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.
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