Monday, 22 March 2010

Point and Counterpoint

Ian Le Marquand on Talkback noting:

1) Some recommendations given verbally were left out of the ACPO report

Apparently some verbal recommendations mentioned to Graham Power and Lenny Harper were, on Mr Power's insistence, excluded from one of the reports. We will have to wait for Tuesday, and the States sitting for more details, as Senator Le Marquand was not prepared to go further before making a statement to the house, although given his past form, I'm not sure how much will be forthcoming.

However, some speculation might be made about this. The recommendations cannot be such that they would negate the commendations of ACPO on the way the procedures and investigations were continuing. Therefore, they must be other recommendations covering ground not mentioned. There is some scope for this - for example, it may have been recommended to use "on the ground" resources such as a local force in Australia rather than sending officers there, and whether it was the wisest course of action - despite Frank Walker's "money no object" message, and perhaps political pressure to spend money. Or there may have been a public "money no object" and a private message to cut back on costs. Or it may have been Lenny Harper's decision to proceed with the Wateridge arrest and charge, despite the Attorney-General's advice to drop the matter. We simply cannot know at this stage, but there are certainly possibilities, and perhaps Lenny Harper himself, as he can speak out, can enlighten us if Ian Le Marquand will not. I will happily post any comments by him on this blog.

At the moment, until we are enlightened, it is unclear whether what is missing is significant (as in Archimedes method) or in fact only supposal (the missing proof of Fermat's Last Theorem).

Since writing the above, Lenny Harper has very kindly replied on Stuart's blog as follows:

As for the alleged recommendations which were supposedly left out of the report - this is just invented nonsense. There were none. There were recommendations which we decided not no implement, such as the Janet and John points systm for different crims, but they all appeared in the report anyway. There was no recommendation about using local officers in Australia -if there had been I would have rejected it. How could officers who know nothing about this case have interviewed traumatised victims? I still have e mails from the victims in Australia saying how much the caring and sensitive approach of our officer meant. No, ACPO would never have recommended that. Bear in mind also, if my memory serves me correctly, even the AG wanted officers sent out to Australia again to carry out further enquiries. Furthermore, ACPO made it cear they supported our use of resources. If you look at their reports you will see they frequently speak of the need for further resources. And finally, if there were some recommendations that they felt we had unjustly ignored, would they not have told Walker, Lewis and Ogley in their private meetings which neither Graham or I attended and which according to ACPO they have a written record of?

2) There is a "scandal"

This seems to be over one member of the team, clearly not Lenny Harper, who perhaps had leaked information or who had some question mark either over their abilities or on other grounds - they had perhaps connections with victims or accused that did not immediately come to light. Or it might relate to "Operation Blast". I thought I detected a certain relish in Senator Le Marquand's as he enunciated the word "scandal"; I have no doubt this is the kind of Tabloid headline that the Jersey Evening Post will relish. My prediction: the JEP will headline the word sometime over the week! I am not sure the word "scandal" is a very wise one to use in these circumstances, especially given Ian Le Marquand's comments on a "runaway media circus".

While on this subject, remarks that he made on 40 teeth falling through cracks in the floorboards do not seem measured or balanced, and belong to the realm of folklore - for example, eastern traditions required the child to throw the tooth into the air or under floor boards, the belief being this would keep the teeth from growing in crooked. There is not the slightest evidence of this being true at Haut de La Garenne, but it has been suggested that if teeth had somehow fallen beneath the floorboards, other small objects would also be expected to be found there. None have been reported as yet.

3) The suspension process

Ian La Marquand has no doubt the suspension process was carried out badly and rushed, without proper time taken. His own review, according to Dr Brain, left a lot to be desired. For example, at the start of the review, he stated:

Senator B.I Le Marquand:
What I am suggesting, as a way forward, just to clarify that, is that I simply go upon the basis of the earlier paragraphs of the letter which are those in which Mr. Warcup expressed a view. You see what effectively happens is Mr. Warcup expresses concerns and then he calls in aid the Metropolitan Review Interim Report as support for his already expressed concerns. That is my understanding of the situation.

Dr Brain then addressed the Warcup letter, only to find that the basis for the review of the suspension was then made on quite different grounds!! Politely, but with some degree of exasperation, he noted in conclusion:

What I would say is that I have had some difficulty, both on the previous occasion we convened and on this occasion, in discovering exactly what has been expected of me. I have been required to state criteria against what I think you should conduct a review on. I really do not think that is my job. I have done it because I have respected your role and the process that I am part of. I think it would have been much more helpful had I been given notice of that before I attended this morning. I am sure that is a matter to which Mr. Power will refer to in future judicial circumstances.

Again, it perhaps would have been helpful before we started this process to discover that was the essence of the test that you would have applied and indeed I would have endeavoured to construct my arguments around it. As it was, I was supplied with a limited amount of technical information that seemed to form the basis of the decision of 12th November upon which the previous Minister made his decision. It, therefore, struck me as entirely reasonable to construct a case around addressing those issues. To frankly discover that perhaps I should have been addressing something else is unhelpful at this stage and I must register my concern at that process.

This does not read to me like a well-conducted review, although I will give Ian Le Marquand the benefit being new to the post, and very much trying to conduct the review from scratch, without really having any experience of reviews like this. I think he should have called for someone with more experience of the review process to chair the review, and hope lessons may be learnt.

I would also point out (as it has been brought to my attention) that Dr Brain is acting on behalf of Graham Power, and is not, insofar as that is the case, completely independent. He has to accept Mr Power's statements at face value where those are not corroborated by other reports, and where there are differences in recall between Mr Power and others, he is likely to privilege the accuracy of Mr Power's point of view. Nevertheless, as he is also a historian as well as a policeman, I would suggest that his handling of sources will, for the most part, be impartial rather than partisan, and where there are ambiguities or matters of opinion, it will be seen that he does state these as a good historian should be expected to do.

5) An apology should be forthcoming

Senator Le Marquand must be praised for suggesting that an official apology should be forthcoming - after all, the States are responsible for failings at Haut de la Garenne and elsewhere. He suggests this should happen after the all the court cases are complete, which seems eminently sensible.

In this, he is being consistent with his own arguments. If he sees States members offices (such as Home Affairs Minister) as each being a "corporation sole", then the holder of the office has to take responsibility for the decisions of the office. There are numerous precedents for official apologies. He is the first States member in the Council of Ministers to mention an apology, and I think he deserves to be commended for this. I am also pleased that this was highlighted on BBC Radio Jersey this morning.

It is a shame the former Bailiff could not be so magnanimous in spirit in the infamous Liberation day speech when he derided the notion of apology.

6) The Official Version

There is clearly an "official" view taking shape in Ian Le Marquand's mind about what happened. This involves (1) a runaway media circus which was badly handled, and (2) the cases which did go to court were "rescued" by the concerted efforts of David Warcup and Mick Gradwell.

Dr Brain, it is clear, approaching this as an outsider, and perhaps better placed to be more objective, took a different view. He saw no evidence of "combative media statements" in Lenny Harper's media presentation, and noted that:

Although a media strategy was developed, it is clear that its application led to an unprecedented level of media interest and public concern. Having dealt with the Gloucester floods of July and August 2007, Minister, I can assure you that Chief Officers of Police are not in control of unprecedented levels of media interest or public concern. So, it is not really clear how this amounts to criticism of the Chief Officer. It certainly was his job to ensure that there was a media strategy in place and this he did. He can in no way be held responsible for the media circus that followed.

On the Wiltshire report, Ian Le Marquand says they have expressed "a view", which is perhaps cautious.

Even in recent history, it can be very difficult to reconstruct "what really happened". The story in the book Wittgenstein's Poker shows how the ten minute argument between Ludwig Wittgenstein and Karl Popper at Cambridge in 1946 had lots of witnesses. Yet, even after the authors had checked with living witnesses, and gone over differing accounts, it was still not possible to agree exactly what happened or was said in those ten minutes. There is agreement on some basic elements, but disagreement on others.

The danger is in prematurely taking sides, and assuming the priority of one report over others just because it is the latest. In fact, in historical research, regarding oral traditions, later reports are generally not seen as reliable as earlier ones in the matter of oral testimony, as the memory of events becomes distorted over time. There certainly seems to have been quite a lot of oral testimony emerging that somehow hasn't made its way into written records, and it would be a mistake to assume that because it finds its way into more recent reports that it is thereby more accurate. What we really need are more file notes like those made just after events, like those of Graham Power made just after a meeting with Bill Ogley.

"Note book entry made of 25th July, 2007. 16.00. I am at HQ having just returned from a meeting of the CMB (Corporate Management Board.) During the meeting BO (Bill Ogley) said that he would wish some of us to remain afterwards to discuss the comments of the Health Minister Senator Syvret in relation to child protection issues.... I was handed a copy of a report to Ministers and associated papers, which I have stamped and initialled. The discussion was led by BO who disclosed that the C.P.C would, this afternoon be discussing a vote of no confidence in the Minister. MP and TMcK did not seem surprised at this. MP seemed to be fully signed up to this course of action. Attempts were made by BO to draw me into this. I was told that my people were "part of" the island's arrangements and I should show collective support by opposing the criticism made by the Minister. I was taken aback by this but responded in two ways. Firstly I said leaving aside issues of style and manner the questions raised by the Minister were valid. Particularly in respect of the time it had taken for the abuse of a [child] in [a] case to come to the notice of the police and the apparent failure of child protection to give it priority. I said that the SCR (Serious Case Review) was a poor effort which missed the hard questions and I was not surprised that the Minister was not impressed. I conceded that all of the questions might have answers, I just thought they were good questions and ones which a Minister could validly ask... BO and the others were persistent and I was left with the clear impression that they were attempting to draw me, in my capacity as Chief of Police, into a civil service led attempt to remove a Minister from Office. Having concluded this I then moved on to my second point which was that even if I agreed with everything they said I would still have nothing to do with it. They were engaging in what I saw as political activity and it was entirely inappropriate that I should be involved one way or the other. The fact that "I will have nothing to do with this" was made clearly. At this point BO said "in that case, goodbye", or something very similar. I picked up my papers. There was no bad feeling or bad words, we just disagreed. As soon as I was outside I rang SDV (Shaun Du Val, Head of Operations) and alerted him to the possible problems at the C.P.C. AF rang me not long afterwards and told me that she had abstained. I told her to put this beyond all doubt by a follow-up e-mail to the Chair. I made this notebook entry then walked over to Ops for it to be timed in the relevant machine."

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