Wednesday, 17 March 2010

The Invisible Rabbits of Ian le Marquand

The point is that the suspension was initiated on the basis of a partial consideration of the available material. (Dr Brain, Suspension Review Meeting, 2009)

There has been completely adequate time to find out all of the essentials of the investigation in that time and therefore a return to work could not in any way inhibit the conclusion of our investigation.(Dr Brain, March 2009)

ACPO Report: Recommendation 13: That the Chief Officer maintains a safety zone between the investigation and any demands of politicians. Other than from a supervisory and responsibility standpoint Mr Graham Power Chief Officer of the States of Jersey Police is not involved in the actual investigation. He is, and has been, responsible for attending to any issues of a political nature or in an advisory capacity to the Chief Minister, Ministers and politicians. It is very important that this continues to protect the investigation and allow for the investigation to be unfettered by any demands.

Senator Ian Le Marquand was on BBC Radio Jersey this morning defending his quite extraordinary stance over not reviewing the ACPO reports as part of the suspension on the grounds that they were not directly related to the suspension, and that the Royal Court had backed him up on that.

That the Royal Court could make a mistaken decision seems not to be a matter for consideration, and yet the very fact that Appeal Courts have ruled against Royal Court decisions surely indicates that they are not the last word. One has to remember that lawyers (and Home Affairs Ministers) argue cases to win; it is an adversarial system, not a scientific or historical inquiry where the only question is to get closer to the truth, even if it means giving up one's own notions as mistaken.

In the "Yes Minister" Sir Humphrey Appleby style in which he often speaks on these matters, his exact phrasing has been "Simply, putting my concerns very simply, if I start to open up an aspect of the matter then I am effectively being drawn into a consideration of the underlying evidence which is not, in my view, an appropriate thing to do at this stage."

Now that some reports are in the public domain, he feels that he can speak on them, and he sounded (to my ears) to be extremely irritated and indignant at Deputy Bob Hill's recent comments.

Senator Le Marquand noted that the ACPO report had NOT said (as he understood Bob Hill to be saying) that Mr Power should not be engaged in the investigation at all, but that he should be engaged at a "supervisory" capacity, and he suggested that in a major investigation like this, that would involve a considerable amount of supervision to be done properly, with the implication that it was not done so.

However, I would have thought that a major part of the supervisory process would have involved taking on board the advice of ACPO and seeing that their recommendations were carried out. Otherwise, why involve ACPO if he was going to cover the same ground himself?

As far as receiving the ACPO reports, and carrying out the recommendations, Graham Power clearly did not fail in his task or shirk his duty of supervision, which must surely have involved resourcing their recommendations. And yet strangely, Ian Le Marquand, despite being asked to look at the reports by Graham Power, repeatedly refused to do so, on the grounds that he had to be impartial, and could not consider "the underlying evidence".

He did mention that he had received some interim reports from the Wiltshire enquiry, and some from an audit of expenses, and hinted very darkly that there were a lot of questions, particularly on the expenses front. For some reason, known only to himself, clear in his own mind, but to no one else, he is very happy to review and comment vaguely on some reports (which we can't see) but not others.

But no one can make an independent review of whether he is talking through his hat, or not, because those reports are not in the public domain. His argument was effectively:

- I have information that you are not privy to
- I am not going to make this public
- This confirms my opinion that I was right
- Trust me

It was little wonder that the poor presenter did not have much in the way of questions, when he produces, like a rabbit out of a hat, like a conjuror, a secret trump card that he says trumps anything Bob Hill says, but he won't say what it is. But we know a little of his thinking from the suspension meeting, where he says:

The suspension letter to Mr. Power makes reference to a number of things. It refers to command and control structures in relation to the historical child abuse inquiry, Operation Rectangle. Issues are raised in relation to the terms of reference, to the possible lack of supervision of Mr. Harper, in relation to the forensic strategy, in relation to the decision that had been made that it is to be a single agency matter, that is police only, in relation to the command structure, in relation to strategic oversight and tactical plans, and in relation to inquiry parameters and financial controls.

As far as the "possible lack of supervision of Mr Harper", unless Graham Power was not getting the ACPO reports or acting upon them, then he was clearly supervising - in getting an extra set of eyes to take a close hard look at the investigation, and come back to him with recommendations.

The recommendations from the initial visit have been acted upon, some within a very short period following delivery of the initial report. The States of Jersey Police are to be commended for their positive reception of the report and for their extremely prompt response in implementing the recommendations.

Lack of supervision of Mr Harper? I don't think this holds up at all. Unless there is some strange legal meaning of "supervision" that somehow means something else apart from its common meaning. Could Senator Ian Le Marquand, when he next speaks on the Radio, please explain what he means by "supervision" and what a Chief of Police should have been doing.

Of course, if a decision is made not to even look at the ACPO reports, as Senator Le Marquand did, it is not surprising he would see little evidence of supervision. It's like an optician putting on a blindfold before they test someone's sight, and then declaring that the person has poor eyesight.

So I don't think we have an obligation to give trust on the basis of blind faith - his own assessment might be correct, or ambiguous, or incorrect - as he says Bob Hill's analysis of ACPO has been, and there can be no assumption that he is right until we can see the evidence for ourselves. There is no promise from Ian Le Marquand that this will be forthcoming in any specific time frame, and the way in which the suspension dragged on is extraordinary. Arguments involving invisible rabbits do not inspire public confidence.

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