Monday, 6 December 2010

Will no one rid me of this turbulent policeman?

You are the Archbishop who was made by the King; whom he set in your place to carry out his command. You are his servant, his tool, and his jack, You wore his favours on your back, You had your honours all from his hand; from him you had the power, the seal and the ring. (Murder in the Cathedral, TS Eliot)

In a recent Hansard, Paul Le Claire reported the following exchange:

Not long after Deputy Andrew Lewis took over as the Minister for Home Affairs I walked through the Chamber to the top of the stairs and in his company was the former Chief Minister, Mr. Frank Walker. They were discussing the former Deputy Chief of Police, Mr. Lenny Harper. The Chief Minister at the time said: "Why did you not get rid of him?" I found that a little strange at the time for that to be expressed but I entered into the conversation by standing with them and partook in the conversation. The response - which I think is the important thing, the key thing - from the Minister was: "We were going to get rid of him but he only had a week to go so we thought it best just to let him go."

The exact date I am afraid I did not record. It was shortly after, if not the day, that the announcement was made that Deputy Lewis had taken over as the Minister.

Now this has been seen as evidence of a conspiracy to get rid of the Deputy Chief Office, Lenny Harper, particularly as Deputy Hill has noted that the only one able to remove the Deputy was in fact the Chief Officer, not the Minister for Home Affairs. So in order to remove Lenny Harper, it would be necessary to remove his Deputy. But if the only way to get rid of Lenny Harper was to suspend Graham Power - which would allow someone else to take over as Acting Chief, and suspend him - then why was Graham Power suspended after Lenny Harper had left? And who was the someone else? David Warcup didn't get sworn in as Deputy Chief until the day after Lenny Harper had left, so he wasn't in a position at the time to take over as Acting Chief Officer. The logic of this conspiracy simply doesn't work out properly.

Senator Ian Le Marquand commented on this, and I don't know if his words carried a sarcastic tone, but they are certainly there in the transcript (which I think is unduly unfair to Deputy Le Claire's honesty):

Of course we all waited today with baited breath to see what Deputy Le Claire would add to the situation. What would his evidence be? Would that change things? With great diffidence he told us that what he had overheard was a conversation between 2 States Members, he says, the Chief Minister and the Minister for Home Affairs at the time, in relation to why action had not been taken against the Deputy Chief Officer. Frankly, this is no evidence whatsoever in relation to conspiracy. There is no evidence of the sort of conspiracy alleged. What there is evidence of is that there were concerns some time before and those concerns had been transmitted from the Acting Chief Officer via the Chief Executive to the Minister for Home Affairs of the time.

In fact at that time, David Warcup was not Acting Chief Officer - until the suspension, he was only Deputy Chief Officer. According to the Le Marquand narrative, then, there was no conspiracy but only "concerns" - but Deputy Le Claire saw no evidence of what I would call "concerns" - "Why did you not get rid of him?" doesn't sound much like a concern to me, but rather a discussion of definite action which might be taken. I don't think simple "concerns" were on the table; the Le Marquand narrative simply ignores the personal equation and downplays it, and that just doesn't hold up either.

It is also clear that Mr Walker was involved in the discussions about the suspension of Graham Power as well. As Napier comments:

There was a meeting on 3 November, attended by Mr Ogley, Mr Walker and Mr Crich. At that meeting there was discussion of the possibility of suspension [of Mr Power] when he was on holiday.

And it is also clear from Napier that relations between Mr Power and his Deputy had deteriorated, and Mr Walker and Mr Ogley were already critical of Mr Power:

It is clear to me, in the light of the investigations I have carried out, that the criticisms of Mr Power, made by implication in the Interim Report and, separately, in the report of Mr Warcup, found a receptive audience when they came to the attention of Mr Walker and Mr Ogley. That is, however, a very different matter from accepting that they (with or without the knowing participation of Mr Warcup) were plotting to find a way to have Mr Power removed from office, and were using suspension as the first stage in achieving their objective.

So why was Mr Power removed? What advantages were there to doing this after Lenny Harper had left?

For David Warcup, the advantages of Graham Power's suspension would that he would have a free hand to conduct the investigation and court cases in the way he deemed necessary, without fighting a continual battle with his Chief on how it should be done. There must have been (as seems to come through in Napier), a considerable degree of frustration, especially as Lenny Harper had clearly had much more control over the media strategy, while Graham Power was happy for him to do so. Now David Warcup wanted to shift the media strategy in a different direction, and Graham Power was resisting this change. So the benefits to David Warcup was not that he would get the Chief Officer's job (which he would anyway on Graham Power's retirement), but that he could conduct the investigation along the lines which he thought were better.

But what of Senator Walker, and the reported conversation. As Napier reports, the situation between Graham Power and Senator Walker had deteriorated to the point of hostility. While there was no conspiracy as such, there must have been considerable frustration at meetings with a Chief of Police which were confrontational, and he would have known that both he and Mr Ogley were on the same wavelength as David Warcup and relations would be immeasurable smoother if Mr Warcup was in charge. The general media strategy had gone astray, with fiasco after fiasco, from Newsnight, the Parish Hall Press Conference gate-crashed and ruined by Senator Syvret, the Liberation Day speeches badly received by the public, and criticisms of the Jersey establishment and judiciary by Lenny Harper, as well as the continual sniping by Senator Stuart Syvret, which with unsuppressed feeling, he termed "the vile blog".

It would not have been unreasonable to suppose he must have surely felt a degree of anger and resentment, rather like Henry II on Thomas Becket. He had brought in this Chief of Police, and now couldn't work with him. Henry is supposed to have exclaimed, in the presence of four knights, "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?", but how the Latin account actually translates is perhaps far more appropriate:

"What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric?"

Henry didn't actually conspire to remove Becket, but the expression of his attitude certainly pushed events in a particular direction when others (also sympathetic) were aware of it, and took it upon themselves to do something about that.

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