowing winter evenings, the electorate are going out in daylight even in the evening.

e) Another plus from having one kind of candidate, is that no one gets a second chance to slip in by the back door. In Jersey, candidates rejected as Senators often manage to get back into the States as Deputies (because of the smaller constituences), and can then carry on with rejected policies as if nothing had happened.

It comes as a surprise to note that Cecil Clothier did not do the Guernsey changes report!

Rather than get an outsider, the report was carried out by a local Guernsey lawyer, Peter Harwood, and was generally more open to all kinds of possibilities - Clothier presented his recommendations as "all or nothing". Guernsey largely went along with the main thrust of the Harwood report, and although options were available, did not "cherry pick". Jersey, by contrast did despite Clothier's insistence that it would be a disaster to do that!

How did Guernsey get it so right!

Separation of Powers

Just back from Guernsey, and I noticed from the Sark coverage that the Barclays are arguing for separation of powers, that the Seneschal should not be both Chief Pleas president and Island Judge. Rather like the role of the Bailiff in Jersey, methinks! The Barclays have asked Jack Straw for a judicial review of the situation. If changes have to be made, will it set a precedent for both Jersey and Guernsey?

I have heard the counter-argument that in a small community - and it was Jersey in this case - there has to be some doubling up of roles. But Sark is an even smaller community, so if that does not apply there, so much stronger would be the case in Jersey.

In London last week the Privy Council finally approved a Bill that will see a Chief Pleas of landowners replaced by a 28-member assembly elected by universal suffrage in December. The Barclays were still not happy, however. They immediately requested a judicial review because the Seigneur and the unelected Seneschal – the Chief Pleas president who doubles as the island's judge – will retain considerable powers.

Friday, 11 April 2008

The Politics of Ignorance

"Ignorance is Strength." - Big Brother, 1984

I was taking to someone yesterday who is a reasonably bright educated person. I was asking them about what they thought about Freddie Cohen, about the latest planning applications he had approved (Portelet, Swansons, Creepy Valley), and about the Hopkins Masterplan for the Waterfront and the sunken road.

She hadn't been following it at all. She gets the JEP, but had taken no notice - even though she lives in St Brelade, where at least 2 of the planning decisions relate to. She told me that she had no idea, she didn;t really read any of "that stuff".

[She had however heard of the celebrated Newsnight and thought Frank Walker had made a fool of himself.]

What worries me is that I suspect she may be fairly common among potential voters, people who take no interest, and then go on to accept the candidate's own promotion of themselves at election time at its face value, based on that, and a complete ignorance of all the murky areas where there have been articles, letters, comments that are critical.

A Salon article on voter ignorance in the USA notes that:

one of the most consistent findings of public-opinion research is that the majority of Americans have long found politics about as exciting as a PBS documentary on the great crested grebe -- and they pay a corresponding amount of attention to it. Consider the following, drawn from an almost endless number of examples that political scientists have turned up over the years: One month after the Republican revolution in 1994, in which conservatives, led by Newt Gingrich, finally took control of the House of Representatives, 57 percent of the electorate did not know who Gingrich was. Despite massive coverage in every newspaper in the country, and on every news program, the vast majority had never heard of the Contract with America. On a typical election day, 56 percent of Americans can't name a single candidate in their own district, for any office....It's not just the people who don't vote who are uninformed, either -- not that that would exactly be reassuring. Only a tiny sliver of active voters show even passing familiarity with the kinds of policy debates that elites take for granted.

and in Australia

Ian McAllister undertook a study in 2001 leading him to suppose that, "by any standards, levels of political knowledge in the electorate are low." Based on analysis of a survey of voters in the 1997 Australian federal election he found that the median voter could only answer correctly two out of seven factual statements about political institutions. But not all of McAllister's observations were that damning. He also asked respondents if they knew the name of their federal member prior to the election. Seventy per cent correctly gave the name of the member and 61 per cent the correct name of the party. This is an interesting finding, because it appears not to be consistent with the experiences in the US. Figure 4 shows only 44 per cent of Americans could name an election candidate. This is not exactly the same question, but close enough to indicate that Australians are more knowledgeable about who their candidates and parliamentarians are.

The picture emerges, perhaps, of the Australian voter who is not as politically ignorant as his or her counterparts in some western democracies, particularly in countries like the US where the turnout rates are low. But attempting to put a "level" on the extent of ignorance or knowledge is a hard task.

Rabinowitz and MacDonald (1989) are among those who question whether voters weigh up issue alternatives in an empirical way, in the sense that they choose between policy tradeoffs. Rabinowitz and MacDonald accept that the ignorant voter exists, to the extent that voters operate with low levels of information, but reject the notion that the voter acts within a rational choice framework.

It is difficult to escape the conclusion that Australia's elections are decided by at least a sizable portion of the electorate that does not know about political issues and does not care. They care about their duty to vote but do not necessarily go to the ballot box armed with much knowledge.

Finally, the Cato Institute comments that:

Democracy demands an informed electorate. Voters who lack adequate knowledge about politics will find it difficult to control public policy. Inadequate voter knowledge prevents government from reflecting the will of the people in any meaningful way. Such ignorance also raises doubts about democracy as a means of serving the interests of a majority. Voters who lack sufficient knowledge may be manipulated by elites. They may also demand policies that contravene their own interests.

If we wonder about the reason there is so little change, and some extraordinary voting within Jersey, we can see the same pattern emerging even within our own Island. Manifestos and pamphlets are issued at election time, and people may read the information, and may listen to the hustings, but there is often historical ignorance of what the candidates have actually done, apart from that filtered through their own self-representation of themselves. Endorsements, as with advertising, may also make a difference. What does not seem to make a difference is knowledge!

"A nation of well-informed men, who have been taught to know and prize the rights that God has given them cannot be enslaved.
It is in the region of ignorance that tyranny begins!" - Benjamin Franklin

Thursday, 10 April 2008

City Life

I once lived in Exeter for about 4 years, and rather liked it. Exeter is a rural city, and once was a maritime port (they filmed the Onedin Line close to where the Maritime Museum was, down by the river). You can hear the sound of the gulls, the countryside is close by, and Dawlish (and Dawlish Warren) is 10 minutes by train.

I tried living in Gloucester once, and gave up after about 3 months. I decided that the lack of sea was a major factor, and I returned back to Jersey.

Jersey has its build up city-like places, like St Helier (the "town"), which is a mass of buildings - shops, houses etc - not particularly pleasant to be for long periods, but being approx 9 miles by 5, it has a lot of beach and countryside for walking. As an Islander (with several generations in the local graveyard) I think it is not city / country that I would regard as the main distinction of importance for me: it is the contrast between being inland or by the sea. When I have been inland to the countryside in England, I have found the lack of sea (and sounds of sea birds, waves etc) to be what is missing; when I went to Southampton last year on holiday, I found the proximity to the sea to be deeply satisfying.

I don't visit England that often, as travel off the Island is more expensive than travel (by tourists) to the Island! I do like England, and prefer it to sundrenched package spots which don't seem to have the ancient history that Britain does. I also have a phobia about flying, and the shorter, the better!

France, either the Normandy coast (only 15 miles away) or Brittany is closer and more easily accessible, usually by ferry. My last few holidays have been on Guernsey (an even smaller island).

I know that people who come and live in the Island often enjoy it, but feel (every so often) a desperate need to "get away", or go - as they put it "back to the mainland" (by which they mean England, rather than the real mainland of France!). It is occasionally frustrating, when you read of people in England just catching a train, or driving for 2-3 hours to meet friends or go to festivals, which cannot be easily done, especially not without foreward planning. But that is something I just am used to - a necessary price to pay.

Reflections in the Water

Reflections in the Water

Sunset on rippling tidal flow

Brent geese floating gently

A sinking sun, going below

The geese fly across the sea

Clouds of hues, deepening pinks

The sister planet, evening star

Shining bright, twinkles, winks

Across the solar system, so far

Purple twilight, darkening skies

Light house shining on the waves

Geese departing, with night cries

And bats emerging from the caves

These reflections in the waters deep

Moonlight reflected, time for sleep.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Gender Difference Taboos

It's thought of as a sexual stereotype: boys tend to play with toy cars and diggers, while girls like dolls. But male monkeys, suggests research, are no different (see a related video report).

This could mean that males, whether human or monkey, have a biological predisposition to certain toys, says Kim Wallen, a psychologist at Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

Wallen's team looked at 11 male and 23 female rhesus monkeys. In general the males preferred to play with wheeled toys, such as dumper trucks, over plush dolls, while female monkeys played with both kinds of toys.

This conclusion may upset those psychologists who insist that sex differences – for example the tendency of boys to favour toy soldiers and girls to prefer dolls – depend on social factors, not innate differences.

To try and tease out the effects of nature over those of nurture, Wallen and his colleagues studied a group of captive rhesus monkeys. His team reasoned that the choices of the monkeys wouldn't be determined by social pressures. Most of the study animals were juvenile (age one to four years), but some sub-adult and adult monkeys were included.

"They are not subject to advertising. They are not subject to parental encouragement, they are not subject to peer chastisement," Wallen says.

Now I suspect this kind of report will bring down a load of antagonism from those people who want to insist that sex differences depend on socialisation. It will be interesting to follow this story, because I think it is very much a modern taboo subject to make that kind of suggestion, even when the science is there to back it up. 

Contrast this with the current establishment view, which is coming under increasing pressure from scientific studies such as this one:

Among the courses I took that fall was a graduate seminar in developmental psychology. "Why do girls and boys behave differently?" my professor, Justin Aronfreed, asked rhetorically. "Because we expect them to. Imagine a world in which we raised girls to play with tanks and trucks, in which we encouraged boys to play with dolls. Imagine a world in which we played rough-and-tumble games with girls while we cuddled and hugged the boys. In such a world, many of the differences we see in how girls and boys behave-maybe even all the differences-would vanish."

and this recent report:

Last Friday, Harvard University President Lawrence Summers suggested that innate differences between men and women might be one reason there are fewer women in the fields of science and engineering. More than 50 Harvard professors signed a letter protesting his statement, and alumnae have threatened to withhold donations. Summers has apologized, but commentator and psychological researcher Drew Westen says that apology might be unwarranted.

and it seems that there may well be powerful taboos against thinking about these kinds of differences. It is interesting that the critics of Summers did not note that he was not denying that men and women should be treated equally; all he was doing was hypothesising that innate differences may play out (in the average) in the preferences people have for science and engineering. The reaction suggests it is a non-discussible topic: a taboo subject.

So while homosexuality (and all other kinds of sexuality) are now less taboo - Coronation Street has both a gay man and a transsexual individual, and that is mainstream - we are gaining other equally insidious taboos.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Deceptively Idyllic Country Living in the Heart of Jersey

At the back page of tonight's JEP is an advertisement for a new property development, with the slogan "Idyllic Country Living in the Heart of Jersey", and the blurb goes on to say "A beautifully designed development of three and four bedroom traditional style first time buyers homes priced from £435,000"

Leaving aside the vexed question of which first time buyers can really afford these prices, prices which would seem to exclude anyone outside of the finance industry, and precisely what is meant by that wonderful nonsense generated phrase "traditional style" (as opposed to Corbusier style cubist?), I would like to describe the picture above the advertisement.

This shows six houses in a row, viewed from the vantage point of just below a gently hanging tree, casting its shade onto the road, and with a backdrop of trees. In each garden, is one small tree, and several smaller bushy shrubs. In the back behind the trees are fluffy clouds. All in all this artists impression - for that is what it is - certainly looks idyllic.

What seems to be ignored is the fact that most of the bordering trees have been chopped down if they are anywhere near the road, or that far from being in the heart of the country, it is in fact close to Goose Green Marsh, Beaumont, nearer the coast than inland. Will the greenery that the picture is blessed with be present? Does the £435,000 included small trees and shrubs? I doubt it.

But the most misleading fact about the picture is its depiction of 6 houses, when in point of fact, there are over 100 houses. It is a housing estate. Pleasant most likely, though probably with significantly less greener than the artist gives it, but a lot of houses, more like Mont Es Croix estate, for example, than the small and remote cul-de-sac which the picture promotes. Most people will see not a skyline of trees behind their houses, but rooftops.

It would be an interesting experiment to take pictures of the completed estate and compare them with the artists impression. Especially when the dustbins are due for collection. The impressionists actually tried to capture reality; this impression seems almost totally illusory.

Idyllic Country Living in the Heart of Jersey? I would call it deceptively Idyllic Country Living in the Heart of Jersey, with the emphasis on the word deceptive.

A picture can tell a thousand words, and it can also tell a thousand lies.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Carbon offsets

What do you think about the idea of "carbon offsets"?

I have been doing some reading up on this, and this site contains some real concerns:

Carbon offset companies are unregulated. There is no watchdog to check how they spend your money.

They create the illusion that by paying a small amount of money to 'offset' our emissions, we can continue our high-consuming lifestyles. This is dangerous as we need to take responsibility to reduce our emissions — we can't shift this responsibility elsewhere.

In many situations, scientists do not know how effective trees are in are in absorbing carbon from the atmosphere. While planting trees might be a good thing to do in some contexts, in other situations tree plantations can result in an overall release of emissions. Furthermore, trees generally take many years to grow to a stage where they can significantly absorb carbon, whereas we need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions now. There's also evidence that tree planting can actually release additional greenhouse gas, as the soil is dug up before planting.

Point (2) really struck home as I have seen the way "carbon offset" advertising goes on - balance your travel to the holiday destination by buying a carbon offset, for example, and hey presto, you are green! The other meaning of green - naive - would seem as appropriate.

As someone who studies odd periods of history, I am struck by the similarity in many ways in terms of "naive belief" to the Chantry Chapels of the Middle Ages, where those who could afford it paid others to do the praying that they could not be bothered to do themselves.

In each case, it is an "invisible" benefit. "Carbon offsets" may be real, but considering the points made above about regulation, it is a ready made market for charlatans, and there is also a justice issue: is it fair that the richer people can "buy" their ability to be environmentally friendly, and continue practicing what a non-green lifestyle, comfortable in the knowledge that someone else is doing it for them (or apparently doing it for them)? Just like the rich in the middle ages, where there was a "sin offset" by paying for chantry masses?

The Rotten Boroughs of Jersey

Just a thought for today that the smaller Parishes are drifting towards what
was termed "rotten borough", in which their representation is out of all
proportion to their size.

The average ratio of Deputies per head of population (based on the 2001
census) should be 3,006. St Mary has a population of 1,591, which means that
St Mary's electorate have nearly twice the representation that electoral
parity requires.

Parishes like St Brelade, St Clement and Grouville, which have seen an
increase in housing over the past decade, are rapidly losing representation.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Abusewatch Jersey - April 2008

BBC Panorama had a good report on the situation

full details at

Mr Moed, who worked at the home [Haut De La Garenne] as a junior house parent in the 1960s, told of how he tried to raise the alarm about the headmaster Colin Tilbrook's abuse of children - but claims his warnings were ignored.

He said: "I saw him in the dormitory one evening walking with a pillow under his arm. And I asked a colleague who he was and what he was doing and they said 'Oh that's Tilbrook, he carries the pillow so you can't hear the girls screaming'."

Mr Moed was then told that Tilbrook had recently got a 14-year-old girl pregnant and that she'd had to have an abortion. Mr Moed says that he went to the police - but that he was advised not to talk about what he had seen.

Community Care reports on June Thoburn
(full details on this link)

Jersey's child protection committee could have done more to prevent abuse in the past, according to its chair June Thoburn, a UK social work expert. Thoburn, who is emeritus professor of social work at East Anglia University, told Community Care the committee, which is similar to a local safeguarding children board, was "too closely linked" to children's services. Thoburn, who was appointed as independent chair of the committee last year by former social services minister Stuart Syvret, said the "same people" had run both the committee and children's services. "Children maltreated in the past did not go to the child protection committee as they did not see it as separate from children's services," she said.Thoburn told Community Care she wanted to give the island's child protection committee "more teeth" by ensuring that it would have an independent chair and a "watchdog role".

The Panorma programme mentions the cruel regime of the Maguires at the care home "Blanche Pierre":

In one home, called Blanche Pierre, the house parents Alan and Jane Maguire subjected children to what a later inquiry called "gross acts of physical and psychological abuse".

The Sprocket website notes that:

Stuart Syvret demanded the files [on Blanche Pierre] and was horrified as he read through the evidence. The extent and detail of abuse was so great, that the Jersey court saying the case against the Maguire's was dropped due to a lack of evidence is just plain bull. If you watched the Panorama program - and you really should – you are already aware of the letter sent to the Maguire's as they left Blanche Pierre thanking them for their 110% commitment and love shown to the children in their care. That 1990 letter of appreciation was authored by Iris Le Feuvre, then President of the then Education Committee.

On A Mission to Nowhere

I wandered into the Christian bookshop mission in the Central Market, and had a glance around the books on offer. Whenever I do this, I tend to get depressed, and this time was no exception. A few observations...

Despite continual popularity, and the new film out, there are no copies of the Narnia books for sale that i could see; only lots of very evangelical preachy children's fiction. In fact, as far as C.S. Lewis goes, I could only spot "Mere Christianity" in the main section. I'd have throught "A Grief Observed" would make it into the section on bereavement, but evidently not. It seems that the bookshop is starting to view C.S. Lewis with suspicion. No sign of his space trilogy ("Out of the Silent Planet" etc) either, although the appalling Left Behind series (which is a kind of science fiction wish-fulfilment fantasy) is still on the shelves. Clearly C.S. Lewis is being viewed with more suspicion than - for example - ten years ago - when there were most of his books in print on the shelves (and they are still in print, just not on these shelves)

Only N.T. Wright's most recent book "Surprised by Hope" on the shelves; no sign of "Simply Christian", or in fact of any of his popular New Testament "for everyone" series of books. But then they never wanted to stock William Barclay either. Only the Tyndale commentaries, which have a definite theological slant, and while they are good at explaining some of the meaning, lack the gift of homely illustration so prevalent in Wright and Barclay - and dare I say it, the parables of Jesus!

One Rowan Williams "Writing in the Dust", but in the sale books. I got it as a spare copy to take on holiday, at only 50 pence. They did once have his book on the Resurrection, about 5 years ago.

A good sign was the "Left Behind Kids" books, of which there must have been about 30 in the sale area. Obviously kids are wiser than we think!

Lots of very preachy DVDs, with only Amazing Grace managing to creep in from the wider world. Some gospel filmed versions, but not the well-known ones, with a very Anglo-Saxon Jesus. I wonder if they'll have the Passion DVD when it comes out?

Occasionally in the past, the odd gem has slipped by. some of Tom Wright's Everyone series, the book in which he engages with Marcus Borg, a book on lifestyle choices and problems by Windy Dryden, and an excellent new translation of part of the Carmina by Kathleen Jones.

On the whole, it is like browsing the New Age stuff. You know what it is likely to say even before you open a book. Not much element of surprise or challenge to existing preconceptions (or even my preconceptions!) but just the usual formulaic evangelical party line.

On the whole though, it is pretty despressing.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

The Skeleton in the Planning Cupboard: some very interesting facts

In the episode of "Yes Minister", "The Skeleton in the Cupboard", at a meeting with his staff Hacker is asked to discipline South Derbyshire Local Authority for inefficiency. It seems that they are not submitting their statistics to the Department. Hacker is reluctant because the Authority is run by his party, and gets the impression that Dr Cartwright has additional information that Sir Humphrey does not want disclosed. He decides to go to Cartwright's office to discuss the matter with him.
When Sir Humphrey learns from Bernard that the minister has "gone walkabout" he is enraged and heads off in pursuit. He bursts in on Hacker and Cartwright just after Cartwright has revealed that South Derbyshire is in fact the most efficient Local Authority in Britain and, while they do not submit statistics to the Department, they keep their own records perfectly well

Hacker:I have learned some very interesting facts.
Sir Humphrey:Well I sincerely hope it does not happen again.

Now according to the JEP, "The decision to approve an adventure centre at Les Ormes - which opens this weekend - will be the subject of an official report by a UK investigator."

The same article reports that "Senator Cohen said that he made the best decision he could make on the advice that he was given."

and adds:

"Senator Cohen has also stressed that he did not see environment officer advice about the impact on Creepy Valley, or know about the £35,000 tourism grant that Les Ormes received for the project."

All one can say after reading this is that he should get out and about more. Either he is not getting the information which he should have about the environmental impact - which means his officers are not doing their job properly - or it is never getting to him, which also means they are not doing their job properly. If he contacted a few environmental groups, and go on a site visit with them, he might actually learn something about the environment. Does he just sit and wait for information to come to him? Perhaps, like Jim Hacker, he needs to go "walkabout" and might learn some interesting facts if he did. Unfortunately like Jim Hacker, for the most part he just seems to depend "on the advice that he was given".

And while he states that he did not know about the tourism grant, it is notable that he omits to say whether any of his planning officers knew about the grant, and had, perhaps, also liased with tourism. Did the tourism department contact planning, is the question that should be asked? If he goes on advice given, could that advice have been slanted because the officers in question knew about the tourism grant, but - because it was not a planning matter - saw no reason to mention it when "advice was given".