Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Independent Advisory Group - A Comment

In the Jersey Evening Post this week, Mr Regal and Mr Keen both criticised the way the police (under Lenny Harper) liaised with Independent Advisory Group of which they were members.

This group was one of the recommendations of the ACPO report to Graham Power, which they noted was duly carried out (despite the judgement of the Attorney-General that this was not needed in Jersey):

Recommendation 17: That the Chief Officer and SIO consider a Community Impact Assessment and convene an Independent Advisory Group. The IAG should not include former residents at this home, could include advisors from NSPCC or Community groups. The IAG could advise on the CIA.

On 19th March, a Community Impact Assessment was completed. The first meeting of the Independent Advisory Group was held on the 13th March 2008.

But there are serious problems with the chronology with the recent report blaming Lenny Harper. The JEP reports on the resignation of the group at the end of January 2009:

THE States police are disappointed that all four members of an independent group set up to monitor the historical abuse inquiry resigned suddenly last week. Acting Chief Officer David Warcup praised the members of the Independent Advice Group, who stood down because they felt there was a mistaken perception that they were the inquiry's official watchdog or complaints body. The members said that they were disappointed that neither the police nor Home Affairs publicly clarified their role, so they all resigned. The members were lawyer Carol Canavan, the Rev Geoff Houghton, data protection commissioner Emma Martins and businessman Steven Regal.

Now this was long after Mr Harper had left the police at the end of August, and Mick Gradwell had taken over. Moreover, by this time David Warcup had been in charge for several months since the suspension of Mr Power. So the claim that the problems lay with Mr Harper, which are made in the JEP by Mr Regal and Mr Keen seems somewhat specious.

If the group "revealed its frustrations at being continually kept in the dark", and were ignored, it seems that at least from September 2008 (when Mick Gradwell was heading the enquiry and not Mr Harper) , and certainly from early November 2008 (when Mr Warcup took over as Acting Chief of Police), they must bear some responsibility. After all, there were - from September - at least four months in which Mr Gradwell could supply some of the "the lack of input and clarity" which was experienced by the group which "exacerbated their frustrations and eventually led to a breakdown of trust with the [police] force". What was he doing in that time?

The group were also "taking soundings" from the public by email, and it would be most interesting to see if these agreed with the perceptions of Mr Regal and Mr Keen - perhaps, redacted for names and personal content - these could be published so that we can see how the group saw the public perception. I myself sent an email to them in support of the investigation, and noting the clarity with which the police had responded to a Daily Mail article (which made misleading allegations).

Certainly, when I asked the group how matters were in January 2009, there was no indication in the reply of any frustration, and yet when they resigned at the end of that month - after over four months of Mr Gradwell as the senior investigation officer liaising with them - this evidently was the case.

I was told the following:

The IAG continues to meet regularly and our objective is to act as a 'sounding board' to the senior investigating officer as well as relay any community concerns/comments to him. It is not a review body nor does it in any way involve itself with the investigation in an evidential way. Therefore, other than minutes being taken of the meetings, and copies of correspondence being maintained, the Group does not propose to publish any reports or a review.

As you are aware, there are a number of enquiries underway at the present time relating to the investigation itself to which the Group are not a party to. I am informed that the results of such enquiries are likely to be made public in due course upon their completion

This also mentioned the Wiltshire enquiry, then under way:

The Group met approximately once a month and did comment and challenge unfolding events from a community perspective. Clearly the detail of the investigation is now subject to external scrutiny from UK police and I am sure we will all welcome the conclusion of that.

Minutes are mentioned, and it would be interesting to know if any of the frustrations were aired in these minutes, and also how the group actually went about challenging "unfolding events from a community perspective." It would also help to see why the group disbanded, after over four months with Mick Gradwell presumably chairing meetings, or did he not bother to call them? The minutes would at least tell us how many meetings he deigned to call while he was in charge. Surely dates of meetings would not be confidential?

Mr Gradwell's name is absent from any of the criticism made by the group as reported by the JEP. Perhaps they should do a follow up, and ask a few more questions - was there even more frustration and were they kept even more in the dark by Mr Harper's successor?

And let's not forget Senator Le Marquand was also critical of the group. Shortly before they disbanded, at the end of January 2009 , this was reported:

THE independent group set up by the police to advise them in the historical child abuse inquiry is unsatisfactory and may need new members, says the Home Affairs Minister. Last week Senator Ian Le Marquand (pictured) refused to answer questions in the States on whether he was satisfied with the workings of the independent advisory group (IAG). But at a Scrutiny hearing this week the minister criticised the structure of the group, which is made up of members of the public appointed to advise the police on the major child abuse inquiry...He announced that there had been a public misunderstanding about the working of the group and that he was not satisfied with the way it was currently operating.

Now this was with Mr Gradwell in charge of the investigation and chairing the meetings since September 2008, and Active CPO David Warcup in charge since early November 2008. Just after this criticism by Senator Le Marquand, the group disbanded.

If there is any cause and effect in play, the balance of probability is that Senator Le Marquand's comments tipped the balance, - how would you like being told a group of which you were a member was "unsatisfactory" - and was the final straw in the "frustration" but the chronology shows that Lenny Harper could not be blamed in any way for this; he had retired long before. The JEP's attempt to rewrite history just does not make sense.



Anonymous said...

As usual, Tony, you have spotted something which has escaped just about everyone else!!

Dare I suggest that this is something you could send to the JEP and see what they say - if anything!

By the way, perhaps you might check the dates in your penultimate paragraph. I think the dates of September and November 2009 should in fact be 2008.

Keep this up please Tony - it's so easy for people to just accept what's in the JEP.

TonyTheProf said...

Thanks for note - I've corrected the paragraph.

No - I'm sure the JEP and interested parties can pick up on it if they want. It's mostly in their ownn files! Another example of their somehwat sloppy journalism.

Just to restate: I'm not taking sides, I;m just trying to make sense of the history.

Jill Gracia said...

Thanks for this Tony.

For those who only digest what they see in the JEP it just goes to show that when the true facts are made available a completely different light is shone on this and many other issues.

Your attention to detail/dates and factual evidence is second to none. Long may it continue!

Anonymous said...

Nice one Tony, I really enjoy reading your posts
do you think it might be possible to
do an analysis on tonight's JEP editorial, as it was very damming towards us bloggers

Anonymous said...

In suggesting that you send this to the JEP I was merely making a point that you have picked up a major inaccuracy in reporting. Now, that inaccuracy might, as you say, be down to sloppy journalism. Perhaps the sloppiness to which you refer was simply for them to take at face value what Mr Regal told them. However, your piece has given them the opportunity (in my view) to put the record straight - or, in other words, to correct their sloppiness!

I totally accept that you do not take sides. This is what makes your commentary so valuable. I take much the same view myself. However, my blood pressure tends to rise steeply when I read such arrant bigotry as is contained in todays JEP editorial!!

Best wishes.

Nick Palmer said...

Well spotted/remembered.

It's very difficult to definitively judge the Power/Warcup/Harper/Gradwell quartet and their relative integrity and veracity, and how much was the proportion of B.S. in their utterances.

It is obvious however that either the JEP report or the original words of the IAG panel appear to contain terminological inexactitudes. In short, blatant propaganda - shallow and amateurish as it is.

I don't know which makes me angrier - the blind arrogance and self-certainty of propagandists or the complacency/stupidity of the public who lap it up without analysis, complaint or, most importantly, protest.

I wonder if propagandists are so ideologically driven that they have been rendered incapable of seeing "outside the box" which they have defined, to themselves, as the whole truth?

Maybe they have blinkered themselves so efficiently that they can no longer effectively perceive reality and actually believe their own take on things is the be all and end all?

Anonymous said...

On the ball Tony, excellent post


Anonymous said...

The most important element of the JEP's alleged sloppiness is that their factual mistakes never seem to fall on the side of Harper's or Power's defense. I doubt many readers on either side of the historic abuse inquiry even question that the JEP reporting can be deliberately misleading.

For the JEP to gain trust and credibility, readers should not be able to instantly detect the bias of their "news" article writers unless the article is honestly and clearly labelled as an op/ed.

Even if one actually agrees with the JEP's slant in a particular news article, such objectively discernable bias should trouble the island's critical thinkers.

Who really can trust news writers who go so far beyond the verifiable facts, sometimes minimizing or ommitting the most persuasive factual evidence?

One-sided "sloppiness" has lead to readily apparent distrust between the JEP and too many of their readers, especially those who know to use the internet to check documented facts.