Thursday, 30 June 2011

Victoria College 1852-1929 Register Online

Victoria College School was opened in 1852 to commemorate Queen Victoria's visit to Jersey. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were the first signatures entered into the visitors' book and the current monarch is still 'visitor' today. The college, through the Head Master, is a member of the Headmasters Conference and caters for 650 boys in the senior school and 260 in Prep.

The College is in three 'schools': Junior, Middle and Senior. The Junior School consists of two years - Years 7 and 8. The Middle School consists of years 9, 10, and 11. The Senior School is made up of the Lower and Upper Sixth forms. When boys enter the Middle School they are put into a House. Boys stay in their house until they leave the school. The College is divided into four Houses (named after four former pupils, and created in their present format in 1919) - Braithwaite (green), Bruce (blue), Dunlop (yellow) and Sartorius (red) . In 2002, they were joined by a fifth house, Diarmid.

I have now scanned the entire admissions from the Register from 1852-1929, which was a bound publication, and put it online for family historians at Scribd.

The documents are scanned in landscape mode, so will need to be downloaded as PDFs, which can then be viewed rotated by 90%. Scribd has a facility for downloading documents as PDFs, which is very simple - just click on links as appropriate. For more help see:


A transcribed index can be found at:

The PDF scans do not include the following, which can be found transcribed here

A short history by E.C. Cooper from 1852-1928

College Activities 1852-1928 by E.C. Cooper

For an example of how the register was used to help piece together the Mecham family, see:

The Mechams were an interesting family, with a military background (as a number of early Old Victorians had), and they give an insight into a family group with Old Victorian connections, and how even in the days before flights, families moved (even by today's standards) considerable distances.

First entries in the Index:
An example of the general detail given below. Some entries are very sparse, others contain a potted history of family background, family members, and subsequent career of pupils.


1 NICOLLE, SYDNEY JAMES lived many years in London. Deceased 1920.

2 WESTAWAY, JOHN NATHANIEL, son of J. N. Westaway. Became Solicitor .General of Jersey. Deceased.

3. DE GRUCHY, JOHN WILLIAM, son of J. de Gruchy.

4. McREIGHT , FREDERICK ARCHIBALD, left April 1853. Son of Dr. McReight of Hauteville. Brother of 317. Entered the Army (17th Foot.). Captain in 1859. Died at Quebec in 1863.

5. LE COCQ, GEORGE. Son of Dr. Le Cocq of Cole House.

6. LE COCQ, JAMES H. Brother of 5. Entered the Army (3rd Foot). Adjutant and
Captain in 1864. Retired in 1871.

7. EVANS, FREDERICK. Son of G. E. Evans. Brother of 146, 179,281, 352.

8. LE FEUVRE, WILLIAM HENRY. Son of P. Le Feuvre of La Hocque, St. Peter's. Became a Civil Engineer. Deceased.

9 KEMN, WILLIAM HENRY. Son of General Kemm, 2 Douro Terrace. Corpus Christi Coll. Cambridge, .B.A. 1859. Ordained Priest 1864. Curate of
Swainswick, 1862-4, Hayden 1865-6, St. Helier (Jersey) 1866-7, Beverstone 1868-73, Addingham 1873. Vicar East Kennett, Wilts 1873-83. P.C. of St. Mary's, Hatfield 1883-91. Deceased.

10 ROMERIL, PHILIP. Son of Mrs. Romeril of 18 Vine Street.

11 RYE, Louis, left at once.

12 LE SUEUR, PHILIP JOSHUA, left in 1857. Entered H.M. Customs and retired in 1899. Died 1909.

13 ARDING, CECIL WELLS. Son of Cecil Arding, Esq.

14. EREAUT, JOHN. Son of John Erraut of 29 Bath St. Brother of 130, 235. Joined his father in his business of analytical chemist, and succeeded him.
Major in R.J. Militia. Deceased 1908.

15. HAMMOND, VAVASOU FITZHAMMOND, entered at age of 10. Son of John Hammond, Esq., Bailiff of Jersey. Went to Cheltenham College. Merke Scholar of Magdalen Hall, Oxford. B.A. 1864. Classical Tutor of Queen's Coll. Birmingham. Took orders. Curate of Dewsbury, Vicar of Drighlington, Yorks 1869-1895, Rector of St. John's Episcopal Church, Greenock 1895-7. Deceased.

Interpreting the listing - an illustration

Dupre, EM, 1929. Entrance 1883
Edward Martin, son of E Dupre, ST Peter's. Capt. RJ Militia. Deceased.>

The listings give the name, parent, parent's address, then occupation of pupil after leaving college.


If the parent has a prefix, e.g. Dr., this would be son of Dr xxx. etc. or son of Capt. xxx.
Otherwise it refers to the pupil's subsequent history. In this instance, Edward Dupre became a captain in the Royal Jersey Militia.

Deceased, where stated, means that the information filtered back to the register, and that they were known to have died before the publication date (around 1930), not that they necessarily died in the war.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Scrutiny and the Historical Record

'History will judge us kindly', Churchill told Roosevelt and Stalin at the Tehran Conference in 1943; when asked how he could be so sure, he responded: 'because I shall write the history'. And so he did, in the six massive volumes of The Second World War. (1)

I have been reading Senator Le Marquand's letter to Trevor Pitman with some disquiet, because he says that - with the appointment of Deputy Daniel Wimberley, to the BDO Scrutiny Panel - that "the sub-panel will now have three out of four members who have already committed themselves to a position which is critical of my handling of the disciplinary issues in relation to Mr G Power".

If I was Deputy Wimberley, I would certainly be insulted by the suggestion that any previous criticisms of Senator Le Marquand (fro example, regarding his handling of the disciplinary issues relating to Graham Power) should thereby indicate that he is going to come to this particular issue with the closed mind, a mind that is already prejudiced and has formed conclusions.

From what I have seen of Deputy Wimberley, he is an independent thinker who will scrutinise all the evidence impartially before coming to conclusions, try to find amidst what may be contradictory interpretations of facts, or the best hypothesis is that fits those facts.

By rejecting membership of the panel of Deputy Wimberley based upon past criticisms, Senator Le Marquand is surely open to the criticism that he wishes to stack the committee in such way that it cannot come to any conclusions without dissenting voices that would be critical, even indirectly, of himself. For what he is clearly asking is for people on the committee who have never made a critical remark of his handling of Graham Power with regard to the suspension and eventual collapse of disciplinary action. But such people could invariably have the criticism levied on them that they had already made up their minds in such a way as to prejudice their own conclusions on the matter of the BDO report. Why else would he make such a fuss?

The voting record on matters concerning Operation Rectangle tend to be either for or against without abstentions. Really if one was looking for the kind of lack of bias that Senator Le Marquand clearly wishes to have, only someone who had abstained would be suitable. What he is asking, therefore, is something quite impossible! What is needed on the scrutiny panel is someone who is prepared to look at evidence honestly, and I do not think Senator Le Marquand really means to fault Deputy Wimberley on that count, and I think he has put pen to paper without really thinking seriously about the implications of what he is saying.

What I think the question that should be at the forefront of everyone's mind is whether this scrutiny panel is prepared to weigh up the evidence in the same manner that a historian of ancient texts might also do so.

I have often thought that an ancient historian might be better at getting to the truth than the kind of educated professional or organisation that is usually given the task of investigation or scrutiny. This is because the ancient historian has to work with many sources. These sources all had their own biases, and a historian is aware that there is no such thing as a completely neutral fact. Even the selection of particular facts, which cannot be disputed regarding their factuality, can also show bias either by the way in which particular facts are presented or by the way in which other facts which might be equally significant are ignored.

Even with such recent history as the Second World War, historians are only just beginning to re-examine in-depth the dominant narratives, mostly presented by Winston Churchill in his own books after the war. For example,

It is worth noting that Chamberlain could hardly have been that bad a choice as prime minister, or Churchill would hardly have seconded his nomination - a fact he somehow omitted from his memoirs. As a literary artist, however, when writing his memoirs, Churchill knew that when truth was stranger than fiction, you should always opt for the latter. (1)

In his memoirs, he undoubtedly glamorised his role and gave government ministers bit-parts of timidity and short-sightedness that even they did not fully deserve. Churchill did not see the road ahead with the clarity he later claimed. Though he subsequently described the remilitarisation of the Rhineland in March 1936 as a golden missed opportunity, he did not call for retaliatory action at the time; and though he called for the production of more bomber planes he was not so concerned at first with the fighter planes that eventually won the Battle of Britain. He also credited Hitler with a far more rigid and orderly foreign policy ('nicely calculated and timed, unfolding stage by stage') than was actually the case. (3)

Francis Neilson, reviewing "The Gathering Storm", and its own selection of evidence, notes that:

In the days to come serious-minded people will not be satisfied with merely part of the history of events that led up to the war; they will want to know the facts, irrespective of whether they come from a German source or any other, just as they did after the last war. It is not the business of historians to defend this or that State, or this or that politician; if they are honorable men, free to speak clearly, they must sift the data they have collected and present to their public an intelligible statement of what occurred. (2)

That is surely what anyone on the scrutiny panel should be doing - sifting the data, and presenting an intelligible statement. It is not their business to defend any Ministers, nor to set out to attack him, but to be free to speak clearly on the matter, regardless of any personal prejudices.

And there is more reason why a historical approach would be a good one to take in looking at the BDO Report and the history of its formation:

Historians have long had to struggle with the problems of what might count as an acceptable source (until relatively recently, for example, oral material was considered to provide only poor and unreliable evidence, how reliable might any individual source be, how to deal with multiple and possibly conflicting sources, how many independent sources were enough (and when were sources truly independent) and to what extent more general statements could be justified on the basis of particular sources.(4)

In history, for example, all sources extant at a particular date may support a particular historical statement, but later historians may gain access to material that not only contradicts the earlier sources but suggests that they are not to be relied on.

Keith Jenkins also shows how interpretation can "colour facts".

Jenkins does not deny that there are "facts about the past" that we can definitely know (for example, dates of well-attested events), but considers that "such facts, though important, are 'true' but trite within the larger issues historians consider" [Jenkins, 1991, p. 32]. The larger issues are "not only what happened but how and why and what these things meant and mean" [Jenkins, 1991, p. 33]. It is this unavoidably interpretive aspect tohistorical writing that Jenkins considers central, but interpretation is utterly discursive. It is not the "brute facts" but how they are arrayed and located within historians' narratives that matter. Moreover, even the documentary sources that historians, in Jenkins's view, "fetishise" do not have significance as evidence until they are mobilized as evidence for or against particular interpretations.(4)

As I see it, the BDO Alto report takes raw data from Operation Rectangle and presents it as a "review", in other words, assembles it into a coherent picture. In other words, it gives significance to the evidence in the way it obtains, handles and finally interprets it. It is, after all, a "review".

Report to the Home Affairs Minister and Accounting Officer, Home Affairs Department. Operation Rectangle (Historical Child Abuse Enquiry) review of the efficient and effective use of resources.

Questions to ask:

Was the BDO review adequate for presenting "the whole picture", or are there omissions which would give rise to a different interpretation?

If there is an alternative explanatory narrative for the raw data (as given, for instance by Lenny Harper), how can we decide which best fits, or whether this is special pleading?

N.T. Wright suggests that a good hypothesis needs to do various things:

A hypothesis essentially a construct, thought up by a human mind, which offers itself as a story about a particular set of phenomena, in which the story, which is bound to be an interpretation of those phenomena, also offers an explanation of them. (5)

In the case of the scrutiny review, this rule is certainly worth considering:

It must include the data. The bits and pieces of evidence must be incorporated, without being squeezed out of shape any more than is inevitable, granted that I am looking at them through my own eyes, not from a god's-eye view. (5)

For the BDO Alto Review, and an examination of it, any exclusion of significant data must be looked at carefully, because this could squeeze the review out of shape. Is the review straightforward, or does it ignores a good deal of the evidence, and does BDO supply the addition of all kinds of speculations, which are inferred but not present in the raw data, and which have not been tested significantly. Are alternative explanations as good, or do they also distort evidence? Are matters of dispute significant to the overall BDO presentation, or would it stand even if they were left out?

It would be most unlikely that the BDO Alto review got everything right - I think this may be taken as "common ground" - the question really is whether they presented an accurate general picture that interpreted the facts well enough (albeit with some items being questionable), or whether they distorted significant elements in their presentation and selection of the data, so that the general picture is inaccurate.

I don't think one needs to be prejudiced to look at that openly and honestly, and I am surprised that Senator Le Marquand assumes that Deputy Wimberley and indeed the whole scrutiny panel would be unable to do so. To consider that is not to prejudge the issue, nor is it to be committed to any position that is critical of Senator Le Marquand, who accepted the BDO review in good faith as a fair assessment.

That the review should be questioned is not a direct criticism of Senator Le Marquand, but simply of the fact that more evidence has emerged which suggests that the BDO review may not be as accurate as it first appears.

To ignore that, and to question the motivation of members such as Deputy Wimberley, as Senator Le Marquand appears to do, is really not worthy of him, and I do hope he retracts or modifies what he has written to make it quite clear that he does not believe this, because that is what he appears to be doing.

(2) Winston Churchill's War Memoirs: Review by Francis Neilson
(3) Churchill: The Wilderness Years by Robert Pearce, History Review, 2007
(4) The Historian as Auditor: Facts, Judgements and Evidence. C.J. Napier, The Accounting
Historians Journal, 2002
(5) The New Testament and the People of God, N.T. Wright, 1992

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Vulture Funds - "simply left to rest"

Third world debt role questioned

AN official inquiry has been launched into Jersey's role in forcing third world countries to pay millions of pounds in crippling debt. Chief Minister Terry Le Sueur has revealed that senior Law Officers, top-ranking civil servants and finance experts have met to look at whether so-called vulture funds should be allowed to use Island courts to chase debts. The funds buy up the debts of developing countries for a fraction of the amount owed and then aggressively pursue the debtors through the courts to recover as much as possible. Some of the debts date back to the 1980s, with nations having already paid back the original figure borrowed several times over. (1)

In October 2007, reading the Tablet Weekly magazine, I came across a UK campaign being mounted to stop Vulture Funds. A letter sent to Gordon Brown from the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund dealt with the issue:

Dear Prime Minister

Re: Stop the debt vultures profiting from poverty.

In the aftermath of a recent report by the International Development Association into the status of HIPC implementation and in advance of this weekend's World Bank and IMF autumn annual meetings, I am writing to draw your attention SCIAF's most recent campaign Stop the debt vultures profiting from poverty, launched in collaboration with Jubilee-Zambia.

With nearly a third of vulture funds based in the UK, vulture fund activity is of concern to citizens in developing countries and the UK alike. So far, over 2, 300 people have joined our postcard campaign Stop the debt vultures profiting from poverty with many more expected to join as the campaign continues to run. I am attaching the postcards received to date in order to evidence the current strength of feeling in the run up to the international financial institution's autumn meetings, with more to follow shortly.

The 2007 International Development Association - IMF report mentioned above Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative and Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI): Status of Implementation confirms campaigners' worst fears; it shows that vultures are a real and growing concern--11 post-HIPC completion point countries are facing lawsuits and that 8 new legal actions have been reported in the last year alone-and that UK companies are heavily involved.

The report notes that 'litigating creditors are concentrated in the US and the UK.and the British Virgin Islands' and shows that companies based in the UK or in UK-dependent territories have collectively been awarded $264.4 million by various courts for original claims of $83.9 million. Moreover, lawsuits continue to this day. The report notes that a private, UK-based company called Annadale Associates is claiming $8.9 million from St Tome and Principe for an original claim of $3 million.

Our campaigners are calling for clear and decisive leadership from you to tackle this issue.

Action is needed in three key areas; introducing new laws, amending existing ones and working at the international level. Introducing new laws to combat harmful vulture fund activity could have far reaching practical impacts, as well as sending a powerful message about the UK's commitment to poverty alleviation. SCIAF would like to suggest the following as useful starting points when looking at potential new legislation:

· Applying international examples; the US has introduced legislation which prohibits the purchase of debts solely for the purpose of litigation and Belgium has enacted legislation which helps to combat a particular legal principle applied by vulture funds in the past. The 'Pari Passu' principle states that all creditors "should be treated on equal terms without discrimination" and is has been a key plank in vulture funds' legal cases. This principle has been used to argue that even when some creditors have forgiven their portion of the debt, there is no need for other creditors to make similar concessions. In the case of Elliot Associates vs Peru, the application of this principle resulted in the company being awarded $58 million for a debt they had procured for $11 million - but the Bank of England notes that 'a recent change to Belgian law means that it is no longer possible for litigants successfully to enforce judgements in this way.' See Bank of England (2005) Sovereign bond contracts: a workshop at the Bank of England - Financial Stability Review: June 2005 for more information.

· Extending national debt legislation; UK law also amends the application of the Pari Passu principle as it states that creditors must abide by any debt relief plan that is agreed by creditors representing 75% of the value of the debt.

Equally important is amending existing legislation. The 2006 Companies Act was historic in introducing, for the first time, a requirement that company directors have a legal responsibility not simply to maximise profit but also to 'have regard . (to) the impact of the company's operations on the community and the environment" (see Part 10, Chapter 2, 172, 1d). However, this crucial provision does not apply to private companies, and it is unclear whether it applies to corporations based in dependent UK territories. Such loopholes ensure that many vulture funds are exempt from the very legislation designed to ensure that companies behave responsibility and minimise the negative impact of their operations. We thus suggest that the scope of the Act be expanded to private companies and that the question of its geographical scope is clarified.

Third and finally, it is crucial that the UK government acts not in isolation but also works with other countries and actors to establish a fair, transparent international system to deal comprehensively with developing country debt, including the issue of vulture funds. A recent paper produced by the international Catholic network CIDSE (International Co-operation for Development and Solidarity; entitled A Human Development Approach To Preventing New Cycles of Debt provides more detail about what this system could look like in practice, and a copy is enclosed for your information. Action towards achieving this end could not prove more timely; as this weekend's World Bank and IMF autumn meetings provide the ideal opportunity for the UK government to discuss how best to take this initiative forward.

On behalf of our campaigners, let me thank you for your time and assure you we eagerly await your response.

Yours sincerely,

Chris Hegarty
SCIAF Advocacy Manager

And I read of Deputy Kevin Lewis, who had asked a question about a case "whereby a company operating out of the British Virgin Islands purchased a debt owed to Romania, I believe it was for agricultural equipment, owed by Zambia for a few million dollars and then went on to charge Zambia $48 million; thereby negating much of the good work done by our own Overseas Aid Committee."

I sent the following letter to our Chief Minister, Senator Frank Walker

Dear Senator Walker,

I read recently about the loopholes at present in place in the U.K. Companies legislation regarding "Vulture Funds" (see Tablet article below for more detail), and am writing to ask if there are any plans - as implemented in the USA and in Belgium, to prevent the purchase of debts solely for the purpose of litigation in this manner. I also see that France too is bringing in legal proposals regarding Vulture Funds.

I noticed that when the matter was brought up (19/06/2007) in the States, Senator Le Sueur said that "Any attempt to try to legislate against Vulture Funds" specifically would be extremely difficult without closing the door to a whole range of legitimate corporate debt restructuring."

With respect, if Belgium can also introduce legislation against such practices, surely it is not beyond the ability of Jersey to do likewise? What seems to be clear among the European countries, as well, is a general move to seek out ways and means of preventing vulture funds from operating from within their jurisdictions, and it seems that one of the main distinctions is whether the corporate debt relates specifically to the government of third world countries (and not private individuals or corporations).

I know that in the UK, as can be seen from their statement on May 2007, Hansard, are not prepared to just let the matter rest, but state that "The Chancellor raised this issue with his G8 colleagues at their meeting in Potsdam in 19 May, and set out the Government's proposals for action. G8 Ministers expressed their concern about the actions of some litigating creditors against heavily indebted poor countries, and agreed to work together to identify measures to tackle this problem"

Could I ask for your assurance that the matter will not simply be left to rest (as is suggested by my reading of the States session), but will be actively reviewed, particularly with regard to:

- introducing new laws to combat the problem, as has been done in the US and Belgium

- amending the Companies Act to close the loopholes that exclude vulture funds

The reply from Terry Le Sueur (Treasury Minister) - and not from the Chief Minister - was as follows:

Thank you for your e-mail addressed to Senator Walker. I am sure that the latter is not being "simply left to rest" and I have urged all firms involved in international activities to be aware of, and refrain from, activities involving 'vulture funds'. I have been given an assurance that they will, and we all recognise the potential harm this could cause to Jersey' s reputation, as well as to the 'victims' of the vulture fund. As you probably know, we are shortly to have a visit from members of the International Monetary Fund looking into the quality and strength of our legislation and procedures, and I will also listen with interest to their views.

I am happy to listen to further advice, as I am sure are my colleague the Minister for Economic Development and officers of Jersey Finance Limited and the Jersey Financial Services Commission. One problem which I saw, and for which I should be interested to see if Belgium has solved, is how one defines a 'vulture fund'. It is relatively easy to see the outcome of vulture fund activity ; it is, I fear, much harder to legislate in advance for such activities without impinging on totally legitimate financial services.

I should welcome the views of those to whom I have copied this correspondence in case they have anything to add.

Terry Le Sueur

What has been happening in the meantime?

There are a number of unreported judgments which seem deal with Vulture funds over the last year. However, access to the details of these are only available to lawyers who have applied for a login and password - the normal layman can't get there. Nevertheless the indications are that the matter had "simply been left to rest", after all, despite assurances - in October 2007 - to the contrary by our present Chief Minister, then Treasury Minister. On the contrary, in reply to Daniel Wimberley, Senator Le Sueur replied that:

Although we have been aware of it for some time, we wanted to see what conclusions would be drawn from the review of the U.K's temporary legislation of last year before considering our position.

In other words - "simply left to rest"! As usual, what Senator le Sueur says (in 2007) and what Senator le Sueur did are totally at variance; he said the matter would not be left, but that appears to be exactly what happened. Jim Hacker, in "Yes Minister", surely could not have done better for dithering andf vacillating = I believe the phrase Sir Humphrey used of Jim Hacker was ""lots of activity but no actual achievement"

I sincerely hope that Deputy Wimberley can get the States to be more pro-active, rather than just seeing what the UK does and slavishly following it. I will be doing a follow up on his latest question shortly.

This is the most detailed item, which is confirmed by Senator Le Sueur in related to Deputy Wimberley's question to indeed be a case of Vulture activity:

2.14 The Deputy of St. Mary of the Chief Minister regarding the enforcement of debt repayments by the Democratic Republic of Congo:
Would the Chief Minister confirm whether FG Hemisphere is using the courts in Jersey to enforce debt repayments by the Democratic Republic of Congo in a way which has just been outlawed by the U.K. Parliament and, if so, does the Chief Minister think it is appropriate for the Jersey courts to be used in this way and what actions, if any, has he taken and does he propose to take on this matter

Like a magician producing a rabbit out of a hat, Senator Le Sueur said there was a "high level review board" looking into the matter. It's had a very long time to do so!

2.14.1 Deputy G.P. Southern:
Can the Minister tell Members who constitutes this high level-review board and is he content that the reputation of the Island is protected when it becomes obvious that we are a safe haven for these so called vulture funds?

Senator T.A. Le Sueur:

At this stage this has been a very hastily produced answer and I do not have details of the composition of that working party, other than to know it is in existence and it is working. In due course I hope to be able to present those details to the Members.

and the final answer to questions was:

Senator T.A. Le Sueur:
I will be happy to ensure that there is a balanced representation on that working party, including people with civil interests, as I am sure we all do. It is not fair to say that there are no members in the working group. I just do not have at the moment details of their names. Whether the discussions will lead to legislation or not is a matter which would be premature to say at this stage. I hope it does lead to legislation in some form or some other measure which will ensure that such activities are not permitted to take place in Jersey

Well, Senator Le Sueur has been hoping since 2007 that the matter would not "simply be left to rest". Now he tells us of a working group, but hasn't got any details of their names. The word "hopeless" rather than "hope" springs to mind. And in the meantime, while the UK Goverment has recently (and finally) passed legislation outlawing Vulture Funds, Jersey still has taken no action, with nothing prepared on the Statute books. The Jubilee Debt Campaign (in a public press release) notes that:

The Act has already made two vulture funds settle out-of-court with Liberia for a fraction of the $40 million they were claiming. No new vulture fund cases have been lodged in UK courts. However, the Act has not been extended to cover UK overseas territories such as Jersey. Vulture fund FG Hemisphere is suing the Democratic Republic of Congo $100 million through the Jersey courts

Congo's debt was due to be cut by $7,252 million based on creditors cancelling 80 per cent of debts owed. In addition, the IMF, World Bank and African Development Bank committed to cancel 100 per cent of pre-2004 debts, and some bilateral creditors such as the UK also committed to cancel 100 per cent.

However, a vulture fund called FG Hemisphere has been pursuing a debt claim for $100 million against DRC. If this amount is paid, DRC would have paid out $80 million more to these creditors than expected under the HIPC process, effectively transferring public money from debt relief to private claimants

England has a toxic reputation for so-called "libel tourism". If Jersey doesn't enact legislation (which despite Senator Le Sueur's 2007 remarks, is perfectly possible - the UK managed it), then we may well have the unenviable reputation of being a centre of "vulture tourism" as foreign companies pursue claims against third world countries in Jersey courts! While Senator Le Sueur cannot comment on a case under appeal, he can at least get the wheels in motion to pass legislation as soon as possible, even though it will probably now be beyond his tenure as Chief Minister. Let's hope not commenting is not another means of avoiding the matter, so that it is "simply left to rest"!

[2010 JLR Note 15]
COURT OF APPEAL (William Bailhache, Deputy Bailiff): February 17th, 2010
Civil Procedure-execution-arrêt entre mains

An arrêt entre mains is a well-established procedure in Jersey law by which a plaintiff may, by way of a provisional order, restrain assets in the hands of third parties that are or might be those of a defendant, to satisfy a debt due by the defendant (e.g. Richardson v. Besnard, Royal Ct. (1894), 216 Ex. 371, unreported, considered; J.W. Huelin Ltd. v. Eloury, Royal Ct. (1935), 238 Ex. 326, unreported, considered). It is clear that the Royal Court has a discretion as to whether or not to grant the confirmation of such a provisional order. The process is not dissimilar to the garnishee process or Third Party Debt Orders under Part 72 of the English Civil Procedure Rules.

In the unreported judgments, which alas I can't access, the summary indicates these are probably relevant:

FG Hemisphere Associates 27-Oct-2010
... Jurats Tibbo and Kerley. BetweenFG Hemisphere Associates LLCRepresentorAnd(1) The Democratic ... proceedings launched by the
Representor ("Hemisphere") on 12th March, 2009, against ... the substantive issues raised by Hemisphere's Representation. 2. Hemisphere is the assignee of the ...

FG Hemisphere Associates 4-Oct-2010
... Tibbo and Kerley. Between FG Hemisphere Associates LLC Representor And (1) The ... informed by e-mail that settlement discussions between Hemisphere, Gecamines and the DRC were currently in progress ...

FG Hemisphere Associates 17-Feb-2010
... 17th February 2010 Before : W. J. Bailhache, Esq., Deputy Bailiff, sitting alone. Between FG Hemisphere Associates LLC Appellant And The Democratic Republic of the Congo First Respondent And L'Office ...17/02/2010

FG Hemisphere and Dem Rep Congo 15-Dec-2009
... J. A. Clyde-Smith, Esq., Commissioner and Jurats de Veulle and Clapham. Between FG Hemisphere Associates LLC Representor And The Democratic Republic of Congo First Respondent And L'Office des ...

Part 2 | FG Hemisphere Associates 27-Oct-2010
C and China with the aim, on the one hand, of giving China access to a substantial stake in the DRC's mineral wealth and, on the other, the
generation of funding for a massive national programme of infrastructure ...

FG Hemisphere and Dem Rep Congo 15-Dec-2009
... J. A. Clyde-Smith, Esq., Commissioner and Jurats de Veulle and Clapham. Between FG Hemisphere Associates LLC Representor And The Democratic Republic of Congo First Respondent And L'Office des ...

(2) IMF and IDA. (2010). Congo: Enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative Completion Point Document and Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI). International Development Association and the International Monetary Fund. Washington DC. 15/06/10.

Monday, 27 June 2011

A Divided Parish - Part 2

On January 19th, 1982, the culmination came of a court case which had caused great divisions in St Brelade's Parish. Mrs Olga Johnson, Rating Officer at the Parish Hall, sued Mr Donald Lucas, former Assistant Rating Officer for defamation.

The case was thrown out, and Mr Lucas was thereby vindicated in the actions he had taken. Nevertheless, the new Constable, Len Downer, who had sacked Mr Lucas, refused to reinstate him. This, and the rates fiasco which the Court case revealed, was going to cause stormy Parish meetings over the coming year in which Mr Downer showed himself to be completely out of his depth, and tended to make matters worse by assembling a cohort of supporters against his own parishioners, thus polarising matters even more.

As part 1 of the narrative revealed, this legal case concerned complaints made by Mr Lucas against Mrs Johnson, concerning the inconsistent and unjust way in which Parish rates were being assessed, which had also led to a significant rise in the number of appeals, and prompted Mr Lucas to write a strongly worded letter in which he gave a number of examples of bad, inconsistent and unjust rating assessments. This letter was, on the basis of a verbal conversation with the Constable, for the eyes of the Supervisory Committee only.

However, the Parish Secretary, Mr. L. Le Brocq, on the instruction of the Constable, had some more copies made so that, eventually, it was seen not only by the Supervisory Committee, the 'Comité Paroissiale' and also by the members of the Assessment Committee and Mrs. Johnson. The Constable, Mr Max de La Haye (senior) had made an extremely poor judgement, because the letter was was given to the very people who should have been kept away from the matter until an investigation had been made. What is more, he had betrayed the firm request of Mr Lucas that it was to be a letter for the Supervisory Committee to consider alone, and not for third parties.

From all accounts, Mrs Johnson was a forceful woman, and not one to take matters lightly. Instead of countering the claims made by Mr Lucas, and backing up her case with witnesses and documentation, she went for a much more direct route, and one that appeared to destroy Mr Lucas credibility. This put the onus upon him having to defend himself, rather than her having to defend herself against his criticisms.

A few days after seeing the copy of the letter, and without giving him he opportunity to explain or apologise to her, she instituted an action against him for defamation!

After this, some action had to be taken by the Constable. Mr de La Haye had retired, and the new Constable was Len Downer, a newsagent in St Aubin. In January, 1981, Mr Downer had suspended both Mrs Johnson and Mr Lucas for three months, to have a breathing space to decide what action to take.

However, rather from instituting an investigation to discover whether Mr Lucas' accusations had any merit, Len Downer decided to reinstate Mrs Johnson in April.

Donald Lucas, in the meantime, was having difficulties in securing the documentary material to support his case. Away from the Parish Hall, he found that Mr Downer was extremely uncooperative in providing this, and he had to seek the help of the Royal Court to obtain papers such as the Schedules and Rating Cards together with the correspondence relating to them.

These should have been made available to him without seeking the redress of the Court, and this intransigence demonstrated that Mr Downer had already decided that Mr Lucas' claims were not correct, and he was himself supporting Mrs Johnson. Again, this was poor judgment on the part of Len Downer, as the substance of Mr Lucas claims were now to be assessed in Court, and if they vindicated his letter, this would leave the Constable backed into a corner for prematurely taking sides. Throughout this period, Mr Downer showed a lamentable lack of understanding of Mr Lucas rights.

Because Mr Lucas had needed to seek the Courts to obtain documents which he should have been given copies of anyway (as the Court itself admonished), Mr Downer took that as a personal affront, and told the Parish Secretary that he simply could not employ Mr Lucas again because he had taken him to Court. Conferring with the Parish Secretary probably confirmed his own prejudices, because Mr Le Brocq, the Secretary did not appear to have much sympathy for Mr Lucas.

Indeed, when Mr Lucas had raised these matters with Mr Le Brocq, Mr Le Brocq had simply taken Mrs Johnson's side rather than pursuing a more diplomatic approach of getting all parties together, such as Mrs. Johnson and the Assessment Committee, to resolve matters.

The case was heard before the Bailiff, Sir Peter Crill, with Advocate F.C. Hamon appearing for the plaintiff, Mrs Olga Johnson, and Advocate Geoffrey Fiott for the defendant, Donald Lucas.

Donald Lucas denied that the letter was defamatory and argued in his defence that it was published on an occasion of qualified privilege and pleaded justification and fair comment.

He also argued that the documentation supported other anecdotal evidence which he had seen, and which had also been seen by other witnesses, and this had changed his attitude to Mrs Johnson, because as a result he could no longer trust what she told him about rating matters.

Some were trivial in themselves, but cumulatively built up a picture of Mrs Johnson's character, and how she dealt with rating matters and the general public on these issues. One example which Mr Lucas cited was when he had seen her put down the telephone on a woman caller. When this had reached the ears of Constable Max de la Haye, she had denied doing so. The Constable remembered the incident.

His attitude changed towards her so that he no longer trusted what she told him about rating matters after he had heard her deny to the Constable that she had put the telephone receiver down on a woman caller. Mr. de la Haye remembered the incident. There was a conflict of evidence on this point between the plaintiff and the defendant. The woman caller was not called. We accept the defendant's evidence on this matter.

The Court found that there was a major flaw in how the rates can been assessed, where the task of doing the computations delegated to Mrs Johnson. The Assessors were professional businessmen, but they were not as acquainted with the law as Mrs Johnson. In 1980 four new members had joined the Assessment committee. As complete novices to assessing the rates, they tended to rely on Mrs Johnson for guidance. And shortly before 1980, at the request of the Assessment Committee, she had been asked to to fill in and complete the computations. This had given her an an opportunity, if she so wished, perhaps unwittingly, to lean in favour of the Parish, especially given the inexperience of the new Committee.

The Committee, too, was uncertain how to assess rates properly regards company owned properties, and was seeking an interview with the Supervisory Committee to discuss this and other queries. As this took a very long time to arrange, the Committee was bound to rely on the Mrs Johnson's experience of rating.

Donald Lucas had been excluded from the assessment room, and could only infer what was happening from the Schedules themselves (now written up in Mrs Johnson's hand), from what he himself heard and saw.

He had personally observed what appeared to be a violation of the law. One member of the Assessment Committee, when looking through the appeals which lay on Mrs. Johnson's desk remarked "Of course this one has to be assessed on his business and his turnover". Mr Lucas noted that: "There was no intervention or comment from Mrs. Johnson on his remark and therefore this gentleman at least, has been assessing business premises on this basis which Mrs. Johnson knows as well as I do is not permissible under the law . . . but of course it is one way of bringing in more Qtrs!!!"

One of the new members since 1980, Mr Philip Daubeney rejected Mr Lucas claims, and told the Court that it was rubbish to suggest that Mrs Johnson had told the Assessment Committee how to do its job, although he did agree that the Committee asked her for her views and respected her experience.

It is curious that Mr Daubeney had not confronted Mr Lucas with this same argument when he had been privy to the interview between Mr Lucas and the Constable, just before Mr Lucas penned his letter, but on the contrary, seems to have been supportive of Mr Lucas at the time. Why had he appeared to change his mind? It certainly appears that he was determined to support the new Constable, Len Downer, and discredit Mr Lucas testimony by providing his own. Or perhaps, he also thought that it reflected badly on the Committee that they had delegated work, and not provided adequate oversight.

But unfortunately, Minutes had been kept, and they showed significant variance with what Mr Daubeney was saying, and the Court noted the inconsistency. The Minutes for 20th February said:

The New Committee do not think they should complete the Property Schedules, just make an assessment on all properties to be assessed in 1980. If more staff is needed it would then be for the Constable to see that extra staff is employed for the clerical work, which seemed to increase each year."

That entry is confirmed by that of the 27th March, which is as follows:

"The Committee feels that the Rating Officer should be given more help with correspondence etc., especially now that Schedules have to be completed by the Rating Officer after having been assessed by the Assessment Committee."

This the Court saw as a clear delegation of power to Mrs Johnson from the Committee, contradicting (and pre-dating) Philip Daubeney's statement, which now seemed to have no supporting evidence whatsoever.

Against the suggestion that she deliberately made errors, the Court was, however, of the belief that she may have been overburdened by the extra work, and even taken some of it home because of time pressures. As a consequence, they suggested that she might have overlooked some items in her computations and made a number of entries which seemed to Mr. Lucas to be totally wrong. They were taking the most charitable view of the mistakes made.

The record, as well, supported Donald Lucas interpretation of events, rather than Philip Daubeney, and not just the minutes, but another member of the Assessment Committee, Mr Anderson, gave evidence which directly contradicted his narrative.

Mr. Daubeney said that the Assessment Committee made the calculations, and Mrs. Johnson merely filled in the forms, that is to say the computations, and these were agreed by all the members of the Assessment Committee. Mr. Anderson on the other hand said that Mrs. Johnson was left to work out the figures and that the Assessment Committee did not go into "terrific details".

The Court also took evidence from Mr Benest, the only existing member who was not new to the 1980 Assessment Committee. He said that Mrs. Johnson knew exactly what to do, and this - together with the other evidence - caused a re-assessment of Mrs Johnson by the Court.

We think also that this was true. Mr. Le Breton said that if Mrs. Johnson altered the Schedules (that is made up computations in a way that did not reflect the rentals assessed by the Committee) she must have had the Authority of the Assessment Committee to do so. If this is so there is no record of such later approval in the minutes. He agreed that the plaintiff had used words referring to the rating situation as "a mess" and that she had to "put it right". All this points to a very clear delegation of power, certainly in 1980 and to a lesser extent in the previous years to the Rating Officer, Mrs. Johnson. She is not and, was not we think at the relevant time, as unassuming as her demeanour in the witness box might otherwise have implied. In our opinion, contrary to what she told us, she did not just sit there and do as she was told.

Part 3 to follow next week....

1982 J.J. 67, Transcript of Johnson V Lucas, Jersey Law Reports.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

BDO Alto - Troubles with the Sources

Rico Sorda, on his blog, has been reviewing the BDO Alto report in some detail. It seems to me that there are two questions relating to the report which he raises.

The first is that of privileged communication. It appears that BDO Alto had access to the Wiltshire team's investigation, including privileged information supplied to them by Lenny Harper, which was for the sole purpose of their investigation, and was not to be divulged to third parties; it was supplied, it appears, under the belief that the Wiltshire reports would be used as part of a disciplinary hearing relating to Graham Power.

The second relates to anomalies in the dating of the BDO Alto report, and relate in part to Mr Mick Gradwell, then Senior Investigating Officer in the States Police.

This was prompted by an investigation about a leak of the BDO Alto report to Mr David Rose, a reporter for the Mail on Sunday:

Deputy Pitman: 'Will the Minister clarify what was the conclusion into the brief investigation into who within the Police Force leaked the interim BDO Alto report to a UK child abuse denier journalist and has anyone been suspended over the action?'

Senator Le Marquand: 'The person most likely was the former SIO (Senior Investigating Officer) who took on the Historic Abuse Inquiry and who left in August 2009 with very noisy publicity for his predecessors.'

However, this is contradicted in two ways:

Firstly, Mr Gradwell, denied this. While he did make comments about expenses, very loudly and publically, he denied making a leak from the report, and as far as I can see, he did NOT quote verbatim from it:

Mr Gradwell said he had not leaked the report to the media but had made legitimate public criticisms of how the Haut de la Garenne investigation was carried out.

So if he did not leak it, who did? He is the easy "fall guy" because he had been outspoken, but was it someone else who may have seen the report? Who had access to it?

Secondly, if he did leave in August 2009, how would he have had access to the report?

In the introduction to the report, it mentions an "engagement letter of BDO Alto date 29 September 2009" giving instructions to undertake the investigation from the Home Affairs Minister. Now this is almost a month after Senator Le Marquand says that Mr Gradwell left, so at first sight, it appears difficult to understand how he somehow retained access to a police investigation after he had left.

Then there is a further problem also mentioned by Rico. This is mentioned by Senator Le Marquand in his reply:

An 'interim report by financial auditors' was leaked to the Mail on Sunday in October 2009, eight months before the report was submitted to the Minister and was used in a highly critical report on the conduct of the Haut de la Garenne inquiry. It appears that a Senior Police Officer was responsible for this leak.

Now the Mail on Sunday has several quotes from the report, and this is the one concluding the section on dog handling:

The auditors' interim report concludes: 'It was an expensive mistake to bring in Mr Grime. It would have been far preferable and much cheaper to have tried to obtain appropriately trained dogs and handlers from UK police forces.'

Since the engagement letter was dated 29th September 2009, and the Mail on Sunday quotes went out on 4th October 2009, there appears to have been a remarkable amount of ground covered in a short space of time. What is especially significant about the quotations is that they relate for the most part to conclusions, and that they are word for word the same - not a paraphrase.

Nobody who has looked at source criticism, the study of ancient sources, could come to any conclusion but this: before BDO Alto had an engagement letter in place, they had already carried out the bulk of their work. As the final report was not published until May 2010, the question is why was there an apparent delay of 8 months, when the leak shows good evidence - based on exact wording between leak and final source - that the bulk of the report was complete by October 2009.

Indeed, Senator Le Marquand is most perplexed by this mention of an engagement letter:

I have a ministerial decision which was signed on 26th February 2009 endorsing the undertaking of an external review of the efficient and effective use of resources incurred by the States of Jersey Police Historical Child Abuse Enquiry by BDO Alto. I do not know why BDO Alto made reference to an engagement letter dated 29th September 2009 because they were instructed and started work months before then. That Ministerial decision indicates that I was endorsing the review because the decision to have the review was made first by my predecessor Deputy Andrew Lewis.

Reading between the lines of what BDO Alto actually said, I think one can present a likely hypothesis for what may have occurred:

In accordance with your instructions, confirmed in our engagement letter dated 29th September 2009, we have prepared a Report considering the efficient and effective use of resources during the Operation Rectangle Investigation.

Either BDO Alto were being extremely sloppy and inaccurate in their reference to an engagement letter, or they were given instructions, presumably beginning with Deputy Lewis term of office, and which was, as he said, endorsed by Senator Le Marquand. Somewhere down the line, it emerged that Deputy Lewis had not actually signed a formal engagement letter, and this was issued on 29 September 2009, to clear up the anomaly.

Thus we have "instructions" which may well have been specific from originally Deputy Lewis, endorsed by Senator Le Marquand - but not a formal "engagement letter" (as mentioned) - that would have come from BDO Alto - it is the firm of accountants that issues the engagement letter to the client to sign, not the other way round - that is why it is "our" engagement letter.

Usually, when a firm of accountants takes on a job, it issues an engagement letter almost immediately, because that is their legal contract with the client (for the client to sign). For some reason, in this case BDO Alto seem to have omitted to do this for around ten months! Perhaps, and this is just a suggestion, it was issued in September 2009 because it was needed for a report which was, to all intents and purposes, in nearly its final form. Why the delay? Was it to check their conclusions with those of Wiltshire on expenses, and make sure there was nothing omitted or contradictory? Perhaps Trevor Pitman's Scrutiny Team will find out.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

The Glory of Aten

Aten is the disk of the sun in ancient Egyptian mythology, and originally an aspect of Ra. In his poem "Great Hymn to the Aten", Akhenaten praises Aten as the creator, and giver of life. Here is a modern poem about the life giving sun. It has one curious and deliberate feature; can you spot it?...

The Glory of Aten

The sun is at noonday, such brightness above
And Aten is warming the earth with this love
Now sunrise, now sunset, the passage of days
And Aten is glorious, and much deserves praise

None can stare at the Aten, see face to face
The light is so bright, so burning in space
And from Aten's embrace, the planets did form
And solar flares blazing, the particles storm

In Egypt, beneath sands, a story untold
Of wise Akhenaten, and Aten of old
Established the worship by Pharaoh's decree
Saw Nile at sunset, sun reflected on sea

The hymn that he wrote, the hymn to recite
Of glorious Aten, of shining in light
Of sun on the hills, of sun on the plain
And wonders of rainbow, just after the rain

All mortals must die, our frame is so frail
But Aten remains, and Aten won't fail
Until one last day, the nova brings end
Farewell to the Aten, the Maker and Friend

Thursday, 23 June 2011

A Divided Parish - Part 1

On January 19th, 1982, the culmination came of a court case which had caused great divisions in St Brelade's Parish. Mrs Olga Johnson, Rating Officer at the Parish Hall, sued Mr Donald Lucas, former Assistant Rating Officer for defamation.

The case was thrown out, and Mr Lucas was thereby vindicated in the actions he had taken. Nevertheless, the Constable, Len Downer, who had sacked Mr Lucas, refused to reinstate him.

But what had happened, and why had it caused so much upset in the Parish?

In a large Parish, such as St Brelade, the task of the Rating Assessment Committee had changed as the Parish had grown. It had been the duty of the Committee to carry out personally, not only all the calculations to arrive at a proper rateable assessment of each person liable to pay rates, but also the attendant clerical work. This burden was clearly too onerous for what was, essentially, a honorary position. So the Parish employed two paid staff who would report to the Committee - the the Rating Officer and the Assistant Rating Officer. Neither held any executive power, but they would carry out the attendant clerical work which the Committee had found tedious and time consuming, as well as the formal assessment of properties. They would then report to the Committee with their recommendations.

In February 1974, Mrs Olga Johnson joined the staff of the Parish Hall as a a clerical assistant in the rating office.. In 1975, the post of Rating Officer became vacant and both she and Mr Donald Lucas applied for it. She ended up getting the position, and he got the position of Assistant Officer. The working relationship between them seemed to have been good at that time. They both worked in a room on the first floor where the Assessment Committee met.

But in 1980, Mr. Lucas was asked to move out to an adjacent room on the same floor, so that he no longer had the same level of access to the Assessment Committee, leaving Mrs Johnson alone in that position. When properties were being assessed, one of his main duties was to transfer the details of the assessments from the Schedules on to cards and from the cards into the final filing system where eventually the items would be bound. But as he did this, he discovered that it appeared that she was beginning to fill in some of the details on the right hand side of the Schedules in the part reserved for the use of the Assessment Committee. He wondered if she was, in fact, exercising too great an influence on the Assessment Committee.

Mr Lucas thought that it was likely, as far as he could determine, that some of computations on rates were being worked out by Mrs. Johnson to the detriment of some rate payers who were not being given all the statutory allowances to which they were entitled. There were a number of inconsistencies between how different properties were assessed, and he did not see this as fair or just, but when he had raised the matter with Mrs Johnson, she had told him, in no uncertain terms, "that's the way it has to be done", with no discussion of the matter.

But there was another problem. Although a start had been made some years previously to re-assess each property in the Parish, the system of doing so was piecemeal and this was inequitable to those persons whose properties were assessed first. The delay of several years before similar properties in the Parish, and in some cases adjacent to the newly assessed ones, were dealt with meant that some ratepayers were carrying too high a proportion of the rates although temporarily. Moreover, in making the re-assessment, Mrs Johnson appeared to follow some rules for some properties, and other, inconsistent ones, for others.

Both of these matters resulted in a very high number of appeals, and Mr Lucas was very concerned. As he saw it, rates should be levied with equity in relation to the rental value of the land we own or occupy and in accordance with the law. But from what he could see happening, there seemed to be two laws operating in St Brelade "one enacted by the States of Jersey and one according to Mrs. Johnson."

As Mrs Johnson was clearly not amenable to any discussion on the matter, he sought an interview with the Constable, Mr. de la Haye, who was the de facto head of the Parish Administration. He had gone to see the Constable to tell him what he believed was happening in the rating office as regards Mrs. Johnson and the assessments but, following a conversation between the Constable and Mr. Philip Daubeney, one of the assessors elected in 1980, he was asked to put what he was going to say in writing. He agreed to do this, and also that that the members of the Supervisory Committee might see the letter on condition that the copies made for that purpose were returned to him.

On 28 June 1980, the letter was submitted to the Constable. Unfortunately, Donald Lucas had failed to put "Private and Confidential" on the letter, and it was this which was to lead to the Court case against him.

What were his complaints? Here, from his letter, are some of the main points:

It was agreed that the whole Parish be re-assessed. Not by a percentage as everyone would expect but by re-assessing each house one at a time and doing a section of the Parish each year. This I thought to be most unjust and contrary to the spirit of the law. Some of these re-assessments were staggering in their size. One or two were appealed against but the majority said nothing. Others who inquired about the large increase were misled into accepting by such remarks from the Rating Officer as, 'You haven't had an increase for a long time' or if the rate payer asked if all in the Parish had been treated equally would be told '. . . you cannot expect five men who give up their time to do this job and are sworn in by the Royal Court, to do all the Parish in one year'. I must have heard that last remark at least 500 times. I agree it cannot be done in one year using that stupid and unjust method.

One gentleman who came to see me when Mrs. Johnson was on holiday complained of having to pay 180% more than the year before. This man, a Chartered Accountant, asked me this question '. . . Where has all the money gone?' I knew immediately what he meant. Totally convinced, and justifiably so, that everyone was being treated in similar fashion, he assumed that the Parish income would increase by approx. 180%. He continued, 'Your audited accounts do not show that figure so where has it gone?', and before I could say another word he stormed out of the room. The actual increase in Parish expenditure that year was in the region of 17½%.

What is the result of all this? It means that rate payers re-assessed in the first year have been paying a surcharge of, in some cases, 100% for four years until the final section of the Parish was re-assessed which was supposed to be this year but is still not complete. Mrs. Johnson says all properties not visited this year but which have had what she describes as a nominal 10% put on this year will be visited next year to be re-assessed properly. I have never in my life been connected or involved with something more unprofessional or indeed unjust and contrary to the spirit of the law..

Suppose the States agreed to increase income tax from the present 20% to say 30% but the Comptroller of Income Tax decreed that he would, starting from next year, apply the new rate to each Parish in turn, taking six years to complete the operation, what would be the result, besides anarchy? It would be deemed illegal, yet that is what has happened in this Parish during the last four years. To say that it could not be achieved in one year (supposing that it needs to be done at all) is no argument.

I now come to the broad details of matters that are causing me great concern where the public are being treated in an inequitable way and in many cases are being denied their rights to deductions according to law. As a result some rate payers will be asked to pay anything from £1 to hundreds of pounds more than they are required by law. These are not clerical errors, there are dozens and dozens of such cases. In many cases swimming pools are rated as a separate item and are not given a deduction for repairs and there are perhaps as many cases where House & Pool are one item which means the pool will have 50% off. Both cannot be correct. In the case of land the anomalies are so numerous I could not begin to detail all on paper.

He then proceeded to give several examples of how this worked out in practice, and highlighted, in particular, how this meant that in the case of small areas of land, the position was of "some rate payers paying 25 Qrs. for small areas of land, some paying none and some paying as last year, which could mean anything! The position is so confusing it makes nonsense of the law."

There were clear grounds for complaint, and Mr Lucas also gave anecdotal examples of Mrs Johnson's high-handed attitude, and how some members of the Assessment Committee had also made assessments on an ad hoc basis, not by the rating law, and Mrs Johnson had colluded with that. He thought, no doubt, that the Supervisory Committee would be examining the cases which he cited, and considering how the system was being applied unjustly.

However, the Parish Secretary, Mr. L. Le Brocq, on the instruction of the Constable, had some more copies made so that, eventually, it was seen not only by the Supervisory Committee, the 'Comité Paroissiale' and also by the members of the Assessment Committee and Mrs. Johnson. This was clearly not what Mr Lucas had intended after his talk to the Constable, but the verbal agreement that the Supervisory Committee alone would see the letter was ignored. Instead it was given to the very people who should have been kept away from the matter until an investigation had been made.

From all accounts, Mrs Johnson was a forceful woman, and not one to take matters lightly. Instead of countering the claims made by Mr Lucas, and backing up her case with witnesses and documentation, she went for a much more direct route, and one that appeared to destroy the credibility of Mr Lucas. This put the onus upon him having to defend himself, rather than her having to defend herself against his criticisms. A few days after seeing the copy of the letter, she instituted an action against him for defamation!

Part 2 will come next week....

1982 J.J. 67, Transcript of Johnson V Lucas, Jersey Law Reports.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Midsummer Dreamtime

It was Midsummer's eve, and I was sleepy. It had taken some time to walk to this sacred place, and now I was there, the wild grass beneath my feet, and the ancient stone of the dolmen below me. I sat down to rest. The air was heavy with the sweet scent of heather, and the sun was gentle and warm, and the peace and calm of the surroundings drew me softly into slumber.
And in my sleep, I could see the clouds moving backwards across the sky, and night and day followed in a succession of swift, flickering images. Within an instant, the dolmen was unbuilt and had gone, and the sea rose and fell a hundred feet or more, and the trees and a valley stretched out where there had been sea.
Faster and faster the ages seemed to pass, until the earth convulsed in volcanic fire, and I was flung into space from the primeval earth.  I was drifting, floating in space, watching the birth of the solar system, and yet I felt no fear, only a sense of peace. And I watched the earth as unformed to become scattered dust, and the sun reduce in brightness until its fires had also too ceased, and it too had been unborn.
Then I felt dizzy at the speed at which time was unfolding, so that I closed my eyes, and presently I felt that this strange motion of time had ceased, and I opened my eyes, and beheld complete emptiness, a dark formless space, with not the slightest spark of light. And I heard a voice, like a whisper, speaking.
In the beginning was the void,
And the void was without form or substance
And outside the void was light
But the light had withdrawn herself
And created the void
She had made the womb of creation
A space where there was no light
And light was concealed
And there was only a darkness of the void
Into which whole worlds could come into being
And suddenly there was a sharp sound, a pure note ringing as if someone had plucked a string from a harp, and the sound gradually faded. This resonated throughout the void, and I when I looked, I now saw a faint glimmer of light. By that light, I could see a crystalline surface of ten strange vessels, vast beyond imagination, the size of a million galaxies, floating in the void.
What were these vast artifacts? How had they been brought into being? I could not see all of them, for they were still dim.  But I knew that something incredible was waiting to be known.
And as I pondered these questions, the voice whispered once more:
Through my word have created the vessels
And through my word these will be filled with light
Here is the beginning of all things
By these ten vessels shall all be created,
By wisdom and by understanding
By reason and by strength
By rebuke and by might
By righteousness and by judgment
By loving kindness and compassion
These are the gates of creation
The doors to all knowledge
And as I watched, the vessels began to pulse and glow with light, ever brighter and brighter, until I could barely see the incandescent shapes though half closed eyes. And they were full of such beauty and goodness that I could barely look upon them.
But then another tone sounded, a discordant ringing, and at this sound, seven of the vessels shook, and could no longer contain the light that welled within them. There was a great noise, and I was deafened, as the vessels shattered, and shards of light and dark flew out into the void, twisting and turning, and I shut my eyes briefly, blinded by this explosion, as the universe convulsed and ruptured.
In my vision, I realised that before the stars, before the planets, before all history, and all time, the stars themselves had blazed out in a cosmic explosion, coming into being as the primordial vessels of creation shattered.
When I opened my eyes again, I saw the shards of light and dark coalescing, forming the galaxies, and time moved onwards, swiftly, and the planets also formed from the swirling patterns of star dust. And I saw again the earth, burning with the heat of early fires erupting from the ground, then a white snowball in space, and finally the blue planet that I recognised as my home.
And I felt a stirring breeze, as the Midsummer sun began to set, and the warmth was leaving the land, and I knew I had awakened from this strange dream.
I opened my eyes and stood up, at this wonderful world which came from the stuff of stars, looking at the ancient stones, and the far distant shores below where the tide was rising, and the lush green trees on the hills around. Here was my birthplace, the only world in which I knew with certainty that the matter of the cosmos had become alive and aware.
But here was also scattered among this world, in its beauty and its grace, the sparks of light from the shattered vessels of creation, and I knew that these had become broken, displaced, obscured. And the voice whispered in the breeze once more:
Gather up the sparks of light
Do what is right and just
And heal the fractured world
With acts of knowledge and wisdom,
Understanding and love
Justice and compassion and beauty,
From the ashes a fire shall be woken
a light from the shadows shall spring
And that which is lost shall be restored.
And as I stood there, the sun set below the horizon, and one by one, the stars came out. And I was filled with joy.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Oceans Away

The oceans are in a worse state than previously suspected, according to an expert panel of scientists. In a new report, they warn that ocean life is "at high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history". They conclude that issues such as over-fishing, pollution and climate change are acting together in ways that have not previously been recognised. The impacts, they say, are already affecting humanity. "The rate of change is vastly exceeding what we were expecting even a couple of years ago," said Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a coral specialist from the University of Queensland in Australia. Some species are already fished way beyond their limits - and may also be affected by other threats"

But more worrying than this, the team noted, are the ways in which different issues act synergistically to increase threats to marine life. Some pollutants, for example, stick to the surfaces of tiny plastic particles that are now found in the ocean bed. This increases the amounts of these pollutants that are consumed by bottom-feeding fish. Plastic particles also assist the transport of algae from place to place, increasing the occurrence of toxic algal blooms - which are also cause d by the influx of nutrient-rich pollution from agricultural land.

"What we're seeing at the moment is unprecedented in the fossil record - the environmental changes are much more rapid," Professor Rogers told BBC News. "We've still got most of the world's biodiversity, but the actual rate of extinction is much higher [than in past events] - and what we face is certainly a globally significant extinction event." (1)

There is an assumption which seems to come from James Lovelock that the Earth has various homoeostatic mechanisms which will cause any imbalance to rectify itself over time. Lovelock seems to have devoted considerable amount of time to his Gaia hypothesis in which he attempted to explain the strange circumstances in which the Earth of all the solar planets seemed admirably suited for life. I founded noteworthy that his book had little or no mention of Darwin or natural selection. He seems to have taken the longevity of life on Earth as indicating some kind of balancing mechanism which insures that life continues on our planet.

Twenty-six years ago when I first started writing this book, I had no clear idea of what Gaia was although I had thought deeply about her. What I did know was that the Earth was different from Mars and Venus. It was a planet with apparently the strange property of keeping itself always a fit and comfortable place for living things to inhabit. I had the idea that somehow this property was not an accident of its position in the Solar System but was a consequence of life on its surface.

Now twenty-six years on, I know her better and see that in this first book I made mistakes. Some were serious, such as the idea that the Earth was kept comfortable by and for its inhabitants, the living organisms. I failed to make clear that it was not the biosphere alone that did the regulating but the whole thing, life, the air, the oceans, and the rocks. The entire surface of the Earth including life is a self-regulating entity and this is what I mean by Gaia. (2)

This is presented in a very anthropomorphic terminology and while Lovelock has said that these statements are poetic ways of expressing scientific truth, I think that it is more the case that he is creating a kind of scientific pantheism which eschews the notion of deity that brings it in by the back door.

Gaia would have to learn by trial and error the art of controlling its environment, at first within broad bounds and later, as control was refined, by maintaining it near the optimum state for life.(2)

What has this to do with this news story? The answer is that there seems to be a certain body of opinion which draws upon Lovelock's thesis or even takes an explicitly religious rationale for purpose in creation (and with similar homeostatic mechanism, but as part of God's purpose). For Lovelock's Earth has a purpose -- to maintain life upon its surface. The danger with this kind of thinking is the assumption that while the oceans are in a bad way, if we keep them alone, or can reduce our activity, they will automatically restore themselves to a kind of steady state. But the history of extinctions and the destruction of even small habitats such as a forest by fire demonstrate that this is not the case.

What happens in these cases is that an ecological niche has been vacated by extinct species and that other species or near relatives take advantage of the niche after the destructive effect has ended. For example, after a fire, seeds will blow across the burnt soil and take root, and fauna will follow -- but the situation will not be identical to that which took place before, although it may superficially resemble it. What was found was that where natural forces had destroyed or damaged complex ecosystems, such as flood, fire, hurricane etc, that far from "the balance of nature" reasserting itself, that a completely different ecosystem would come into being, with different outcomes from that observed before in terms of fauna and flora and their interactions.

But with the oceans, and the destructive effects of pollution, acidification, and overfishing, the time period for the destructive effects to have ended will be considerably greater than that of a mere forest fire. We may be talking about geological timescales. The cod stocks after all, still show no sign of recovery in the West Atlantic, and the collapse of cod stocks after overfishing is a small-scale disaster compared to the catastrophe that our confronts us.

The fate of the western cod stocks is well known. Increased fishing and decreasing spawning stock sizes resulted in overfishing and a biological collapse. The fishery for the major cod stocks in the western Atlantic was closed in 1992. (3)

The homoeostatic scenario is a kind of pseudoscientific wishful thinking which may prevent us from taking adequate steps to prevent a global ecological disaster within the oceans. If Lovelock had read Darwin more carefully, he might have realised that there is no reason why most forms of life, apart from perhaps bacteria, might not become extinct. The Earth is not sentient, and we project human desires upon the planet at our peril. In the end, of course, all life on Earth will become extinct. But in the meantime, we can make a difference and postpone, if we are lucky and take sufficient action, that final day.

Inevitabilities should never be depressing. An old philosophical tradition, dating at least to Spinoza, proclaims that freedom is the recognition of necessity. If we respect intellect, true freedom must come from learning the ways of the world-what can be changed and what cannot-and by shaping a gutsy life accordingly. (Stephen Jay Gould) (4)

Part of this can be done with fishing quotas, as long as these are implemented fairly. But the history of quota fishing is not a good one -- there are a number of dodges which have been used by the fishermen of some countries where the governments cheerfully turn a blind eye to the practice. It is the spirit of the quota which matters and keeping technically within the limits while finding ways of overfishing in other jurisdictions requires international rather than national agreements. Moreover, it is this kind of shady practice which led to the rise of piracy in Somalia and elsewhere, and while that is now fueled more by greed for easy pickings, it might never have begun and spread so rapidly if it had not been for the resentment of native fishermen in seeing European trawlers coming in and consuming fish stocks in bulk, leaving little for the subsistence fishing of the native population.

One thing is sure, and that is that the era of cheap fish will be drawing to a close one way or the other. Either we will have to regulate our consumer driven overfishing and pollution of the oceans, or evolutionary mechanisms will do it for us as we wipe out the bulk of the planet's fish, and create an ocean too polluted and acidified to sustain any restoration of marine species.

(2) Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth, James Lovelock, Preface to 2000 edition
(4) Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes., Stephen Jay Gould

Monday, 20 June 2011

Stealthy Options

Chamber of Commerce criticises Senator's savings target tweet

BUSINESS leaders have reacted angrily to Treasury Minister Philip Ozouf's claim that the £65 million public sector savings target may now be impossible to meet. Senator Ozouf conceded this week that the States decision to delay proposed cuts to the funding of fee-paying schools would make it extremely difficult to achieve the public sector savings target. But that assessment has been heavily criticised by the Jersey Chamber of Commerce, which is now calling on ministers to stick to their promise of taxing and saving. Chamber vice-president James Filleul said that the group had strong feelings on the comments made yesterday by Senator Ozouf. (1)

The interesting question about Philip Ozouf's comments is the kind of spin that will be given on his own response in raising extra taxes. I can see that two options available to him will be to bring in stealth taxes, which always go and do some kind of euphemism such as "user pays", neglecting the fact that the user has already paid taxes and that this is an additional kind of tax added on. Or the other option will be to raise goods and services taxes further, not perhaps immediately, but a few years in the future.

The failure of obtaining savings can be used as an excuse for having to raise GST, and setting aside any promises made, as recent promises by the Treasury Minister on keeping GST at 5% were (cleverly) always conditional on savings being made - he has learnt not to give unconditional promises!. In the short term, this would be politically unacceptable, and so stealth taxes are far more likely.

These will of course impact on poorer people far more than rich ones. They will also allow the fiction that taxes in Jersey are relatively low, because they will not feature in the base rate of income tax at 20%, nor will they feature in the 5% GST charge.

This will undoubtedly be presented as a stark consequence of the failure to make cuts. If we cannot make cuts, then we have to seek further forms of funding for public services. But fundamentally stealth taxes will be popular with the Treasury Minister because by and large they can be "invisible".

That is not to say that the general public will not notice them, but that opposition to them will be harder than, for example, a rise in the base rate of income tax GST. They will be more loosely spread and hence harder to quantify in terms of the impact upon the general public. Therefore they are ideal as an escape mechanism by which Philip Ozouf can raise extra taxes. An extra charge, ostensibly for dumping, on bin collection. A sewage charge for the maintenance of the drainage system and treatment of sewage. These are but two examples of how services that are already funded from tax revenues can be used to claw back additional funds on the specious argument that the user should pay; in fact, as with most stealth taxes, the user effectively ends up paying twice, because they were paying for the service already through central taxation.

This is not just a local strategy, of course - it is world-wide. But we should ensure that locally, stealth taxes don't come in without measures to help the hardest off. Pensioners, especially those above income support levels, can off course be hit by stealth taxes, just as they were with GST, and an inflexible system of stealth taxes would be one more nail in the coffin of the elderly - the metaphor being particularly apt.

At a time when political leaders in Europe and the United States are committed to no additional income-tax burden on the middle class, they also share the advantage of raising revenue without drawing too much attention to the tightening fiscal noose. As a result, analysts say, taxpayers from California to Copenhagen should brace themselves for more "stealth taxes" - indirect levies like sales taxes, or microcharges on services once provided free, like registering a pet.

Such charges can have many benefits for tax collectors. For one thing, they are less volatile and less dependent on the economic cycle than corporate or income taxes. For another, they are less prone to avoidance and cheaper to collect. Finally, analysts say, they are generally easier to enact. (2)

Of course, this may not be the chosen path locally, in which case I will eat humble pie, but otherwise, it we will all be grinding our teeth on stealthy options!


Sunday, 19 June 2011

The Honorary Police and the New Age

St Helier in Jersey needs 24 honorary officers

The Constable of St Helier has said the parish still has 24 honorary police vacancies despite a recruitment drive. Constable Simon Crowcroft said half of the 52 honorary police posts were currently vacant. He said he thought the reason it was difficult to recruit to the voluntary posts was because people were more busy. The constable said they were able to fill two posts at a breakfast meeting taking the total of vacancies to 24. He said: "We didn't have a big turnout but we signed up a couple of Constables officers. "One doesn't want to overstress that we are 26 officers short, the important thing is we are looking for people interested in supporting their community and making it safer."

Constable Crowcroft said a shortage of officers put a real burden on existing ones who combine their personal and professional lives with volunteering. He said: "If we had more honorary officers we would be putting out the speed control more frequently, we could do something about dog owners allowing their dogs to foul the pavement. That kind of policing requires the honorary police but if you haven't got a full compliment of officers you can't provide a service to the parishioners."

St Helier is also looking for a Centenier, and will be fined by the Royal Court if it cannot fill the position. Constable Crowcroft said: "Every parish has to run a full compliment of Centeniers, in St Helier we need 10 and we currently have nine. "We've been to the Royal Court twice having failed to have someone nominated at a parish assembly, they have given us a third strike and your out situation. "We have a population of over 30,000 in St Helier and I think it is a reasonable expectation we can find 10 to work as an honorary officer."


Finding the time to serve in the honorary police has usually been the prerogative of single people with no family commitments or married people where the children are largely grown-up. It also requires a sympathetic employer if they are members of staff as time would be lost. Alternatively, of course, someone who is self-employed can find the time if they have other people to manage or work in their business. The current economic downturn has undoubtedly stretched resources of most businesses to the point where it is very difficult to have staff members as honorary police or for the self-employed to have the surplus staff to allow for periods of their absence.

Another factor which mitigates against the honorary police, but indirectly, is the increasing prevalence of separation and divorce. This focuses attention on the requirements of settlements which may involve selling houses and moving into rented accommodation, which again puts pressure on finances and takes away from spare time and support framework of a secure family base. Single-parent families abound, all of which demand more time. All of these factors do not of necessity remove the possibility of people serving in the honorary police, but they mean that the society in which we live is a much more fractured and less interdependent one than was the case perhaps 20 years ago. And the town area, with its bedsit land -- just observe the number of old town dwellings with multiple doorbells -- and a generally poorer population will face more difficulties than the countryside where the same changes in society have proceeded at a slightly slower pace.

There is another major change in society which is what sociologist Paul Heelas calls the "subjective turn". If one looks at prewar society, status and identity is tied up with occupation in a way so that people understood themselves in terms of their place in society, the kind of work they did, and the structure of society, which was very much underpinned by a kind of social-Christian framework. That is to say, going to church, was what people did, and there was not a large degree of critical reflection upon that. It can still be seen exemplified in an advertisement in the 1960s on television which began with the scene of a family christening and a narration which opened commenting on that.

The life events such as christenings have declined but still continue but the Sunday worship which was quite simply the thing people did has largely disappeared. The disappearance has come with a change in how people see themselves and a shift into understanding themselves more in terms of self identity rather than their place in the community at large. This is not altogether a bad change in itself, for the old order could be deeply conservative and patronising -- the rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate, God made them high and lowly, and ordered their estate -- as the verse from "All Things Bright and Beautiful" informs us. The loss of that verse from most hymnals demonstrates that the kind of Christian society in which it was forged, is simply not acceptable today.

But the pendulum has swung a long way. Identity is bound up with such notions as self-discovery or to use Carl Rogers phrase " self actualisation". Modern and popular forms of Christianity of a fundamentalist kind with the stress on personal salvation and " accepting Jesus as my personal saviour" have also bought in to this model albeit with a Christian gloss, far removed from the social justice of a Wilberforce or Shaftsbury. And for those for whom such Christianity is still too demanding, there are numerous New Age therapies, workshops, and "life changing" events available for the individual to find themselves. And it is very much for the individual and for the self identity that these are attractive and seductive. They also take time away from leisure time which might otherwise be spent on community matters. Because of the time that they take, and even more in the way in which the whole philosophy is antithetical to the idea of community service, we have a society in which the older forms of service such as working in charity shops or helping with scouting or helping with the honorary police, come very low on these individualising agendas.

What can be done to improve matters? One thing that might be done is to channel those who are unemployed or students who have not got a summer job into the opportunities available to helping, for example, with charity shops and community events such as the Battle of Flowers or Jersey Live etc. Not only will this give the individuals concerned more of a sense of worth, rather than being considered and demeaned as parasitical on society by the media, it will also provide an opportunity for rebuilding the sense of community spirit and planting the seeds from which may come, if nurtured well, a future pool of individuals who will be more than ready to see the honorary police as an extension of the underlying kind of work which has given them dignity, respect, and a sense of self-worth as part of the team.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Storm Force

"The wind awoke last night with so noble a violence that it was like the war in heaven; and I thought for a moment that the Thing had broken free. For wind never seems like empty air. Wind always sounds full and physical, like the big body of something; and I fancied that the Thing itself was walking gigantic along the great roads between the forests of beech." GK Chesterton

Very windy last tonight, and saw pictures on Facebook of the Granville Normandie trawler heading out to sea; I thought of "The Ghost and Mrs Muir" (one of my favourite films), where the ghostly Captain Clegg says

"All those comfortable swabs who sit at home in their beam-ends reveling in the luxuries that seamen risk their lives to bring to them...and despising the poor devils if they so much as touch a drop of rum, and-- and even sneering at people who try to do them some good like you and me."

and I thought of those fisherman, paid a pittance to go out in dangerous seas to bring fish to us, and wrote this...

Storm Force

Out in all weathers, ever brave
The trawler-men on restless wave
The waves so high, the ocean deep
No time for rest, no time for sleep
The fishing boat now leaves the quay
To face the peril on the sea.

Departing shores, leave coastal bird
Sail troubled waters, undeterred
The wind is rising, foaming deep
The sailor steadfast watch does keep
The fishing boat the storm does flee
For there is peril on the sea.

Into the maelstrom, Poseidon's feud
With those who take the sea's own food
And pray that angry tumult cease
And give, for wild confusion, peace
The fishing boat seeks calmer lee
Escape from peril on the sea.

This night the waves shall not devour
Despite the wind with mighty power
The tempest conjured now does slow
With gentler currents, calmer flow
Weigh anchor now, no need to flee
Sing songs of joy across the sea.