Saturday, 21 March 2009

Breaking the Lawyers Code

Hospital 'murders' allegation review: The case of a nurse suspected of killing patients at Jersey's General Hospital is being reviewed. Allegations made a decade ago led to a police investigation, but it was later dropped on legal advice. Now Senator Stuart Syvret has published a police report from the time on his blog. This morning Jersey police said case files are now being reviewed and that key people who had been involved will be spoken to. Detective Chief Inspector Chris Minty says the police want to establish if there is any new evidence which would justify further investigation. And police are also looking at whether publication of the report breaks the island's data protection law.

What is interesting from an outside point of view is that - on the evidence of Stuart Syvret's blog - a convincing array of evidence was being assembled, but he is missing one part - what was the "legal advice" which caused the case to be dropped? Perhaps if this is now made public by the authorities themselves, it will become clear whether it was justified or not. As we have seen more publically with Lenny Harper, and the 11th hour failure to allow charges by a centenier "on legal advice", the same "legal advice" is not made clear; it is a "black box" into which evidence goes, the Attorney -General and lawyers deliberate, and the end result is given, but none of the process of reasoning by which anyone could follow to see how they reached their conclusions. As a result, there is no way of knowing how sound that reasoning is, and other independent lawyers (perhaps acting for victims) have no way of knowing what it is.

It is rather like a conjuring trick, when the magician puts something into a sealed box, waves a wand, and hey presto, it has vanished. The excellent TV series "Breaking the Magicians Code" brought the means out into the open, and made the methods of the tricks transparent. It would be nice if "legal advice" could be more transparent as well, and less like a conjuring trick, in which everyone looking on is kept in the dark as to how it is done. Is this justice "seen to be done"?

As far as "breaking the Data Protection Law" is concerned, surely there is a public interest concern, in particular:

This is the entry on the Nursing and Midwifery Register:
Practitioner Details
Name: Mr XXX XXX
Expiry date: 31 Aug 2009
Register Entry Start Date
Registered Nurse - Adult 16 Jul 1997
Registered Nurse - Adult (Level 2) 05 Jan 1983
Recordable Qualifications Start Date
No Recordable Qualifications registered.
Geographical Location
Channel Islands

As has been noted, this man is still registered to work as a nurse. He could have access to drugs and be near the ill and the sick. Given the evidence that while he may or may not have been responsible for deaths, he has certainly claimed to suffer from "gulf war syndrome", should he really still be able to be potentially looking after vulnerable patients. Is it not in the public interest, and for his own sake, that he is no longer permitted to practice as a nurse? Might it not be like letting someone who has started suffering from epileptic fits carry on driving an HGV vehicle?


voiceforchildren said...


"Legal advice" translated into laymens terms is "The Jersey Way".

Everywhere (over here)you read the words "legal advice" swap them for "The Jersey Way" and all will become clear!

Anonymous said...


This is a well written and insightful view of that place where transparency seems to simply vanish in Jersey.

Rob Kent said...

In the UK we have the Crown Prosecution Service which has to follow a strict code when deciding whether or not to prosecute.

Barristers and solicitors who work for the CPS have to follow the code and record the decision making process so that if a decision to prosecute or not prosecute is later questioned, they can say why they decided that way.

Jersey probably cannot justify a CPS but you would expect, at the least, that the AG (or his lawyers) would have to keep written records of their decisions.

But maybe that is not the Jersey Way...

See CPS Speech - A prosecution service for the 21st century. And: The CPS Code of Practice.

voiceforchildren said...


Were we supposed to come here from Stuarts site?

TonyTheProf said...

Not as far as I know.