Wednesday, 14 July 2010

The Missing 70% of Wiltshire

Jim Hacker: You can get them from the Public Records Office under the 30-year rule.

Alex Andrews from the Mail: Yes, I thought you'd say that, but I want a guarantee that I will get ALL of them. You made a manifesto commitment saying you'd tell voters the facts. This is a test case. I want your guarantee that no papers will be removed from the file before it's opened.

Jim Hacker: I don't see why not. No skin off my nose.

Alex Andrews: Is that a promise? A REAL promise, not the sort you put in your manifesto!
(Yes Minister, The Skeleton in the Cupboard)

While there is bound to be a lot of comment on Graham Power's handling of Operation Rectangle, I have only just begun perusing the documents and am certainly not in a position to comment on the contents, apart from noting the following.
On the positive side, indications are given where names or sentences are removed.

On the negative side, a lot of text is removed! The only document which appears to be intact is the reports by BDO Alto on finances and use of resources seems to have escaped the textual equivalent of a Beeching axe, and that is printed sideways, so is impossible to read except by printing it out - how environmentally friendly!

In one of the reports, which is 109 pages long, page 9 to 89 are completely missing and the notice says "Text Redacted".  How one can judge a document where 75% is missing is beyond me. It may be argued that it is not significant, but how do we know? Who judged that it was not significant, and are they right or not? With one of the other reports, we have 118 pages of a 383 document, which is around 30% of the total - 70% of the pages are missing.

And that's not even taking into account where pages are there, but whole sentences are missed out, as for example:

On 29 May 2008, Deputy Andrew LEWIS took over Senator Wendy KINNARD's responsibility for Operation Rectangle. [TEXT REDACTED]. Deputy Andrew LEWIS then subsequently assumed the role of Home Affairs Minister in October 2008 after Senator KINNARD left her ministerial role.

Perhaps these should be submitted to "Have I Got News for You", so that the team can use them in their "missing words" round? Clearly there is something in that gap, but it is extremely difficult to guess what it is, or whether it might be significant. This kind of hacking whole sentences or parts of sentences to bits occurs throughout.

In a previous posting, I likened Wiltshire to the Diatessaron, but given this degree of excision, it is more akin to Marcion, who produced the first version of the Bible text that he liked. Anything he did not want was chucked out - all of the Old Testament, along with much of the New Testament, ending with 22 Chapters of Luke (out of 24), and 10 letters of Paul. It was butchery on a massive scale, and leaving 25% available in one document is very like that!

Of course all kinds of reasons are adduced, the principal one in this case being:

Witnesses interviewed as part of this investigation were not informed that their identities or information provided by them to the investigation Team would be published. As a consequence, only parts of the original Report are being published.
When it was decided not to use the report as a disciplinary measure of the kind that is part of a system that is just but simply to release it as a one-sided case, with little or no chance of Mr Power's side being heard, surely someone could have simply ensured that as many witnesses as possible gave their permission?

And when was it decided to release the report? It was certainly decided before the decision was made to drop the disciplinary charge - Senator Ian Le Marquand spoke of his intention to release the full report back around the 1st of April, this being " the full report with redaction being limited to the removal of names of witnesses etc.". So there was plenty of time - over three months - to ensure that 75% of one report would not vanish into the ether.

Finally, what became of the balanced and fair approach to justice enshrined in this statement by Senator Le Marquand? Clearly, he has made a decision, to release the report. Does that mean, that in not hearing in full Mr Power's side, he is not doing justice to Mr Power? Judged by his very own words, this would appear to be the case.

"Even once I get the Wiltshire Report I will not be in a position to make decisions, other than perhaps to form any preliminary view, because to do justice to Mr. Power I must hear, in full, his account of matters."

I hope that the both Graham Power and Dr Brain will provide a reply to Wiltshire, not necessarily that I would prejudge their case as watertight, but that I think the one-sided release of Wiltshire, to such fanfare and acclaim,  according to Senator Le Marquand's own standards - or the ones he certainly held in March 2009 - simply doesn't do justice to Mr Power.

Of missing material, the Yes Minister episode, The Skeleton in the Cupboard contains this excuse from Sir Humphrey Appleby for missing documents:

How will I explain the missing documents to the Mail?

Well, this is what we normally do in.....circumstances like these.

"This file contains the complete set of papers, except for a number of secret documents, a few others which are part of still-active files, some correspondence lost in the floods of 1967...records lost in the move to London, or when the War Office joined the Ministry of Defence, and the withdrawal of papers that could give grounds for an action for libel or breach of confidence or cause embarrassment to friendly governments."

To which we might add the following:

"The text of this Report has been redacted to ensure that, in publishing this Report, due regard is had to the relevant legal principles contained in the Human Rights (Jersey) Law 2000, the Data Protection (Jersey) Law 2005 and other legal duties."


Anonymous said...

Spot on as usual!
You seem to have a copy of the report. Could you please let me know where I could get one?

TonyTheProf said...

It's available in redacted form from the States website

Anonymous said...

re: not being able to read sideways

if it's a PDF file, most decent PDF viewers have options to allow rotating the page...... have a look at what buttons and menu items are available!