A guest posting by Nick Palmer, commenting on my distinction between "normal justice" - the day to day justice we see in the Royal Court and Police Court, and the "exceptional justice", where the State (be it the Jersey States, or another Government) is involved in the case, where I argue that in Jersey - as in the UK, and the USA, by the way - the justice system appears to fail, because the State has an almost knee-jerk reaction against admitting culpability, and can easy dig itself into a retrenched position from which any change in a defensive stance is impossible.
I think that rather than blanket condemnations of our judicial system as corrupt, which I do not believe to be the case, the distinction I make has the advantage of providing a rational explanation of why the legal system in the courts works pretty well most of the time, and where it goes - or is prone to go - wrong. Where one draws the boundaries between the two is however perhaps not obvious, but I think Nick helps with clarifying how to spot this.
A Guest Posting on Normal and Exceptional Justice by Nick Palmer
"The best of men is only a man at best,
And a hare, as everyone knows, is only a hare" - Kit Williams
"L'Etat, c'est moi"- Louis XIV
"Vanity - definitely my favourite sin" - John Milton (The Devil's Advocate)
I think, in Jersey, the boundaries between normal justice and exceptional, politically influenced, justice are set in somewhat different positions to those of larger jurisdictions. The graphic equaliser of ethical equal treatment of cases here is even less of a straight line.
The separation between local parish pump politics and high affairs of State is not much. Sometimes, the same person or small hierarchy is responsible for administering, responding to and reacting to or prosecuting both.
Of itself, this situation is not necessarily a bad one. If you have intelligent, widely educated people of high integrity with little to compromise them, then this system can work well - nay, may be the best political set up achievable. In Eutopia.
However, it seems as if that ideal is somewhat tarnished in practice, particularly over the last few years and I think the root cause is vanity - the vanity of position that leads those in positions of power to go, for what they think of as the highest reasons, outside of the strict application of fairness, equality, truth and integrity whenever they form or enforce policy. The essential vanity of those in charge is that they believe, and frequently assert, that they supply a "first class" whatever.
Anyone who listens to the States or the Parishes for any length of time will hear this assertion about some aspect of Jersey life and I think the powers that be (TPTB) believe their own assertions rather too much. Once they believe their own mythology, they seem to become almost immune to outside sceptical knowledge based criticism of their actions, probably because they have assembles their own favoured support structure of advisers to bolster their world view.
Once TPTB started uncritically believing in themselves, it is likely that only those who also fit in with, or say little to criticise, their world view would be able to maintain position or make progress in that arena thus forming a self reinforcing system. If most of TPTB think they are pretty hot stuff, they render themselves almost beyond criticism. Any critics must, in TPTB's world view, be wrong, malicious or poorly uninformed. It is common to meet many ordinary people who are dissatisfied with the way things are here who nevertheless seem to take an almost masochistic delight in asserting that "wisdom" is keeping quiet about it - is the best policy to avoid prejudicial effects on their life and career.
Should any genuine problems with the institutions, or the people that run them, arise perhaps it is vanity that enables them to hide, discount or cover-up. I hope and, on balance, believe that none of them do it for "evil" reasons but rather because they are so enamoured with their self-perception of being "first class" and acting so too, that they can no longer see what an outside objective observer might see, so they feel justified in papering over any cracks in the edifice without apparently seeing that too many cracks means there might be something rotten under the surface of that edifice. In essence, they think that things as they run them are generally so good that they think skating over or discounting what they see as outlying, insignificant small cracks, is the best way to react to protect the image of Jersey.
There can be a darker side to this when, once the champions of the "Establishment" have made up their minds on a subject, they end up feeling that draconian enforcement of the law and removing from office (or discriminating against) people that in their view are troublemakers, is the route to follow. Once they have embarked upon this sort of route, they often find it hard to retrace if they ever suspect they have made a mistake. Vanity mostly seems to prevent this backtracking and can lead to ever more arcane and extreme justifications for sticking to their guns. Once even quite morally sound individuals embark on "cover ups" for the greater good, they seem to find it impossible to reconsider without extreme pressure.
Disclosure: I have occasionally been accused of vanity about my intellect. Perhaps it might be because I once won the Mensa "Superbrain of the Channel Islands" competition and sometimes feel I should have to live up to it.
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