Senator Ian Le Marquand (as reported in the JEP) suggests that Graham Power could afford to be professionally represented by a Jersey Advocate, mainly on the grounds that Mr Power is suspended on full pay.
When the case of the Pinel family has run up legal costs of around £300,000, it is clear that this is not as straightforward as it sounds. Senator Le Marquand believes that libellous statements have been made on blogs, begging the question why those allegedly libelled do not sue for damages, but the reason is most probably the same - the costs can be prohibitively expensive, and if those making allegations have no assets, there is not much compensation available.
It is noteworthy that former Senator Frank Walker, a man of substantial means, did see fit to take recourse to this kind of action against accusations by two States members that he was a wife-beater, but that Constable Dan Murphy who also says that comments against him on Stuart Syvret's blog are malicious has not. Senator Le Marquand has called into question not free speech, which is a a vital constitutional freedom but the fact that there is not any real redress for libellous information on blogs. It is just too costly in Jersey. There is an assumption that because nobody sues anyone, the information is therefore true, an assumption often fuelled by some bloggers themselves in their comments.
The same factor, I believe, applies in the case of Graham Power, where despite his Chief Officer's pay, the cost of employing a lawyer is simply too costly. Even if you win, it can bankrupt you.
One of the lessons to be learned from Islam is the popularity of Sharia law, which in countries like Nigeria provide a cheap and fair form of justice for ordinary Muslims, for whom the cost of litigation is beyond their wildest dreams. I'm not saying that we should adopt Sharia Law - in my opinion, any inflexible and theocratic legislature is dangerous - but it does address the matter of providing a justice system that is available to everyone regardless of cost.
This is a weakness in Jersey and British Law that makes it open to exploitation by those calling for the introduction of Sharia Law, and while people who have sufficient funds should be able to pay their way, I think there should be limitations imposed (perhaps by means testing) on the level of expenditure that should be incurred before the State steps in.
Jersey has a legal aid system, but it is very poor; it helps the poorest, but it does not help everyone else from being penalised with the cost of litigation. I am sure that Graham Power considered the cost of using a lawyer, and weighed that against the cost to his family, and his near retirement. The State, on the other hand, in such cases, can call upon all the weight of its own legal staff, and expert advice if required. It is not exactly a balanced and fair system.
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