Monday, 19 July 2010

Talkback on Wiltshire

Christie Tucker presented BBC Radio Jersey's Talkback in her usual inimitable style this Sunday, in a programme devoted largely to the Wiltshire Report. There is something about a Canadian accent that sits well with political presentation on the BBC, perhaps going back to the days of Robert McKenzie whom I fondly remember with his "swingometer"!

In the course of the programme, Deputy Higgins asked an extremely relevant question about Operation Blast on Talkback, namely why the Attorney-General had seen fit to intervene over the nature of Bill Ogley's involvement. Mr Ogley, it will be remembered, was so concerned about his name being associated with Operation Blast that he took out an injunction to prevent the JEP mentioning his name.

What amazed me about Senator Le Marquand's reply was that he proceeded to read - and by his own admission - release a further paragraph omitted from the redacted report on air, and then went on to say he would be releasing further parts later!

So not only was something like 70% of the report missing, we are now told some of the missing pieces will be released, which begs the question of why they were missing in the first case, if they can now come out (albeit in dribbles as the Minister thinks fit)?

This makes a nonsense of such a severe redaction of the whole report in the first place, and I would like to know (1) who was responsible for such a severe redaction and (2) is it now - as it sounded on Talkback - Senator Le Marquand's own decision to decide to release further segments, on his own bat, as was certainly the case this morning. Is this ad hoc method of release supposed to represent professionalism? I have a great deal of respect for Senator Le Marquand, but I think he does his own reputation no favours by behaving in this fashion.

What is more, the paragraph he did read out only told us of the Attorney-General's decision, but did not explain exactly why the Attorney-General made that judgement (the legal argument, in detail); in other words, it was itself a summary, not a verbatim transcript (which seem to be far and few between).

I have an email which Senator Le Marquand permitted me to put in the public domain, in which he states categorically:

My preference is to release the full report with redaction being limited to the removal of names of witnesses etc. However, I need first to take advice from the A-G. There are issues such as possible libel which have to be looked at. At the end of the day I will take a political view of the matter which will take into account the legal advice.

Quite honestly, I am extremely disappointed by what he said here (in April) and what has been released, and given that the severe redaction may have taken "advice from the AG", how he is now able to cheerfully release extra paragraphs, with no consultation, on BBC Radio live.

He also talks about the same questions being asked of him, and the matter being like "Groundhog day", and yet he himself comes out with the same replies, as if that is the final word. For example, he repeatedly affirms that Dr Brain was not independent, but an advocate for Graham Power, and yet he pretends that the Wiltshire inquiry was independent, when it is perfectly plain that it was to be used as the "prosecution" case in a disciplinary hearing. That this is the case, and is not just my interpretation, is apparent from Senator Le Marquand's own words from the meetings with Dr Brain and Graham Power - the verbatim transcript (not a summary) reads:

"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."

Let me be clear how I stand. I am not "on Mr Power's side", or for that matter against any "establishment". There are supporters of Mr Power. Clearly, there are those like the Haut de La Garenne farce blog who are not. The Jersey Evening Post is providing a good précis of Wiltshire (as noted by Simon Crowcroft), but leaving out anything questionable (like the 70% missing). BBC Radio Jersey seems to me to be more balanced. I am not taking sides, or buying into media conspiracy theories.

All I am seeking is a little clarity which seems to be sadly lacking.

And apart from Wiltshire, where he seems muddled, and the presentation is, quite frankly, a shambles, Senator Le Marquand is, in my opinion, doing quite a good job in difficult circumstances and has worked hard at getting a Sex Offenders (Jersey) Law on the Statute Books.

It should also be remembered he voted in favour of exemptions on food for GST, unlike some of his contemporaries who defaulted on manifesto commitments. Some of his other manifesto commitments (and I see no signs that he has changed his mind) are extremely good - climate change, recycling initiatives, housing and population.

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