Monday, 15 November 2010

Affidavits and Truth

Rico Sorda's blog is looking at the inability of the Bill Ogley to supply any affidavit for his position, whereas Graham Power, Lenny Harper have both provided to provide affidavits to support the truth of what they are saying, and he looks a the merits of affidavits in general. My own Britannica tells me:

affidavit, a written statement of fact made voluntarily, confirmed by the oath or affirmation of the party making it, and signed before a notary or other officer empowered to administer such oaths. Affidavits generally name
the place of execution and certify that the person making it states certain facts and appeared before the officer on a certain date and "subscribed and swore" to the statement

However, what constitutes a fact? For instance, in his Affidavit, which does contain many shocking facts, there are also interpretations about, for instance, how the Attorney-General delayed cases. The reason given by the Attorney-General, in one instance, was that he was "reviewing the evidence." Now one might well take the view, given grounds for reasonableness after the evidence had been supplied by Lenny Harper, that was the equivalent of "the cheque is in the post", but however strong the evidence to suggest the delay was motivated by other reasons, that can be no more than an inference on Lenny Harper's behalf. The same is not true, for example, of finding pornography on the "bad eggs" in the police that Lenny exposed - either it was on a pc, or it was not - that is a clear matter of fact.

The same is true with the comment on Stuart Syvret:

Senator Stuart Syvret, was trying to draw attention to abuse of children within the Jersey Care System. He was eventually dismissed from the government as a direct result of his efforts.

Now it is clear that part of the reason for Stuart's dismissal was related to his exposure of the Grand Prix system, and other matters which had not come to light - but it was not the only reason why his fellow politicians voted to remove him. Roy Le Hérissier: noted that: "I certainly do not support bullying and harassing emails and that is what they are. Several of us have received them in other contexts as well. It is nothing to do with the particular display of anger associated with this case. That is a post hoc rationalisation and one to be treated like that.", and certainly the apparent rudeness and abrasive manner with which he managed his department and responded to colleagues (as evidenced in emails) could well have been the tipping point between support when it came to the vote despite his raising matters of concern. So Lenny Harper's affidavit is not giving the complete picture of the dismissal, but an opinion on the facts of the matter (the vote of dismissal).

So there are weaknesses in relying on an affidavit, especially where it moves from clear facts (a policeman had pornography on his pc) to surmise (the reasons why the Attorney-General took particular decisions).

But regarding the inability of others to provide an affidavit, it is certainly true that confidence in the Chief Advisor, Bill Ogley, would be immeasurably improved if he made an sworn affidavit on these matters under oath, but the fact that he does not seem to want to do so does not in itself prove any allegations made against him.

Yet under the circumstances, given Graham Power's file note, and the way in which Mr Ogley was excluding from the standard police investigatory methods of the Wiltshire inquiry, and the criticism of his part in the suspension by the Napier report, it certainly seems as if he is trying to avoid any detailed investigation or criticism of his actions, or other parties are trying to do that on his behalf. Perhaps there are good grounds for doings so, but a lack of transparency doesn't let us see one way or the other. In that respect, his friends may not be acting in the wisest manner, however well intentioned their interventions.

With respect to Terry Le Sueur, however, if he makes statements in the States, it is taken for granted, as in the U.K. Parliament, that these are truthful. As with the UK, to lie in the House is taken as an extremely serious offense, so much so that Frank Walker, when the Harcourt court case was raised, gave an answer (very unwisely) on the basis of advice given, stuck to that in the face of increasingly obvious contradictory evidence available, and was then forced into a very public apology for misleading the House, albeit unintentionally.

An affidavit is not necessary, therefore, if a politician makes a statement or answers a question in the House. They can say ""to the best of my knowledge" and give a summary of that knowledge. That doesn't mean they can't try and fudge the issue, or pull wool over people's eyes. The case of organisational charts is a point in question. On asked about these, Senator Le Sueur replied:

Most of the information the Deputy is asking for is included the annex to the Business Plan and in each department's Business Plan for 2010. In these he will find an organisation chart, a breakdown of staffing by division with a description of the work of that division.

Of course, these charts only provide the barest outlines of an organisation, a sketch of different departments structures, and of course Terry Le Sueur must be well aware of this - they do not give detailed charts of the kind in the minds of the questioners, and provided by Sarah Ferguson, or mentioned by by the Auditor-General:

Assessment of the appropriateness of the Department's management structures, including the number of management levels within them, has been hampered by the absence of a systematic practice within the Department of producing organisation charts that show individual jobs and the accountability relationships between them.

By sticking to the non-specific nature of what is being asked, it is possible for Senator Le Sueur to fudge the issue, and he seems very good at this. The other fudge which is well known to viewers of "Yes Minister" is the "internal investigation", where Sir Humphrey declares that the "job of a professionally conducted internal enquiry is to unearth a great mass of no evidence." By their nature, internal enquiries, such as that mentioned by Senator Le Sueur, rarely provide public information, and instead only supply "results" for the politician to declare.

There certainly seems to be a very close relationship of trust between Senator Le Sueur and Mr Ogley, in which trust is paramount:

I have not suspended the Chief Executive because he has denied categorically the allegations of the suspended Chief Officer of the States of Jersey Police

Trust, and taking an individuals' word, is necessary for good government, but there can be dangers on over-reliance upon one individual, as the case of Sir Horace Wilson (chief advisor to one Neville Chamberlain) demonstrated only too well in the 1930s and early 1940s. It can be misplaced.

The climate in which politicians find themselves today is one in which trust has been steadily eroded, partly under the onslaught of post-modernism and the general deprecation of authority, which has to earn respect, and partly by the way in which (locally) that respect has been thrown away, especially by politicians who stand on one platform (for example, exemptions to GST) and change their tune almost immediately after election.

Senator Terry le Sueur's style of government - on the one hand saying one thing (e.g. we need more inclusive, broader government) and on the other doing the opposite - has been noticed and critiqued not just by bloggers but by columnists in the JEP, on more than one occasion. His loyalty to his Chief Executive is admirable, but the lack of trust which he has engendered by his style of government requires more transparency and independent scrutiny to restore public confidence than just saying (effectively) "I trust him, trust me".

Anyway, the inquiry cleared him completely, but they missed some rather obvious questions and checks.
(Yes Prime Minister, "One of Us")


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

They are using affadavits willy nilly and because of this they are not being taken seriously anymore.

Its easy to make claims but lacking in Mr Syvret's accusations has always been one main item - proof.