Friday, 2 November 2012

Pay and Procrastination

Jersey's politicians should earn a salary of £42,000 from 1 January, according to the panel that recommends States members' pay.
It is an increase in their annual pay of £818 a year. Reviewers considered the current economic climate against the need to give politicians a reasonable standard of living. It said it was a difficult balance to strike but the rise was "modest". (1)

It's not modest if you are scraping by on a States pension, but I suppose it is if you are an ex-Chief Officer or Head Teacher, like two of the review board. None of the review board are particularly poor. It reminds me of G.K.Chesterton's comments on the Bishop of Birmingham. The Bishop was speaking about Oxford, and the students who went there:

"Dr. Gore talked unworthily of his reputation when he spoke of the older Universities as playgrounds for the rich and idle. In the first place, the rich men there are not idle. Some of the rich men are, and so are some of the poor men. On the whole, the sons of noble and wealthy families keep up the best traditions of academic life."

The article went on to say that there were benefits from the poor going to Oxford:

"It is distinctly advantageous," he says, "that rich and poor--_i. e._, young men with a smooth path in life before them, and those who have to hew out a road for themselves--should be brought into association. Each class learns a great deal from the other. On the one side, social conceit and exclusiveness give way to the free spirit of competition amongst all classes; on the other side, angularities and prejudices are rubbed away... We get the net result in such careers as those of Lord Milner, Lord Curzon, and Mr. Asquith"

As Chesterton scathingly pointed out, Dr Gore had very little idea of poverty:

There is, however, one mild but very evident truth that might perhaps be mentioned. And it is this: that none of those three excellent persons is, or ever has been, a poor man in the sense that that word is understood by the overwhelming majority of the English nation. There are no poor men at Oxford in the sense that the majority of men in the street are poor. The very fact that the writer in the Outlook can talk about such people as poor shows that he does not understand what the modern problem is.

I was thinking about that when I heard the words "modest" in the proposed £800 pay rise for States Members. If the review board considers that "modest" - and at least two members have gold-plated final salary pensions based on their very considerable salaries - they simply have no idea of what a lot of people have to live on. The median wage for 2012 was around £28,000 - according to the States statistical unit. The mean wage - a slightly higher measure - was around £34,000. I'd really love to know what the review board have on their income tax returns; somehow I suspect it is considerably higher than £42,000!

Obviously the States shouldn't have the say over how much they are paid, so it is delegated to a review body. Independent? The trouble is that the members of that body are elected to that post by the States - which may explain why it also includes on ex-States member as well. It's a stacked deck - for those not aware of the idiom, stacking the deck in cards is to cheat by arranging the cards to be dealt out to one's advantage.

A homeless drifter who murdered a vicar and a retired teacher has been jailed for the rest of his life. Stephen Farrow stabbed to death the Rev John Suddards, 59, in Thornbury, near Bristol, and Betty Yates, 77, at her home, in Bewdley, Worcestershire. The defendant, 48, who Bristol Crown Court heard was obsessed with religion, was convicted by a jury of the murders. (2)

Watching that, I couldn't help think about Damian Rzeszowski. Of course, there are differences - this crime was clearly pre-meditated. But there is still a stabbing of two innocent people, and a realisation that for the safety of the public, he should be put away where he cannot be dangerous any more.

On Monday, Judge Michael Birt sentenced him to 30 years in jail for each victim, but the sentences are to run concurrently. Rzeszowski's victims were his wife Izabela Rzeszowska, 30; 5-year-old daughter, Kinga; 2-year-old son, Kacper; father-in-law, Marek Gartska, 56; his wife's friend Marta De La Haye, 34; and her 5-year-old daughter, Julia. (3)

Damian Rzeszowski killed more people, including children, and is being put in prison for 30 years, which in fact will probably be only 20. Jersey's justice system certain needs a shake up, and I'm wholly in agreement with Senator Ian Le Marquand that this kind of legal loophole should not exist. Can nothing be started to ensure that the law is changed to a better fit with the UK? It seems that Senator Wendy Kinnard just let matters drift. Ian Le Marquand has said there should be a justice minister to deal with that kind of problem, but surely some changes to the law can take place, with States approval, on his watch. After all, the Bailiff, Sir Michael Birt says the court's "hands had been tied" and has urged speedy reform of the law to avoid a repeat of this case.

Home Affairs Minister Ian Le Marquand revealed that Deputy Bailiff William Bailhache wrote to former Senator Wendy Kinnard in 2005 or 2006 when she was either president of the Home Affairs Committee or Home Affairs Minister to inform her of the problem.  But no one responded to Mr Bailhache, who was then the Island's Attorney General, and the major failing remained unresolved. (4)

But there are problems with this, as a commenter on the CTV site pointed out:

1. The article states that William Bailhache wrote to Kinnard in 2005 or 2006 - surely he knows the exact date of any letters written. But perhaps he can't find any copies of his letter on system or in his files.

2. Why didn't Bailhache write to either Lewis or Le Marquand during their subsequent terms as Home Affairs ministers to inform them of this serious issue?

3 If Senator Bailhache and his successor managed to write just one letter on this issue in seven years then the Crown Office could not have considered it that important.

Wendy Kinnard has all but vanished to a desert island, possibly to play discs and forget politics. But William Bailhache is now Deputy Bailiff. Perhaps Sir Michael Birt can have a quiet word with him about letting matters drift, and perhaps dig out the original letter that he sent. If William Bailhache had been just a little more proactive, and followed the matter up, the problems over the sentencing of Damian Rzeszowski would not have occurred. Justice is not served best by those who only stand and wait.

(1) BBC Radio Jersey

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It seems that the Bailhache boys excel at levelling criticism at others whilst any minor criticism levelled at them draws cries of outrage.
Such behaviour is typical of cowardly bullies the world over.