"Excuse me sir, I've just one more question." That's a phrase more commonly associated with Lieutenant Columbo of the LAPD than Deputy Trevor Pitman, but just like the detective, he is worrying away at the problem of what happened on a Gatwick flight on 21 March 2013.
On that flight was Senator Philip Bailhache, and that's in no doubt. But what he was reading is another matter. A concerned businessman sent an email to Trevor Pitman in which he made the following allegation:
"On taking my seat on the place I noticed that seated in the aisle seat on the opposite aisle to me was Sir Philip Bailhache to which I certainly commend him being seated in an economy class seat! What disturbed me greatly was on taking off he produced a large amount of documentation to read regarding the recent issues with the Dean of Jersey. Now not wanting to be nosey of course when you are open to read such information I spent 35 minutes glancing at the various Police Statements, pages of mobile phone text messages (which has now confirmed for me that the police can in fact trace logs of all text messages), letters to the Bishop and letters from a Robb ****** (signed I will always Love you like a daughter, love Robb) just for clarification that I have seen this information!!"
"Obviously certain facts and names are kept strictly confidential from these types of cases but now I for one can name the woman in question and others that have involvement because of this lack of discretion of information being reviewed in a public place. Correct me if I am wrong but I do strongly think that this is extremely inappropriate? I wasn't sure how was best to convey this information over so as I know you personally I thought you would be a good point of contact or should I write a letter to the JEP?"
This matter was raised by Deputy Trevor Pitman in the States, and Senator Bailhache not being present, the Chief Minister passed on the reply forwarded to him that the only document being read by Senator Bailhache was the Korris Report, which does not contain names but only initials, nor any abbreviations of names such as "Robb", which would obviously be more identifiable.
But Deputy Pitman would not let the matter rest and asked a question again asking "does the Chief Minister stand by his statement that the only document being read was the Korris Report which does not contain names?"
As on this occasion, Senator Bailhache was present, Senator Gorst asked him to answer the question (acting as rapporteur). Senator Bailhache replied:
"I would like to be helpful to the Assembly but as the Chief Minister stated on 30th April the only relevant document that I can recall reading on a flight is the independent review of a safeguarding complaint for the Diocese of Winchester published in March which is available to all on the internet."
Deputy T.M. Pitman came back with a supplementary question:
"A supplementary. I have to say I find the answer very hard to take, but perhaps the Assistant Minister could explain to us in his view how a member of the public sitting just opposite him could read the name, and I could read it out but I will not, of the alleged abuser and indeed makes that quite clear in his email, which I am happy to give to any Member of this Assembly, to verify that he did see these documents, what he describes as police documents. How does the Assistant Minister marry that up? Is the member of the public lying?"
Senator P.M. Bailhache proceeded to cast doubt on the veracity of the email, saying that the allegations made in it (and detailed above) were "inaccurate". He said that "The document does contain some information that is not in the public domain. Taken in the round, it gives a fictitious and malicious account of my reading habits on aeroplanes and I am not going to be drawn further on this subject."
Deputy G.P. Southern wanted a better response than this and asked this question:
"I am very disappointed to hear that the Minister is not going to be drawn further on this subject, when I have got a question to ask him and his light is on. Can I quote from the document he is referring to that says, in the words of this complainant: "Obviously, certain facts and names are kept strictly confidential from these types of cases but now I, for one, can name the woman in question and others that have involvement, because of this lack of discretion of information being reviewed in a public place." Does he refute that altogether, or only partially?"
To which Senator Bailhache replied again "I have already said that the document is fictitious and malicious and I do not propose to make any further comment on its contents."
The businessman was unhappy with this attack on his reputation and sent a further email to the Chief Minister, this time copying in Constable Simon Crowcroft as well as Deputy Pitman, to ensure as a safeguard that the concerns he was raising were not just some kind of made up anti-establishment propaganda.
"I find it quite unbelievable that Sir Philip Bailhache has publicly stated the information contained in the original email below is of a fictitious and malicious nature. I can 100% assure you that there is only one person in this situation who is fictitious and that is certainly not me."
"I have no axe to grind with any of our current sitting states members and can see no reason why I would. That was until being publicly called a liar from an Assistant Chief Minister when they know the real truth, I really do not feel this is appropriate conduct for any states member."
He also listed in detail the documents that he said Senator Bailhache was reading:
· Police Witness Statements – Printed on States Of Jersey Police Letterhead.
· A4 pages of text messages sent from the victim
· Printed and Handwritten briefs of emails sent – from memory the handwritten were on yellow A4 paper.
· A letter from the accused addressed to the victim and signed off with 'I will always love you like a daughter, love Robb'
And he concludes "You will note that in my list above you will not see 'Diocese of Winchester independent review' as I did not see this document."
He also gave the reasons why he was concerned for his own privacy:
"I have always requested he keep my identity private purely as I do not really want to get dragged down with the Jersey way and given the recent response's from Sir Philip Bailhache I am actually quite concerned as to what else he could be capable of, so I respectfully ask the same of you and those cc'd on this email."
And he finally offered to meet Senator Gorst in person in order to confirm that he was not a fictitious individual or one making up malicious untruths, and his business partner – who was with him at the time, and also saw some of the documents – agreed to also come to corroborate that.
On Tuesday 11 June 2013, a meeting took place in the in the Boardroom at Morier House. Senator Gorst was present, along with the two businessmen and the Greffier, and Deputy Pitman. In the absence of minutes being available (although I would hope they were taken), the events in that meeting depend on the testimony of Deputy Trevor Pitman, but there is no reason not to believe that his account, shorn of some hyperbole, is substantially accurate.
Apparent, Senator Gorst took several lines of approach. In the first instance, he pointed out that whatever Senator Bailhache's actions had been in reading those documents, they had nothing to do with States business, and his role as Assistant Minister. That I think is fair comment; there is no evidence that the Council of Ministers, for instance, tasked Senator Bailhache with the job of providing a reply to the Bishop of Winchester on the Korris report. Indeed, as the recent church meeting demonstrates, Senator Bailhache is quite capable of taking his own initiatives on this matter.
Then apparently Senator Gorst said nothing could be done unless the businessman made his name public with his complaint. This would seem to cut sharply across any guidelines which are in place, for instance, regarding whistle-blowing. One of the key facets of that was that complaints could be made without public identification of the complainant, and indeed the Social Security Department encourages that policy regarding whistle-blowing on fraud benefit cheats. That doesn't mean the person making the complaint doesn't give their identity, because that would allow malicious complaints, but it does mean that their identity should be protected. I would have thought that no less should apply in this instance.
And finally, apparently Senator Gorst suggested the proper channel for the complaint was the Privileges and Procedures Committee. Of course, Senator Bailhache is a member of that Committee, so this would be very much as case of "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" as Juvenal put it. Privileges and Procedures themselves are aware of the fact that they are too close to the States, and are seeking an independent Commissioner to undertake reviews of any complaints against members of the States. It would seem that this would be a very deficient channel for complaints to be heard properly, and it also would fail to put the record straight if the observations of the businessman was accurate.
Trevor Pitman, like a dog worrying about a bone, is back in the Columbo role next States sitting with an oral question to ask the Chief Minister:
"Following his meeting with the businessmen who raised concern at seeing the Assistant Minister with responsibility for External Affairs reading confidential documents in full view of the public on a flight, does the Chief Minister support the Assistant Minister's views expressed on 14th May 2013 that the allegations were 'inaccurate' and gave a 'fictitious' and 'malicious' account and, if not, will he now be asking his Assistant Minister to resign?"
I really doubt if Senator Bailhache would resign, but if the allegations made by the businessman, and witnessed by his business partner, were accurate, it would be his own reply which was malicious and fictitious, and he should certainly apologise for casting aspersions on their honestly. There should also be an inquiry as to how he had in his possession documents which evidently would be highly privileged in who could see them.
If he continues to deny the truth of the allegations made, an independent investigation should still be made over the truth of these allegations. If it does emerge that they were substantially correct, it will almost certainly damage his political career, so I hope he thinks long and hard before replying to this question. I don't often see eye to eye with Trevor Pitman, as any of my readers will know, but he is calling the affair "Bailhache Gate", and perhaps not without good reason.
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