THREE States Members have called for an official investigation into whether States police officers were paid by journalists for information during the Haut de la Garenne inquiry. Senator Ben Shenton, Deputy Sean Power and Senator Jim Perchard have written a joint letter to the Attorney General and the police chief calling for action in the wake of revelations and allegations about the News of the World.
It has been alleged that reporters from the Sunday tabloid not only routinely hacked the mobile answer phone messages of celebrities, politicians and the victims of crime and terrorism, but also paid corrupt police officers for information.
The three Island politicians say that they have been concerned since 2008 about the way the investigation was handled and have raised the matter in the States on several occasions. (JEP (1))
Deputy Sean Power, let us not forget came across a printed copy of a long e-mail from Senator Stuart Syvret to another States member. He glanced at it and must have been quite well aware that it was confidential, but it had obviously piqued his interest so much that he disregarded both the States members code of conduct and the Data Protection law. He scanned a copy by e-mail both to himself and to friend. At some point quite soon after this, he realised that he had perhaps acted unwisely and confessed all to the data protection registrar, who not surprisingly was not impressed.
Coincidentally, not long after that, the e-mail, purged of some named individuals, appeared on a blog site which was staunchly critical of Haut de La Garenne, and overstepped the boundaries of acceptable behaviour so much that it was closed down. He may not have directly been the cause of that leak, but once these matters get out by emails, they can easily go viral.
Despite attempts to keep Sean in the Council of Ministers, it appears the threat of a vote of no confidence by the deputy to whom the e-mail was addressed forced him into resigning as housing minister. He apologised to the States, but didn't apologise to the Deputy concerned for distributing her private property. The Data Protection registrar admonished him, but it didn't go further than that - the luck of the Irish held out.
So this is the record of one of the people asking for an investigation into possible leaks! And for someone who may be critical of Lenny Harper's hospitality budget, he might also care to explain his own expenditure of tax payers money of £1,038.53 for travel and entertainment? By way of comparison, the previous Housing Minister clocked up a mere £247.98.
Senator Ben Shenton, on the other hand, appeared to have his own unique way of following what a cynic might term best "News of the World" practice. Quite by accident, as he later said, he recorded a private conversation between himself and the planning Minister, Senator Freddie Cohen. He may well have mused over that when he was working, because it has been noted that he has an extremely poor record of attendance in the States, and, it appears, has adopted the schoolboy trick of being present for the register roll-call and then bunking off. If he is standing again, I hope he gives some assurances that he will improve his attendance, for which he gets over £40,000 a year.
He didn't tell the Planning Minister about this, and sat on the recording for about a year before deciding that he would make it public to a scrutiny panel hearing, which was the first that Senator Freddie Cohen knew about it, as he hadn't had the courtesy to mention this recording before then, or indeed seek his permission to present it to scrutiny. This was the subject of complaints to the Privileges and Procedures Committee. They admonished him for his actions, but it didn't go further than that. Nor did the Data Protection registrar do anything much. So this is the record of somebody asking for investigation into hacking of answerphone messages and underhand practices!
Senator Jim Perchard also has his own unique take on leaks. In a recorded conversation, David Rose, journalist at the Mail on Sunday, admitted that Senator Perchard leaked him a confidential police email that Senator Perchard had been privy too which related to the Haut de La Garenne investigation. As far as I am aware, he has not even been admonished in any way about that.
The Scrutiny Panel investigating the BDO Alto Financial report have noted another leak to the Mail on Sunday, but it is not clear who leaked this, although it has been suggested it was Mick Gradwell, who took over the investigation of historical child abuse enquiry (and who showed what a lack of police professionalism really looks like). What is certain is that it has verbatim quotations of paragraphs which match world for word with a conclusions section of the BDO Alto report, and which they say could not be the case because it wasn't complete. A friend of mine mischievously suggested that perhaps the conclusions were written first before the rest of the report! Of course, the action of Messrs Shenton Perchard and Power is a good way of distracting public gaze from Scrutiny enquiry into this issue.
However Senator Perchard has also had to resign as Health Minister for unbecoming behaviour. On two occasions, once overheard by a BBC reporter, and once in the States chamber, and overheard by other states members, he told Senator Stuart Syvret to slit his wrists and commit suicide using a form of language which certainly would not be termed Parliamentary although it might conceivably have fitted neatly into the mouth of that cranky old fictional bigot, Alf Garnet, from the TV series "Till Death Do Us Part". Obviously he is an ideal person to ask for an investigation into gutter journalism!
Of course, it is an election year this year, and the three politicians had their pictures nicely on the front page of the JEP. But are these really election issues, like GST, increases in means testing and user pays (otherwise known as Stealth taxes) and population control, States spending and a lack of control of Chief officers who seem to be able to set their own extremely generous redundancy packages? Shouldn't the spotlight be on States members own record of service, and how well they have aspired to high office?
Those are real issues, and the kind of grandstanding that is going on with these States members are distractions which garner a certain amount of free publicity but don't tell you anything about what those candidates stand for on the island and parish issues. The headline should read:
THREE States Members have called for a lot of free publicity in an Election year which will distract you from their own shortcomings.
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