Thursday, 14 March 2013

Looking from a Distance

There's been a certain degree of sensationalism in the press about the "suspension" (as the most understandable term) of the Dean of Jersey, the Very Reverend Robert Key, and both local and national papers haven't deal with the legal background much.

One thing that I suspect will come to the forefront at some time is the action of the Magistrate who according to the report dispensed what appears to be an atrocious case of summary justice (if justice is the appropriate word, which I doubt):

"Following this H.G. was arrested for breaking a harassment order, brought before the magistrate and as she had no money, was at that time of no fixed abode and appeared mentally distressed, she was remanded in custody. Safeguarding Advisor J.F. records her concern at these extreme measures and worked at setting up care for her with the prison chaplain. She is shocked when on 11th October 2010,  H.G. was bound over and summarily deported from the Island for three years and put on a plane with no-one to meet her, no planned accommodation and no money."

Something clearly went seriously wrong with the justice meted out, and it should be looked into. The Dean may be accused of failing the act, but he Magistrate seems to have done more damage by his calculated action.

That action of the Magistrate reminds me of G.K. Chesterton who, speaking of another official acting in a similar manner, who said: "It calls up the mental picture of some archaic and changeless Eastern Court, in which men with dried faces and stiff ceremonial costumes perform some atrocious cruelty to the accompaniment of formal proverbs and sentences of which the very meaning has been forgotten."

One blogger who has looked at the ecclesiastical laws is the Reverend Peter Ould. He is a non-stipendiary Church of England priest. He writes on issues around the Church, Christianity and Ethics at and is also responsible for the Twurch of England project at  

He has been following the situation in Jersey from a distanced and I would say objective point of view. He's not giving criticism of the Dean's actions; he's simply giving commentary, and sometimes that can as helpful and just as important, especially when the popular media are already going all out as judge and jury. It is helpful to stand back, and see the situation looking from a distance.

Peter Ould also seems to have some very good local sources, although he was a little misleading when he said "There was apparently an emergency Jersey government meeting on this matter on Friday" which suggested a sitting of the States. He clarified this later: "The States did not meet. However the were emergency meetings of senior members of the Jersey government."

Past blogs that are informative in understanding the situation, rather than slinging mud, are:

This admirably clarifies the problematic nature of the legality of the Bishop to effectively "suspend" the Dean, and it is a lot more complex than might be thought.

There is also:
which again looks at the legal background

Law and Religion UK also has a very comprehensive summary of the issues involved at:

and it notes that "although there are legal issues arising from the relationship between Jersey and the United Kingdom, the main issue remains the Independent Report and the subsequent investigation."

And lastly, Peter Ould also has this recent report on his blog:

Statement from the Chief Minister of Jersey, Senator Ian Gorst

We are saddened to learn that a vulnerable woman who came to Jersey suffered while living here and we very much regret that she was adversely affected by events during her time here. This is a matter that should be resolved by the Church, and we understand there will now be an investigation into the findings of the independent review. Jersey officials will be meeting the Bishop of Winchester when he visits the island and providing whatever cooperation is needed.

We note the Bishop's affirmation that his action in removing the Dean of Jersey's commission is a neutral measure which implies no judgement and is necessary while matters are investigated, in accordance with best practice.

We welcome the commitment of the Diocese of Winchester to enhancing safeguarding procedures and policies. Jersey's recently formed Vulnerable Adults Protection Committee, announced in October 2012, will help to safeguard vulnerable adults in our community. Islanders will know that the Dean is held in high regard by Jersey's faith community and is highly respected for his dedicated work and contribution to island life since he came here in 2005.

Response from the Right Reverend Tim Dakin, Bishop of Winchester

I very much welcome the full support of the Jersey authorities in this sensitive and difficult matter.  In recent days I have had productive conversations with the Chief Minister amongst others and have been grateful for his assistance in particular.

Together we are committed to investigating fully the findings of last week's independent report and to enhancing safeguarding polices in Jersey and across the Diocese.  I will shortly be announcing full details of the investigation.

18:15 GMT 13th March - Press release coming from Jersey shortly. Sources indicate it will clarify position of Jersey Government on legal issues involved.

22:00 GMT 12th March- Jersey airport is shut till 14:00 Wednesday so little chance of +Winchester arriving on island tomorrow to meet Chapter. Very likely to be next week. Sources indicate next Episcopal visitor to Jersey may be Bishop of Southampton to deliver temporary Commission to Vice-Dean whilst Bob Key suspended. Although the States will accept this appointment as commisary, sources indicate that the States are still prepared to back the current Dean as Dean in the medium term.

16:45 GMT 12th March - My sources in Jersey confirm that there is major disagreement with the Diocese of Winchester's legal opinion on his right to suspend the Dean. This disagreement extends beyond the clergy chapter to the Executive of the Jersey State

16:30 GMT 12th March - Bishop Tim Dakin will attempt to visit Jersey tomorrow (Wednesday) to meet with the clergy chapter, but this is weather dependent. Jersey is still under a large amount of snow and it is not certain the airport will be open.


James said...


H.G. was bound over and summarily deported from the Island for three years and put on a plane with no-one to meet her, no planned accommodation and no money

Who was the magistrate who did this?

(the assumption will be that it was the wife of one of Bob Key's clergy - which makes it look worse - but there are others occasionally who exercise that role)

TonyTheProf said...

Rico Sorda has done some good investigation on this, digging into public domain records on microfilm. I'll leave that one to him; I'm not going to steal his hard work. I will say that the Magistrate was a man, hence not who you may think.