Friday, 28 February 2014

The Lighter Side of Jersey Politics

Signs of the Times

One of my favourite signs this election (via Nick Le Cornu). Someone was not thinking! Here's the notice, and the hastily corrected version. I know Jersey has a growing Polish population, but their own polling station! Or is everyone else supposed to vote first?!

The Hustings

“I am fed up with my predecessors having a mandate to represent me and failing. I want the job myself.” I know what Mr Travert means, but it sounds as if he wants the mandate to represent himself and fail! We are perilously close to King Charles walking and talking half an hour after his head was cut off.

Mr Philpott meantime talked about numerous concerns which were “very wide ranging”, which was a phrase used by one of the Permanent Undersecretaries in “Yes Prime Minister”. When you hear him say - “Many of the issues raised are currently subject to ongoing research, consideration, subject to scrutiny, and implementation in the States. If you elect me, I hope to play a part in the decision making process” – you realise that he is not a million miles from Sir Humprey Appleby, and could clearly write a few scripts.

And Maureen Morgan talked of rolling up her sleeves and getting on with the job. The hustings photo showed that she was not wearing a long-sleeved top, but a short-sleeved one, which might make rolling up sleeves just a tad difficult. 


On a discussion about the Airport Runway, Nicholas Jouault spoke about “The same muppets that built a glass building that dazzled the pilots when landing and installed an orgy of bollards.”

I really love that as a collective noun – “an orgy of bollards”. I wonder if the said bollards need the permission of the Bailiff to perform, or whether they could be arrested for obscenity? I can imagine one campaigner hard at work:

The late Mary Whitehouse (for it is she): “I was up at Jersey Airport, and I was appalled to see an orgy of bollards there. I know we live in liberal times, but one expects road management not to descent to the level of gutter filth”

Willy Nieuwburg meantime, before he judiciously edited what he said, spoke of the candidates as having a “grey uninspiring voice”. What on earth is a "grey" voice? Can you have a "blue" voice", or a "purple" voice? Perhaps ladies who have a purple rinse, also develop a peculiar tone of speech to go with it with florid, purple prose? This is clearly racist. Or colorist.

Mary Whitehouse would probably be back, asking if any candidates had voices in 50 shades of grey, of course. And we’ve all heard about “blue language”, haven’t we, gentle readers.

Guernsey – A Case of Nominative Election Determinism?

I love this sentence on the possible candidates for Chief Minister in our sister Island. Thank you BBC Guernsey!

“Deputy Lyndon Trott, former chief minister, has not ruled himself out of running.”

I gather that Deputy Chief Minister Jonathan Le Tocq is also considering standing for the position, but time is running out on the clock.

The Ideal Candidate

What would the ideal candidate be like? They'd have the longish hair of Sam Mezec, but the gray hair of the elderly patrician Ian Philpott, and perhaps the receding hairline of some of the candidates like Gordon Forrest. They would be clever like with some sort of degree like Maureen Morgan (but maybe even a doctorate), but capable of the sharp retort, like Nick Le Cornu. They would make the odd fluff, like Roy Travert. They would have an eye for injustice like Paul Huelin. They would have once held office, but be an exile from that life (a wanderer in the political dimension) like Paul le Clare. And Bernie Manning as DJ would play strange music as they appeared...Who would fit that bill? I reveal all.

Here then is the photo-fit picture of the ideal candidate:

Doctor Who. He could defeat the Daleks, but could he tackle Senator Philip Ozouf?

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Commuter Deputies

While no one seems to suggest, apart from perhaps Nick Le Cornu, that you have to live in a district to represent it, geographical proximity does seem to have been overlooked as significant. If you live in the next Parish, or the next District in the same Parish, you can be pretty close to the area you are looking to represent; you can be living in the same kind of urban area. After all, "Town" is a sprawling area which has urban boundaries that are not obvious. Gone are the days of the 1834 map, when it was tightly clustered, and Springfield was set around fields, and indeed, a spring which gave its name to the area.
I work in St Helier, but close to St Saviour's Road. It is not obvious where boundaries are. The same houses, the same urban landscape, have more continuity than discrete boundaries. So I can appreciate that people in St Saviours could stand in St Helier; the geographical picture of "townscape", rather than absolute Parish boundaries has expanded over time, and that defines in cultural terms more how people think of "Town" - the shops, the streets, the flats, bedsits etc. St Saviour's Road is itself misleading in suggesting a Parish, as a good deal of it is in St Helier.
But what if you live miles away, in a pleasant rural surroundings? How much of a feel for the residents problems will you have? Even if you work in St Helier, as Mr Forrest has done, how many Parish meetings have you attended? Do you know what the day to day urban problems are? And if you did work in St Helier, but retired in 2002, how much have you kept in touch with the needs today, rather than over 10 years ago?
These two names stand out as geographically remote:
Name: Gordon Forrest. Age: 58. Address: St Peter, Occupation: Business consultant
Name: Ian David Philpott. Age: 69. Address: Grouville, Occupation: Retired
These are almost at opposite ends of the Island - St Peter, and Grouville. Now there is a long history of candidates coming from leafy rural districts (where there are not as many seats) into the more urban districts to stand, but I really wonder how in touch anyone can be at that distance. There is an existential detachment from the location, and the problems of the urban Parish are very different from those of the rural Parish.
In fact, many people who have businesses in St Helier also live outside of St Helier; like Mr Forrest, they can be concerned with Town problems when it effects their business, but in terms of bad housing, noise, traffic - well, at the end of the day, they leave and go home to their rural surroundings. Can Deputies understand local issues without experiencing them on a daily basis, any more than other commuters do?
Those that are local residents or live close by in the Town's umbrella are probably more likely to understand local issues. That is not a requirement, of course, but it helps. If I lived in St Helier, I would be rather disgruntled with someone who "parachuted in" from a rural Parish.
If the position was reversed - if the candidates lived in St Helier, and wanted to stand elsewhere - in St Peter or Grouville, they would receive short shift. So why didn't they ever stand there? Why have they decided to throw their weight towards St Helier rather than their home Parish?
After all, Gordon Forrest's declaration that commuter services need improving is in fact a sensible policy for the electorate of St Peter, but for St Helier, where most commuters are pedestrians, it seems widely out of touch with the electorate.
And for someone of nearly 70 to suggest that the problem of drink can be solved in St Helier by raising the age to 21, as Mr Philpott does, seems like the kind of suggestion made sipping an aperitif at the country golf club with other elderly gentleman, and hopelessly out of touch with young people, or even young tourists, who would all need to be told in big notices in local pubs.
The answer, I expect, is that they think it is easier to stand in St Helier. St Helier's districts offer more opportunities than rural Parishes, where there may be more competition, and the people might not vote for them because they can see better candidates. It is a "safe seat" for them.
Does St Helier's electorate want "Commuter Deputies", coming in from pleasant rural districts, or has the tide finally turned against that well-worth path to easier electoral pickings? It will be interesting to see.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

The Election: Does Age Matter?

This was an article I wrote at the beginning of February, and was in my "blog ideas" folder. As I'm not really up to blog postings this week, I shall be trawling through my archive a bit! It was prompted by an age gap of 46 years between youngest and oldest candidates standing.

The Election: Does Age Matter?
I hope to raise a few questions and suggests some different answers to questions on the periphery of these elections. One question which has presented itself: does age matter?
It can be thought that a very young candidate just does not have the experience of life in "the outside world", while a much older man may well have more rigid and unbending views, and be out of touch with the needs of the present.
It is interesting that we have possibly youngest candidate to try for the States, Sam Mezec, at 23 years old, and at the other end of the spectrum, Ian Philpott, who declined to give his age, but who is 69 years old, and 70 later this year, as his Facebook profile testifies.
It is possible that Ian Philpott thinks that his age might count against him (hence his hestitancy), yet there are a number of British politicians who became Prime Minister around his age. Obviously they had been elected as MPs before that date, but evidently their peers thought them the man for the job, not to pass over in favour of younger men.
Yet Henry Campbell-Bannerman was 69 when he became Prime Minister in 1905, and was the First Lord of the Treasury to be officially take the title "Prime Minister". Known colloquially as "CB", he was a firm believer in free trade, Irish Home Rule and the improvement of social conditions. As Wikipedia notes, he also laid the ground for later reforms in a remarkable series of changes to the welfare of children:
"As Prime Minister, Campbell-Bannerman also passed the Probation Act 1907, which established supervision within the community for young offenders as an alternative to prison, and the Children's Charter, which formed the basis of modern child welfare law, including a clause imposing punishment for those neglecting children. It was also made illegal for children to purchase alcohol, tobacco or fireworks, and medical inspections began to be rolled out across the nation."
But even older, but just as memorable, was Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston on 6 February 1855 who was appointed for the first time at the age of 71 years for a period of 3 years. He became Prime Minister once more in 1859 when he was seventy-five years old. He is still the oldest individual to take office as Prime Minister.
At times in favour of Parliamentary Reform, at times opposed to further Reform, he was a popular politician who dominated foreign affairs for many years, and is probably most notable for his "Civis Romanus Sum" speech:
"As the Roman, in days of old, held himself free from indignity when he could say 'Civis Romanus Sum' [I am a Roman citizen], so also a British subject in whatever land he may be, shall feel confident that the watchful eye and the strong arm of England will protect him against injustice and wrong."
But as Home Secretary, he had been responsible for
-          a Factory Act
-          a Smoke Abatement Act in London
-          the Penal Servitude Act that stopped transportation to Tasmania (Van Diemen's Land)
Turning to the problems faced by callow youth, the youngest Prime Minister to be appointed was William Pitt the Younger, who took office  on 19 December 1783 at the age of 24 years old.  He was from an aristocratic family, and was privately educated at home. At 14, he went to Cambridge, but again ill health struck, and he chose to graduate without having to pass examinations, taking dvantage of a little-used privilege available only to the sons of noblemen. He tried for Parliament twice, and got in at a bi-election in the pocket borough of Appleby, which was controlled by his patron James Lowther. Ironically, he later criticised the scheme of rotten boroughs.
Pitt can hardly have any claim to a wider experience of the world. His education was private and singular, not in the company of other students. At Cambridge, he tended to socialise only with fellow students and others already known to him, and he rarely ventured outside the university grounds.
When he became Prime Minister, he was an easy target because of his youth - "a sight to make all nations stand and stare: a kingdom trusted to a schoolboy's care". And yet he presided as Prime Minister for a period of 17 years, earning great great popularity with the public at large as "Honest Billy". He was seen as a refreshing change from the dishonesty, corruption and lack of principles widely associated with previous incumbents of high office.
Although he failed in some of his reforms, he worked with Wilberforce towards the eventual abolition of the Slave Trade, and the Slave Trade Act was passed in 1807, once year after his death. His enthusiasm for reform still remained despite setbacks, and one quote is still as pertinent today in summing up his radical agenda:
"Necessity was the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It was the argument of tyrants; it was the creed of slaves."
Does age matter? As my ramble though a few examples taken from history shows, it need not do so. The older man standing for election can bring the wealth of experience of working with other people on charitable ventures, and making things happen, and of the need to do more to combat social ills. And the younger man can bring the fresh idealism of youth, and an incisive eye against the laid back attitude that refuses to look at matters needing reform, both internal, and in matters of social justice.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Beneath the Veil

A reprint of an earlier article. There was nothing sinister about its removal. I accidentally set my pc date to 30 April 2014, and that was the date of the blog posting, which meant it would have been "on top" of all blog postings made with the correct date. Two blogs had this misfortune. Unfortunately a stomach bug hit before I could restore it to the proper date. So here it is back again, and I'm still not 100% but well enough to briefly put it back.

Most of Stuart Syvret's blog postings have been resurrected at:

The blogger writes:

"A citizen of the Channel Island of Jersey has written to me informing me that the authorities there have closed down the blog of a former politician Stuart Syvret. I personally know very little about Jersey and the history of his case but it appears he is being persecuted for trying to reveal the cover-up of child abuse on that island. To support his right to express himself freely, I have agreed to repost some of his blog myself until he creates a new blog in another location."

This is by a mystery blogger called "Erlan Verhoten "who says of himself that:

"I am a researcher for the Technical University in Eindhoven, currently completing my PHD in informatics at the University of Nottingham. My main interests are Internet tunnelling, freedom of expression in cyberspace, and the suppression of freedom of expression by governments all around the world."

Now there is an Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands, and there is a department of informatics at Nottingham University. So that much is plausible.

But there is no sign of anyone existing online with the name ""Erlan Verhoten". All google reveals is his sudden appearance a week ago. Before then, there is not the faintest imprint of someone who has interests in the "the suppression of freedom of expression by governments all around the world.". The only citations of his blog are from people who are local bloggers, the journalist Leah McGraph Goodman, and for some reason, as a comment on the blog, under a posting on Gay Scotland.

So it is pretty obvious that Erlan Verhoten is not his real name. And his profile picture also is a fake. There is a photo of a man with the caption

"This is actually my grandfather, who was an agronomist and invented a new species of Tulip, named after him."

But if you look at the file, it is a GIF file with the name: edgard_varese2.gif

Edgard Victor Achille Charles Varèse  also spelled Edgar Varèse; (December 22, 1883 – November 6, 1965) was an innovative French-born composer who spent the greater part of his career in the United States. You can read about him – and see the identical photo at:

He never was an agronomist, and he never invented a new species of tulip!

But it puts the Jersey authorities in a quandary. The lawyers who successfully shut down Stuart Syvret's blog were able to do so because they had a Court ruling (albeit under Data Protection, and not defamation), and were able to wave that at Google.

Because ownership of the blog resided with Stuart (who could be easily identified as the blog author), and the Court ruling named him and requested the pages removed, Google complied and suspended the blog.

But no one knows who on earth "Erlan Verhoten is, and he has not had a successful court case against him - unless he is Stuart under an assumed name. Stylistically that would be difficult to prove – all the mannerisms that feature so strongly in Stuart's postings, the dashes, the familiar adjectives (e.g. "evidenced")– are not present. The presumption of any outsider would be that it was not Stuart.

To remove this blog, the Jersey authorities would have to identify the blogger, and bring a court case against them. That is because it was not a matter of defamation, but Data Protection laws. With defamation, the scope would be broader, because to repeat a libel is to be guilty of libel, which is generally accepted across jurisdictions. But if Mr A processes personal data on a blog (the grounds for the action against Stuart Syvret), and Mr B also processes the same personal data, Google would almost certainly look at the laws for that jurisdiction – and without the identity of the blogger, that would be difficult.

I suspect that "verhoten" means something in some language, and it is some kind of sophisticated joke. The word does exist, for example, in Finnish, where "verhoten hänen kasvojaan" for example, means "to veil her face" using the word "verhoten" which on its own means "lining".

Edgar Varèse, French composer, who didn't even write "Tiptoe Through the Tulips"

Saturday, 22 February 2014

A Postcard from Noah

After seeing a sadly marooned postbox surrounded by flood waters, I penned this. I can't help feeling that people are forgetting those poor people flooded out now that the rains have stopped. The waters are still there, but all the news agencies have moved on to the next story. That's something that gives me much disquiet, the way the media jump on a story, and then discard it, while people are still picking up the pieces and getting to grips with living with flood waters.

A Postcard from Noah
Flood waters high above the land
Once meadows, now just a lagoon
Bounded by hedgerows. But no sand:
Only the white reflection of the moon
Day comes, and still the waters remain
And a raven in flight searches for  land
A wistful bird song, as it seeks in vain
As if an angry god stretched out a hand
The pillar box is there, along a river bank
Of what was once a road, for passers by
No letters posted here, where cars sank
The dove goes out, but the tide is high
Postcards from Noah, what would they say?
Build an ark tomorrow, or leave today.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Curtis Warren’s Alleged Affair: Testing the Evidence

"In an interview with The Mail on Sunday, Teresa Rodrigues, a former senior manager at La Moye who ran the drugs and alcohol counselling unit, confesses to an affair with the barrel-chested gangster...She claims it lasted two years and only ended when he was convicted of drugs smuggling and transferred to a prison on the mainland. 'We had sex in his little cell most days,' says Lisbon-born Ms Rodrigues. 'Yes, it was insane but I was in love like never before, and I still am." (1)

Curtis Warren denies the affair, and his lawyer has made comments on flaws in the story:

"So far as having sex or whatever – Curtis says the security in La Moye was much stricter than Belmarsh. He was regarded as extremely high risk. To say a non-prison officer could go into a cell and spend the afternoon   there without [someone] checking where she was is nonsense." Warren was pictured in a Sunday newspaper alongside Ms Rodrigues in a prison cell. Mr Barraclough said: "The implication is that's his cell (in the picture with Ms Rodrigues)."It's one of the cells of someone he knows. The picture was taken for a drugs campaign. The t-shirt he is wearing is an anti-drugs campaign t-shirt he wore straight out of the packet. "All you get on Curtis Warren's walls are charts of the case and hundreds of case files. His room is like a lawyer's chambers." (2)

So what is the truth of the matter, and are there ways in which we can test the evidence, just as we might do with any historical story. At present, there are no independent witnesses who have come forward to corroborate the story, so what we must do is to look at the prison regime and security in general, and any past breaches of security.

Also we have at present no corroboration as to what the inside of Mr Warren's cell looked like, but if it transpires that the photograph was for a drugs campaign, and not taken in his cell, that would weaken the strength of the Mail's story.

The Background on Teresa Rodrigues

Going by Ian Le Marquand's replies, there was a degree of slackness in checking Teresa Rodrigues as she was already well known from her work with drug rehabilitation. That doesn't mean that she had no experience or qualifications, just that the relevant background checks had not been made. In fact, as can be seen, her CV certainly indicated that a degree of confidence could be placed in her work:

Nov. 2001 – Jun. 2003:  Jersey Addiction Group, Jersey, Channel Islands. Job Title: Programme Director - Addictions Counsellor

Main Duties:  Managing a caseload of clients counselling, designing and presenting educational programmes to various bodies, liaising and networking with other agencies and opening a new Rehabilitation Centre in Jersey. Working within the Prison La Moye, on one to one counselling sessions and courses to inmates on Anger Management, Life Skills and Relapse Prevention

July, 2003  -  2005  I have been self-employed and provide my services to different agencies, including the Children Services, Drug and Alcohol Services, GP's or other professional referral agencies, and 40 hours per week as Manager of the Drug and Alcohol Department at H.M. Prison La Moye.

Jan 2005 - Sept 2010 As Manager of the Drug and Alcohol Department at HMP La Moye I have set up the Drug and Alcohol Counselling Team. During this time I was also a Senior Manager at HMP La Moye and part of the Prison Management.  (3)

So she was already well known at La Moye when she took up full time work there. Her CV, however, only has UK courses attended on counselling, and her training and qualifications were in social sciences and management, with only theoretical courses on addictions completed, and as far as I can see no accredited counselling qualifications. This would confirm the information given in the States about a lack of vetting.

Curtis Warren and the Mobile Phones

One of the prosecution arguments back in 2008/2009 was that Warren had access to mobile phones within La Moye and that those phones made and received 35,000 calls and texts across 41 countries between March 2008 and October 2009 while on remand at La Moye:

"Jersey solicitor general Howard Sharp, QC, said in his opening: "It is very clear that Mr Warren was using these phones and they were in operation from La Moye during his period on remand." (4)

And according to The Independent, this was a covert, illegal use of mobile phones:

"The business is alleged to have continued apace as he awaited trial in Jersey. He made thousands of calls to more than 40 countries on seven mobile phones illicitly brought into the prison, according to the National Crime Agency."(5)

It should be noted that the new Governor took over in March 2008, and the issue of mobile phones arose in an article in the JEP in 2010, and letter by the Governor in reply, relating to the Prison Service's annual report for 2009.

"The JEP chose to focus on the details related to prisoner misconducts and, specifically, prisoners being found to be in possession of a mobile phone. No issue with that provided it is fairly and accurately presented." (11)

In 2010, Ian Le Marquand, in the States, replying to a question noted that:

"In relation to the issue of the unlawful smuggling of phones into the prison, this has been a problem for some time. It has slightly improved in recent times, because of the fact that the outworkers, those who are going outside the prison to work during the day, are now outside the security perimeter. Since that has happened the issue had decreased in importance. But we have been looking for some time at a fairly complex piece of legislation which would enable the blocking of signals from mobile phones into the prison."

Clearly the fight to ensure possession of illicit mobile phones is an ongoing problem, and one that the Prison authorities are aware of. It is an endemic problem that all such institutions are prone to, not just La Moye Prison, and cannot be taken as evidence of slackness on the part of the Prison Governor.

Security at the Prison: The 2005 Report

Although one has to be careful with hearsay, I have a piece of anecdotal evidence from an extremely reliable source, which I have been able to confirm about what the Prison was like, although it should be noted they were not visiting a high profile prisoner:

"I visited the Prison to talk to a prisoner around 2001. If there was not enough room in the main visitors room, this happened twice, we would be taken through to an inside room. There was no prison orderly on hand. Once , I didn't hear the end of 30 minutes time bell until the end of the second session. No one had come to check up on us at all. When I made my way out, no one queried where I had been. I was worried they might think I was an inmate!"

While visitors were searched and had to give ID – electronic scan for metal, and sniffer dogs for drugs etc – monitoring of visitors was clearly not as good as it should have been once they were inside past the checks.

The Inspector's report in 2005 said there were "serious concerns about Security at La Moye"

"Only 105 security information reports (SIRs) had been submitted in 2005 to date. This was a low figure given the level of security concerns in the prison, and reflected a general staff apathy towards such matters.... The level of illicit items entering the prison was very high. Over the previous18 months, over 100 mobile telephones had been found. This statistic, while alarming enough, might understate the problem, as there had been no scheduled searching and little target searching of cells during this period, due to the general shortage of staff"

"Statutory visitors, including a governor, chaplain and medical professional, did not visit all segregated prisoners each day. When they did visit this was not recorded routinely." (6)

"Safety and security are key issues for prisons. La Moye lacked proper first night or induction procedures, and a large proportion of men and women felt unsafe on their first night. Prisoners told us that bullying was a serious problem, yet there were no systems to deal with it, other than to remove victims to a succession of separate areas, including an unstaffed and unsupervised unit which was little more than a collection of cupboards. This was used as an escape route from the vulnerable prisoners' unit, which was itself a location for bullying. Staff supervision of prisoners in some areas was poor, and there was no proper monitoring of incidents, assaults and complaints." (7)

It is notable that Teresa Rodrigues took up her post in 2005, at a time when clearly matters were very bad in general at the Prison. It is entirely possible that at this time statutory visitors could well have been left alone in cells with inmates unsupervised. Anecdotal evidence on Facebook from one former prisoner corroborates this:

"It's changed a hell of a lot you know... I admit back in 2004 when I went in it was like a holiday camp. But by the time I got out in 2010, it was completely different, like a prison should be....I even know of one former officer who's got a few kids with an ex inmate. It's been going on in there for years, things have only changed since Millar turned it into a proper prison"

The New Prison Governor: 2008 onwards

In March 2008, Bill Millar, who had over 30 years of experience in the Scottish Prison Service, took over as   Governor of the Prison. At the end of the year, he reported that "The number of prisoners committing misconduct reports was also very similar [to 2007] but there was an increase in the number of misconducts they committed". This may also have been to do with an improvement in recording misconduct, a weakness of the 2005 inspection.

2011 saw improvements in staff qualifications and courses, and increased educational opportunities for prisoners. The computer network introduced is notable, because it demonstrates that security was conceived to be an integral part of the system:

"Progress has been made with the prisoner education network ('ix system'); this has grown as part of a 3 year project from a very basic collection of 40 individual PCs to become a secure, integrated and centralised network across the Prison, with computers located in association rooms, the library and in most cells. Prisoners access their individual files using a biometric fingerprint reader, so avoiding the potential problems that may arise from password sharing. The principal aim has been to provide a tool that will enhance the educational opportunities for prisoners."

In 2012, the Prison Governor's report showed  252 misconduct reports (several for multiple offences) submitted for contravening prison rules, with 85 adult prisoners involved, (78 male, 7 female) and 8 young offenders, (5 male, 3 female). Of these 9 were referred to the police for investigation. The highest adult offender had 20 misconduct reports. (8) And 100 reports were submitted to the Safer Custody Officer during the year. 23 of these were Bullying Information Reports and 20 were Prison Information Reports. 37 anti-bulling investigations were carried out.

The 2013 Inspection report showed considerable improvements from that of 2005, although the Prison Governor was not complacent, and said that it was "definitely moving in the right direction... There is still much to be done and we will consider the chief inspector's recommendations very carefully, but Jersey now has a Prison Service it can be proud of."

"HM Chief Inspector of Prisons' report describes La Moye Prison as "an institution that had been transformed, both physically and in terms of improved practice" since it was last inspected in 2005. La Moye Prison was inspected by HM Inspectorate of Prisons from 11 to 15 February 2013 following an invitation from the Home Affairs Department." (13)

It should be noted that, in answer to questions, Ian Le Marquand explained that rather than taking place in cells, there was a designated room with CCTV for professionals meeting with prisoners.

Crossing the Boundary: Prison Staff and Prisoners Affairs

Having examined some of the history of Jersey's prison, I would now like to look for comparison of this affair with other affairs involving prison staff or professionals and prisoners. The reason for this is to establish if there is any pattern to look for in other cases, and whether the story recounted in the Daily Mail fits this pattern or not.

From 2014:

Sophia King-Chinnery, an officer at Holloway's women's prison, north London, enjoyed a relationship with murderer Sarah Anderson for 14 months. Anderson, 31, was ordered to serve a minimum of 15 years in March 2009 after she was convicted of knifing cyclist Dee Willis, 28, in the neck in Peckham, south east London.  The lovers exchanged hundreds of letters, in which Anderson referred to King-Chinnery as her "wife".  Despite bosses' warnings to stay away from the prisoner, King-Chinnery , 25, continued the illicit relationship. Southwark Crown Court heard how the prison officer allowed Anderson to have a mobile phone between January and September 2012 so that the pair could spend hours chatting. (14)

From 2013

A Lexington prison employee was arrested Wednesday, accused of having an affair with an inmate. According to arrest documents, Officer Jennifer Wiseman, 37, was charged Wednesday afternoon with Official Misconduct, and Rape, for her actions inside the Blackburn Correctional Complex on Spurr Road in   Lexington. The investigation began when one inmate reported seeing Wiseman take another inmate into a women's bathroom. Acting on that tip, police they say they uncovered sexually explicit phone calls and letters, and an alleged sexual relationship the two had inside the prison. (15)

A female prison officer has confessed in court to an "inappropriate relationship" with a male convict. Abbie Levens, 31, said no sex was involved, but the CPS refused to believe her. Now intimate letters she wrote to Sherome Blair will be read out at a special trial of issue next month. (16)

A PRISON officer who had an affair with an inmate has been jailed. Married mum Kelly Jean Needham, 37,   was working as a prison guard at Hull Prison when she struck up a relationship with serial robber Martin Gower, 27.She was caught after suspicious guards taped intimate phone conversations between the pair. Although a married mum-of-two, she sent him love letters and smuggled a mobile phone top-up card out of the prison for him. (17)

This is a small sample of those I have perused (over 100 cases)  but one thing which seems to be a common pattern in all these cases is what I call the "paper trail". The person having the affair is desperate to keep in contact, often by mobile phone, but in most cases also by sending love letters. It should be noted that these are not love affairs at a distance from lonely people (who might also send letters), but physically intimate affairs.


The Prison Regime before the advent of Bill Millar in 2008 was much slacker with less trained prison officers and poorer security and surveillance of prisoners than was the case after reforms began under Millar, although illicit mobile phones remain a problem even today, and Curtis Warren appears to have used illicit phones during his time on remand.

Teresa Rodrigues appears to have left in September 2010. It is not clear what prompted her departure, or her change of the kind of employment, and it would be interesting to know why she left, and why she decided to leave the career path in which she had assiduously trained for many years. If there had been an unproven suspicion of misconduct, might this have led to her departure, and what references did she receive on her departure? But it is also possible that her style of work was more in keeping with the old regime criticised in 2005, and she found it difficult to adapt to the more professional requirements of the new Governor.

Could she have had an affair with another, less high profile prisoner, before the tighter regime came into play, and turned that into an account of an affair with Warren? That's certainly a possibility, what one might call "The Niven Effect", as David Niven in his memoir "The Moon is a Balloon" had a habit of substituting famous names for others to tell a good story (and sell it!); this technique is well exposed factually in the biography "Niv.".

It seems very likely the Mail is using a photograph taken especially for a promotion, such as an anti-drugs campaign, as suggested by Curtis Warren's lawyer. It is notable that it is a professional photograph, not an amateur snapshot. The lack of any caption makes it very misleading, and one wonders if the Mail has taken any other liberties with their story.

Almost as if pre-empting criticism, the Mail article has Rodrigues state that: "I wasn't one of these women who write love letters to famous criminals they don't even know". But the pattern of affairs with inmates from professionals and officers is that they do know the criminal intimately, and that they do write love letters. It is almost as if she is safeguarding her story against the accusation that there are no visible letters showing terms of endearment. There is no "paper trail".

While it is possible that Teresa Rodrigues may have had an affair with Curtis Warren, this has to be balanced against the possibility that she fantasised about having an affair with him. Her description of how the prison operated seems more in line with the slack regime before 2008, and the absence of love letters which are so much a modus operandi in such affairs, are strong pointers against veracity, and suggests a story made from memories of conditions for much of her time spent visiting prisoners (from 2001 to 2008, rather than 2008-2010). Such anachronisms which conflate memories are often a pointer to later redaction when historians examine sources. And the way the Mail uses a professional photograph without context suggests that their presentation is not entirely honest to their readers.

What is also clear is that the prison regime has been tightened further. Answers from Senator Le Marquand indicate that while insufficient facilities meant some meetings of a professional with prisoners would take place in a cell (but with door open, and prison officer just outside), this has been replaced by a dedicated room with CCTV surveillance.

This means that any enquiry as to what happened would not necessarily achieve much as the historical conditions which prevailed no longer are in place, and the main purpose of any enquiry should be to ensure that if such an affair had occurred, steps had been taken to prevent similar occurrences.


Wednesday, 19 February 2014

A State of Emergency

"Members of the powerful RMT Union were due to hold a protest at Portsmouth Harbour this afternoon in support of Ukrainian workers allegedly paid £29 for a 12 hour day onboard the Commodore Clipper conventional ferry. This is on top of the strike by French workers over pay and conditions that has kept the Condor Rapide fast ferry in port in St Malo since 6 February." (JEP)
So what would happen if the UK boats also stopped sailing to Jersey? As well as passengers, they are also the vital food link to our supermarkets. As bad weather over Christmas revealed, we have three or four days worth of food held locally by some supermarkets, and after that, they would run out. Even that staple of diet, bread, is now mostly imported, as the large scale bakeries in Jersey and Guernsey ceased last year.
As my correspondent Adam Gardiner notes:
"The Clipper brings in a very high proportion of our foodstuffs. In fact Waitrose rely on the Clipper for the daily stocking of their shops as that have no warehousing facilities in either island. The same boast takes out what little we export. Right now, the first digging of Jersey Royals. If that also became strike bound we got some real problems."
"The only other boats are Condors fast ferries, but how long before this escalates to Poole and Weymouth, and the Huelin Dispatch. The Dispatch is however does not operate a daily service as it is not a ro-ro and its cargo is containerised and craned abroad which is a whole lot longer exercise than running a trailer up a ramp. Its more a bulk carrier."
Condor, is in essence, Jersey's delicate jugular vein for food supply, and any escalation of the dispute could have more serious repercussions than just the French end, although that is also impacting on locals, local businesses and St Malo.
We are not there yet, but there is legal provision for taking action should it prove necessary. The relevant powers can be found in the Emergency Powers Law of 1990, which would seem to be available should it be necessary for "securing the essentials of life to the community". This could involve, for example, charting another vessel to bring foodstuffs to the Channel Islands, and potentially nullify the recently signed agreement with Condor.
The law operates as follows:
1)    If at any time it appears to the Lieutenant-Governor that there have occurred, or are about to occur, either inside or outside Jersey, events of such a nature as to threaten the national defence or the safety of the community, the Lieutenant-Governor may, after formal consultation with the Council [of Ministers], declare that a state of emergency exists.
(2)    Where the Lieutenant-Governor has declared a state of emergency to exist the Lieutenant-Governor shall forthwith inform the Bailiff of that fact and the Bailiff shall, as soon as may be, communicate the information to the States and shall, for the purpose, convene the States for such day as the Bailiff may appoint, being a day not more than 3 days after the making of the declaration, unless the States have already been convened to meet within that period.
(3)    No such declaration shall remain in force for more than 30 days, but the Lieutenant-Governor may make a further declaration at or before the end of that period.
(4)    Where the Lieutenant-Governor has declared a state of emergency to exist, and so long as the declaration is in force, it shall be lawful for the Council to make Orders for securing the essentials of life to the community and those Orders may confer or impose on the Council or any competent authority, and on any body or person, such powers and duties as the Council may deem necessary for the preservation of the peace, for securing and regulating the supply and distribution of food, water, fuel, light, telecommunication services, postal services and other necessities, for maintaining the means of transit or locomotion and for any other purposes essential to the public safety and the health or life of the community and make such provisions incidental to the powers aforesaid (including the making by the States of compensation) as may appear to the Council to be required for making the exercise of those powers effective.
Notice the provision for "for securing and regulating the supply and distribution of food" within those terms of reference, and this is made more explicit elsewhere:
Powers of competent authority in relation to food
(1)    A competent authority may by Order provide for securing, regulating or prohibiting any one or more of the following, that is to say -
(a)     the supply or distribution of food;
(b)     the acquisition of food;
(c)     the price at which food may be supplied.
(2)    Any provision made by an Order under paragraph (1) may be made in relation to food generally or in relation to any particular description of food and, in either case, may be made with respect to the supply, distribution or acquisition of food, or of the description of food in question, for all purposes or for any particular purposes specified in the Order.
(3)    Without prejudice to the provisions of this Article, an Order under paragraph (1) may empower a competent authority to give to any person carrying on business as a supplier of food directions as to the persons to whom he or she is to supply any such food as may be specified in the directions in accordance with such requirements as may be so specified or may, to such extent as may be specified in the directions, prohibit the supply of food to persons so specified.
(4)    Where any food is supplied to any person in pursuance of directions under paragraph (3), that person shall pay such price in respect of the food as may be reasonable.
Emergency Powers can be brought into effect regarding the "supply, distribution or acquisition of food", which is exactly what could be imperilled by Condor if the strike escalated and no resolution was found. It is something which should be considered if required.
One thing that surprises me is that there seems to be no independent arbitration available to resolve the dispute. An organisation such as "Paris Arbitration" ( ) would seem to be ideal:
"French arbitration law has long been viewed as a model for other countries, and French jurisprudence regarding arbitration is widely considered to be clear and well established. Courts have been supportive of arbitration for decades, and French law thus provides parties with legal certainty that their agreement to arbitrate will be enforced. It allows the parties complete freedom to organize their arbitration, subject only to internationally recognized minimum standards of due process. Many of the best rules established by French courts over recent years were incorporated into a new amendment to the French arbitration law in January 2011."
 It is clear that some kind of third party is needed to move things on, otherwise it is like a siege  position, and it is a question of who has to give way first, which is not the best way of getting negotiations going. Alan Maclean just seems to be wringing his hands from the sidelines, and is at the moment hopelessly ineffectual.
While Jersey has no jurisdiction and Condor is not a Jersey company, they should push strongly for arbitration to be sought as soon as possible. Indeed, what is of concern is that so little thought had been given to procedures for disputes and resolution in the recently signed contract, especially as a dispute occurred in 2012 over Condor paying less than the minimum wage to employees from Ukraine. Surely that was an oversight on behalf of Senator Maclean and his advisors.
But if it is a more international dispute needing pressure to go to arbitration, the newly created post of Minister for External Affairs should have it as part of his remit, and Sir Philip Bailhache should intervene. As matters stand, we need Jersey to be more proactive than simply grumbling on the sidelines.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

The Living Wage

Mention has been made in this election campaign of a "living wage". Just what is a "living wage", how does it differ from a "minimum wage", and why is it important?
Looking back through my files, I recalled that I raised the matter at the Amos Group back in 2008. An extract from the Minutes is given below, along with some research notes I presented to the meeting. I was inspired by an article in "The Tablet" magazine on the subject.
The Living Wage movement has certainly now expanded into the mainstream with endorsement from Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London. Indeed, the Mayor of London's office hosts a Living Wage Unit which monitors the level needed for a living wage in London (which has considerably higher living costs than the rest of the UK).  Boris said "paying the London Living Wage ensures hard-working Londoners are helped to make ends meet."
So it is not just a cranky left-wing project, but has an appeal across the different UK parties.  Back in 2008, matters were different, and it was just beginning to take off. A young Caroline Lucas, then Green Party MEP, now a Westminster MP, wrote an excellent piece extolling the virtues of a living wage in addressing poverty, and I included it in my notes.
Research in the United States shows that minimum wage laws and living wage legislation impact poverty differently: evidence demonstrates that living wage legislation reduces poverty. It is, perhaps, time to put it back on the local agenda.
High unemployment and zero hours contracts tend to push wages down, and while there may be sound economic reasons for that, it is not always the case, and employers can take advantage of the relative weakness of employees in the marketplace.
Pope Francis noted that there is often "a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power." The living wage campaign is to do with corporate ethics, which is something that is often overlooked, and it reminds us that ethics is not just to do with private morality, but social justice as well.
Minutes of meeting on Wednesday 5th November 2008 at 5.45 at Pastoral Centre, St. Thomas 
The latest minimum wage proposal is for £6.08 per hour. Tony said that we should press for a living wage. This has been championed in London recently by some large banks. He distributed a paper about it to all present. The aim is to ensure that junior employees should be paid enough to live on with a small buffer to cope with minor crises.
Living Wage, Minimum Wage: Some Notes by Tony
Should Jersey have any banding in its "minimum wage" like that of England, to allow for the fact that youngsters starting work often stay at home with parents? The converse to this, of course, means that those over 21 should be getting a higher rate of minimum wage.
How is the minimum wage calculated?
Should we also be looking at promoting the idea of a "living wage" especially with respect to Corporate employers whose UK Parent companies have signed up to that idea? Do any do this over here, and is it known?
Should we be looking at calculating a "living wage" as the basis for looking at increasing the minimum wage?
The minimum wage came into force on April 1, 1999, guaranteeing a minimum pay rate to all workers for the first time in British history.
It was originally set at £3.60 an hour for over-21s and £3 for those aged 18 to 21.
On October 1, 2004, the minimum wage was broadened with a third, lower rate for 16 and 17-year-olds.
As of October 1 2008 the current levels are £5.73 an hour for over-21s, £4.77 for those aged 18-21 and £3.53 for 16 and 17-year-olds.
Given a 37.5-hour week the rate works out at about £11,200 a year for over-21s, £9,300 for those aged 18-21 and £6,900 for 16 and 17-year-olds.
On October 1 the rate for over-21s increased by 21p an hour - a 3.8pc rise.
Rate increases are decided by the Low Pay Commission.
Since the minimum wage was introduced the top rate has gone up 59pc.
A Living Wage for Britain
by Caroline Lucas, Green Party MEP, 16 October 2008
Total up the absolute basic living costs that families need to cover, and you get what's known as a poverty threshold wage - and every study finds this to be already higher than the minimum wage set by the government.
But a real 'living wage' must also provide a secure margin so that the family involved does not fall into poverty and debt when it faces the kind of day-to-day challenges those of us who are better off can take in our stride: a broken kettle, the need to buy shoes for a growing child, the cost of a train journey to visit a sick relative.
The absolute minimum needed for a basic existence, calculated by this approach, shows that the minimum wage falls well short of what's needed. More than a pound an hour short in fact. Every calculation of a living wage that has been done in towns and cities in the UK has found a living wage this year lies above seven pounds an hour. But from October this year, the minimum wage is just £5.73.
This means that anyone receiving the minimum wage is receiving poverty wages. And in 21st century Britain this is just not on.
If the Greens were in government, the national minimum wage would be set at least at the level of a real living wage. But meanwhile, we're pledged to use every piece of influence we can get to fight poverty pay.
In 2007, the lowest paid workers in the London Fire Brigade got a pay rise. Previously the people who clean fire stations were paid the national minimum wage, at that time just £5.35 per hour. But thanks to the work of the London Living Wage Unit, this changed and now the cleaners earn at least the London living wage of £7.45 an hour, enough to support themselves and their families at last.
What many people don't know is that the Living Wage Unit was set up under Ken Livingstone's administration thanks to the Green Party members of the London Assembly, Jenny Jones and Darren Johnson.
They held a casting vote over the Mayor's budget for four years and used it to get a fair deal for all London government's employees, and create the Living Wage Unit to calculate the amount needed to get by in the capital.
While they don't have the same influence over the new Mayor, Greens in London are continuing to support the efforts of groups such as London Citizens, the Fair Pay Network and The East London Communities Organisation fighting for fair pay for cleaners, shop staff and catering and hotel workers across London.
In Oxford, Greens have also succeeded in passing a motion through the city council, bringing in a living wage for council workers there. But when the Greens brought the same motion to Oxfordshire County Council this June, the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives shamefully voted it down. 
In Lewisham, the six strong Green Group is proposing a living wage for all council employees, and are proposing extending this to all council contractors as well. And our Deputy Leader, Adrian Ramsay (who is also taking part in Blog Action Day) defeated Conservative opposition to commit Norwich City Council to the principle of the Living Wage.
Over the next months, Greens all over the country will be following the example of Oxford, London, Lewisham and Norwich Green Parties. They will be campaigning hard so that millions more of the lowest paid workers in Britain get a decent wage.
The Greens have spent a long time being right about things like this, but pushed to the political margins. It makes me so proud that as we win more and more elections, we refuse to rest on those laurels but use that influence to make real changes in the lives of ordinary people who have also been marginalised by the establishment parties.
So next time you're tempted to think of the Greens as a single-issue party, ask a Fire Brigade cleaner.
Corporate social responsibility means paying a living wage that meets basic family needs
Families who work for low wages often face impossible choices: buy clothes or heat the house, feed the children or pay the rent. The result can be spiralling debt, constant anxiety and long-term health problems. Parents not earning a living wage work long hours, often at two or three jobs, just to pay for basic necessities, leaving little time to spend with family or participate fully in their communities.
In BC, the contradiction between a strong economy and growing economic insecurity is especially stark. BC has the highest child poverty rate in Canada, and over half of BC's poor children live in families where at least one person works full-time.
A living wage is one of the most powerful tools available to address this troubling state of poverty amid plenty.
The living wage is not the same as the legislated minimum wage. Rather, it is a challenge to those who are able, especially large public and private sector employers - to pay their direct staff and major contractors a wage that is based on the actual costs of living and raising children in a specific community.
Our recent report, Working for a Living Wage 2008, calculates that the living wage for Vancouver is $16.74 per hour, and for Victoria, $16.39. The calculation includes basic expenses for a family of two parents and two children, where both parents are working full time, and incorporates government taxes, credits and subsidies. Our living wage calculation is also enough for a single parent with one child, although a single parent with two children would have a much tougher time.
The living wage is a bare-bones budget, without the extras many of us take for granted - such as debt payments, or savings for retirement or education. And the amounts budgeted for recreation and emergencies are very modest.
Living wage movements have been gaining ground over the past 20 years in the UK, the US and a number of Canadian cities.
In 2004, the city of London, England became a living wage employer. And London's new Conservative mayor has declared that paying the living wage is good for business and good for the London economy.
A growing number of UK corporate employers have also adopted the living wage, including HSBC Bank, KPMG, and Price Waterhouse Coopers. And the 2012 London Games will be the first living wage Olympics.
These employers have found important benefits to paying a living wage: improved recruitment and retention; higher productivity; and being able to market oneself as a living wage employer.
But the living wage is not just about employers. Government policies and programs also have an impact on our standard of living, and as a result, on the living wage. Direct government transfers can put money into the pockets of low-income families. However, most government transfers and subsidies are reduced or eliminated once a family reaches an income well below the living wage.
The living wage is also affected by public services. A public child care system, affordable housing and lower public transit fares would all decrease the amount employers need to pay in order to provide a living wage.
If employers feel unable to pay the living wage, but remain committed to ending child poverty, then they should become advocates for these kinds of policy changes.
SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies) is set to become the next Living Wage university. It has now agreed to pay the London LW to all its outsourced contracted workers.
Elsewhere the London LW campaign is continuing to focus its efforts on the hotel and catering sector. In December 2007 the Hilton Group announced that all in house staff across 17 hotels would be paid a LW in 2008. Harrison Catering Services have since signed up to the London LW. Prior to the mayoral elections, Boris Johnson joined with the three other leading candidates in commiting themselves to promote the London LW, and all four also adopted a proposal that only hotels and restaurants who were living wage employers would be promoted by Visit London and tourist guides ahead of the Olympics.
Outside of London, LW campaigners are still celebrating the decision of Oxford city council to put its lowest paid employees on a living wage of £7 an hour from April 2009. This has raised hopes that other major employers such as Oxford University can be persuaded to follow suit.
The Scottish LW campaign has now gone public. It's trying to get as broad as possible a range of people and organisations on board, and will be convening an event in Glasgow in the autumn. A broadbased coalition is coming together to campaign for a living wage, which involves the Poverty Alliance, the STUC, churches and charity organisations.
Useful Links
Has reports on Living Wage, and calculations for Canada with spreadsheet. Might be worth taking the calculation principles and seeing if we could apply them to make a spreadsheet for Jersey.
The Living Wage UK page
Church Action on Poverty Campaign
The Methodist Church, the Baptist Union and the United Reformed Church have all made commitments to pay a Living Wage to their employees already. The Church of England's Faithful Cities report, published in May 2006, called for the introduction of a Living Wage in place of the inadequate National Minimum Wage.
Living Wage: The partners
The following companies,institutions and organisations have made a commitment to pay their cleaners at least £7.20 per hour.
* Banking & Finance
Morgan Stanley
Deutsche Bank
Royal Bank of Scotland
MacQuarie Bank
* Universities
Queen Mary's University
London School of Economics and Political Science
* Government & third sector
Institute for Public PolicyResearch
London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority
London 2012 Olympic Delivery Authority (agrees to pay living wage to all contractors and sub-contractors on the Olympic site)
* Hospitality
The Hilton Group

Monday, 17 February 2014

A Walk

Yesterday was the first really fine day for a walk.
The main path was at times impassable because of mud, but sidestepping it to dryer grass was not an option. I tried to do so, but the earth was sodden, and the grass underfoot was awash with water, giving a marshy feel. This is normally grass that soaks up the water, and is fairly solid soil beneath; but the weeks of rain had taken their toll.
I cannot begin to imagine what it is like in England, though, with houses and roads and fields flooded by the rising waters. Power is often cut off, making their plight even harder, and yet so many seem to muddle through, and just keep going. One of the saddest sights for me was the Dawlish line and sea wall, torn apart from the high tides. A beautiful seaside town, full of charm, I've been there both by car and by rail, and the train hugs the shore, giving spectacular views. Now it has been all wrecked.
Elsewhere on my walk, the fields were covered with plastic sheeting to protect the early new potatoes from the frost, although I suspect the main hazard this year will be water. In the days when there was a dedicated Agriculture and Fisheries committee, they used to issue warnings about potato blight, and I wondered if conditions of the sun on the sodden fields and the plastic sheeting might be conducive to this, or if the weather alone could just cause them to rot and not mature properly. Potato blight, incidentally, swept across the world from America to Europe in the 1840s, reaching Jersey in 1845.
A small herd of about half a dozen cows were grazing in the field beside the road to Beauport. I do love to see Jersey cows when out walking, and while a large herd is a stupendous sight, the small herd which grazes around the fields by Beauport is always good to see. St Brelade's is a much urbanised Parish, but it still has enclaves of dairy cows and sheep grazing, and the meadowland around Beauport is still unspoilt by houses. Houses are, for the most part, always in the distance, on the horizon, but for moments on the pathways, there are brief snatches of complete wilderness, with only a track, passing through the trees and no dwellings to be seen.
A couple of dog walkers took my photo above Beauport, and told me they were taking the slower path rather than the steep steps to the beach; I was in fact taking neither, I was going to the headland. On my way I passed another couple with their dog, sitting on a bench, and having a picnic; this was surely one of the first picnics of 2014, but the weather was warm and sunny, there was no appreciable wind, and I was fine myself with just a light jacket and jumper; I had left behind my heavier winter coat.
The tide was very low, and the central rock in Beauport was deserted by the sea. Elsewhere, across the bay, I could see very low rocks that are usually invisible, and a hazard to the unwary mariner. There were a number of walkers taking advantage of the finer weather, and a few out on the headland, where I paused to sit on a bench overlooking the bay. The sky was clear of clouds, apart from the criss-cross patterns of jets high in the stratosphere, and the sea was calm, although curiously bereft of boats or yachts.
I discovered by chance that if my camera is pointing to far sights before zooming, it moves to a high digital zoom, in excess of the zoom that it normally does. I took a few photos using this new facility; it is one of the problems of a second hand digital camera, that you don't have the manual, and I've always been too lazy to look it up online, preferring, as I suspect most people do with manuals, to just try things out and see what happens. I managed a quite nice close up of some of the usually unseen rocks, and turning the other way, got a shot of the air port control tower. This is so high that it is visible from many places, and is a handy reference point for locating where the airport is.
On my way back, I met a dog walker with two dogs, and we were discussing the problem of keeping a dog when working. Apparently, she and a number of other people in the estate employ an agency which takes the dogs out for walks in the day, has them socialise together, and feeds them as well when they are returned. I didn't quite have the cheek to ask how expensive that was, but on a daily basis, for five days a week, it must amount to quite a tidy sum. I don't think I could afford it! Still, it is a good idea for a niche market, and I'm glad that someone is doing it. I also saw another dog walker whose dog had hurt his eye, apparently (as he told me) for that breed, it is always a hazard with brambles and the like, and but he has Pet Plan insurance, so while inconvenient, it is not too costly.
As I left the grasslands, and headed back towards the houses, I noticed a few daffodils. They have not yet come out to bloom, but their green shoots are preparing to emerge. Despite all the terrible storms, there is spring waiting around the corner, and I hope that it brings better weather.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Living with Limitations

From "The Pilot" of 1994 comes this piece by Martin Inman about living within our limitations.
Annie Parmeter (my partner), who died in 2009, had a progressive heart disease, and would be out of breath and needing to lie down even after climbing a short flight of stairs, which exhausted her. For her, life was about learning to live within limitations, although she did not sit back; she sometimes pushed those limitations as far and hard as she could, or use tools like mobility a scooters to improve her quality of life. But she was aware that there were some things that were completely beyond her, and she was careful to avoid those situations, which usually involved a great deal of psychical effort for her, although no more than I (or most people) could do without a second thought.
We all have limitations, whether physical or intellectual, and the words of the Delphic Oracle "Know Thyself" are wise ones. We should use what talents we have and not fret endlessly about what might have been. And we can also, because of our own limitations, enjoy the more those who have the talents which we do not possess. I love music, but I struggle to sing a note in tune, and I could not play the violin or piano, and when I see it done, as with my girlfriend Katalin playing those so well, I can be grateful for her talent.
By Martin Inman, Hospital Chaplain, 1994
BROWSING in Boots' music department the other day I came across some recordings of the late Tony Hancock's television and radio .programmes. They brought back quite a few happy childhood memories. One of the highlights of my televisual week as a child was seven o'clock on Monday evenings when "Hancock's Half Hour" was on. Even as a lad of ten or eleven I could appreciate the timing and elegant lugubriousness of a man who was surely one of the greatest comic geniuses of our time.
Who can forget such immortal lines as "You're asking for a punch in the cake-hole, mate," "Stone me," and "Have you gone raving mad?" Hancock didn't write his own material but, his delivery and his facial expressions made them masterpieces of comedy.
Tony Hancock died by his own hand in 1968. He took his life because he could not come to terms with the limitations of his talent.
Hancock was a quintessentially English comedian. That was what he was good at. That was where his gift lay. However, he wanted to be more than that. He wanted to be successful all over the world, particularly in the-United States.
Against the better judgment of his friends and colleagues he did some work in America. He flopped disastrously. His peculiarly English brand of humour, though hugely popular and successful in Britain, proved to be quite unacceptable to American audiences.
Tony Hancock could not accept his limitations and as a result found life intolerable. So he put an end to it.
Suicide is always a tragedy. However, it is doubly so when the person who ends his own life is enormously talented and able to bring joy and laughter into the lives of so many. The ability to make people laugh is surely one of the greatest gifts that God bestows on his children. Moreover, unlike many comedians, Hancock never resorted to smut and filth.
Had Hancock lived he would, no doubt, have gone on enriching our lives with laughter. He would have been 69 years of age by now and would quite possibly have become the Grand Old Man of British comedy. All that has been denied us because Tony Hancock could not be satisfied with what he was.
The lesson of the tragedy of Tony Hancock for us is, I think, quite clear. If we cry for the moon, if we continually pine for what we cannot possibly reach, we are in great danger of wasting whatever talents we have and of failing to reach those goals which are accessible to us.
God has given talents to all of us. But he has also given us limitations. Humbly learning to live within those limitations is just as important for successful living as utilising our talents to the full.

Saturday, 15 February 2014


The theme of today's poem is about the terrible situation in the UK. It was prompted by a photo of a flooded cemetery in Somerset, and the ever rising waters.


The waters rising, softly, all the while
Rain pours down, deluge on the earth
Roads of mud and water, as black bile
Rescuers in boats come and berth

The waters lapping at the gravestones
The cemetery awash, and still it rises
As a judgement upon the buried bones
Nature so long ignored, now chastises

A raven is flying from tree to tree
Swamp where once was meadow land
Still it is raining, no end to see
Defiant villages make final stand

The word is flood, as Noah's day
Nothing remains but just to pray

Friday, 14 February 2014

Free Speech in Jersey

While States members are protected by Privilege, they may not mention by name, anyone who is not a States member, or if they do so, it is ordered to be expunged from Hansard - this has also been done retrospectively. So you would have to refer to the person by title, i.e., the Chief Officer at Education, and not Mario Lundy (taking a case in point which occurred).

It was permitted in one debate (because it would have been daft beyond reason), which was citing previous Home Affairs Ministers, and as there were two in a short period - Wendy Kinnard, Andrew Lewis, common sense actually just prevailed (although the question was raised!)

For a jurisdiction which often looks to the "Mother Parliament" in Westminster, this seems an anomaly. The UK Hansard has never had this kind of rule, and in fact, various spies have been "outed" in parliament precisely because they could be mentioned, and put into the written records - Sir Anthony Blunt being a case in point. Once that is done, the press can report on it. No one would ever dare to suggest that the UK's Hansard should be tampered with.

Free speech in the States is muzzled in this way, but with no good precedent from elsewhere. It seems strange that rules regarding the need for members to wear jackets is strictly adhered to, on the grounds that it follows the UK, and yet the far more important freedoms are not.

Part of this change goes back to Stuart Syvret, who had a habit of naming individuals in questions, simply to get them into the record. What should have been a matter for complaints to PPC and action taken if the questions were deemed arbitrary and malicious (which some thought they were), became instead enshrined in legislation to ensure that it could not happen.

There really was no other reason for this, other than to silence Stuart Syvret, otherwise the UK would long have set an antecedent. The reason given was that the individuals named did not have the right to reply, or to counter the use of Parliamentary privilege, but if the same had been the case, Kim Philby and Anthony Blunt would have escaped the public gaze, and those questioning their part in spying might well have suffered prosecution. Instead, Anthony Blunt was rightly stripped of his Knighthood.

Cases have come up, for instance from Geoffrey Dickens, where an individual has been named, but the Attorney General afterwards confirmed in a press release that there was not a case for prosecution by the DPP. So there are avenues open to counter accusations made if they seem groundless.

What is even worse with the Jersey law, was that the record was expunged retrospectively from Hansard, which set a precedent of effectively being able to rewrite history. While it is true that the office of the individual replaced the name, it nevertheless constitutes censorship of what was said in the States, something which would not be tolerated in the UK. As someone who values historical records, this is a matter of concern. Future historians will not, as far as I am aware, have the original documents restored.

In fact, while the Data Protection Law became effectively an alternative (and States funded) means of avoiding a defamation case, but achieving the same end, the four individuals who brought the order for Stuart Syvret to remove the names were mentioned by John Hemmings MP, and are now part of the UK's Hansard transcripts, viewable online.

The increasing adoption of Data Protection Law for use in which should be a defamation case is a matter I have dealt with in detail in another blog; needless to say, it is becoming more common in the UK as lawyers seize upon it as a cheaper alternative.

The email received by Stuart Syvret from Google suggests that the Court Order to remove information on his blog because it was defamatory.

"Blogger has been notified that content in your blog: contains allegedly defamatory content that may violate the rights of others and the laws of their country and violates the terms of a court order."

And yet the Court order was to remove information on Data Protection grounds on the basis that it was illegal processing of "sensitive personal data", and the law which allows a notice to be issued "to stop processing that causes distress or damage". Did Google simply issue a standard "round robin" email, or were they misled as to the nature of the offence?

For the Court Order was NOT in regard to defamation - but to a breach of Data Protection (Jersey) Law. The Court Order was for Stuart Syvret to remove names and the allegations he has made about those he named because they constituted unlawful processing, not defamation. Of those indidvuals, the names are now in the public domain (Hansard) and defamation has not only not been proved but no civil action has been taken.

Google themselves have published a report of requests to remove material, pictures, videos or blogs.

"Like other technology and communications companies, Google regularly receives requests from government agencies and courts around the world to remove content from our services or to review such content to determine if it should be removed for inconsistency with a product's community policies.."

"Governments ask companies to remove or review content for many different reasons. For example, some content removals are requested due to allegations of defamation, while others are due to allegations that the content violates local laws prohibiting hate speech or adult content. Laws surrounding these issues vary by country, and the requests reflect the legal context of a given jurisdiction.."

"There are many reasons we may not have removed content in response to a request. Some requests may not be specific enough for us to know what the government wanted us to remove (for example, no URL is listed in the request), and others involve allegations of defamation through informal letters from government agencies, rather than court orders. We generally rely on courts to decide if a statement is defamatory according to local law."

In this case, they are clearly relying on the contents of a letter, which may or may not be accurate in what it claims, but may well muddy the waters by mention a Court case ordering the removal of data, and that the data was seen as defamatory; it would be interesting to know if they state the Court decision was based on Data Protection rather than libel.

And the number of requests in general to Google has been increasing rapidly:

"Washington (AFP) - Google said Thursday it saw a big jump in early 2013 in the number of requests from governments around the world to remove online content, in many cases for political reasons. Officials "often cite defamation, privacy and even copyright laws in attempts to remove political speech from our services." Overall, Google said it removed content in 36 percent of cases, including 54 percent in response to court orders. In an update to its "transparency report" for the first half of the year, Google said it saw a 68 percent jump in the number of requests from the prior six-month period, led by big increases from Turkey and Russia."

So to put the suspension of the blog in context, it is not something singular to Jersey, although the suspension of Stuart Syvret's blog has to be a first for Jersey Bloggers.

Another blog, the "Farce Blog" had contravened the Data Protection Law by publishing sensitive personal data about Deputy Carolyn Labey, but this was removed voluntarily, and was clearly a breach of Data Protection - there was no case for defamation, only publication of a leaked document.

So what happens now? If particular postings need to be redacted or removed, Stuart Syvret can still save the substantial part of his blog. At present, the message is a holding one, which I believe is in force for a period of around 60 days:

"This blog is under review due to possible Blogger Terms of Service violations and is open to authors only"

Rather than the more final message when a blog is gone for good:

"Sorry, the blog at has been removed. This address is not available for new blogs."

So what do you do when it is under review. You can either sit back and complain loudly, or you can be proactive. These are the steps needed to proceed:

"When requesting review, blog owners need to cooperate with the helpers in Blogger Help Forums.  A successfully conducted abuse review is reasonably simple."

1 Blog Owner: "My blog was spuriously locked.  What do I do to get it restored?".
2 Helper: (Guidelines quoted) + "Please read the Guidelines".
3 Blog Owner: "I have read the Guidelines, and my blog is not abusive."
4 (Helper escalates blog review to Blogger Support).
5 Helper: "Your review request has been submitted.".
6 (Helper receives successful review escalation from Blogger Support, and verifies blog restore).
7 Helper: "Your blog has been restored.".

In Stuart Syvret's case, step (3) would involve removing just the offending postings, and submitting the blog for review again, perhaps with a copy of the Court case. That is why the notification of "under review" tells you that the blog "is only open to authors only". It can be edited and reviewed again. Once that is done, the remainder of the blog could be restored to active use.

Freedom of speech is important, and the remedy for abuse should be to take civil action for defamation. However, if the accuser has no means of support, and the accused has limited financial resources, this may not be viable. In that case, the best option is probably to go online, and put your case there. Then when the search engines pick up the other blog, the counter-blog will also be visible, putting the other side of the story.

There's an interesting study of defamation and the internet at:

And what is especially interesting is that it does not mention using Data Protection Laws instead of Defamation laws. While not unique to Jersey, the use of them locally has highlighted concerns about whether this is, in fact, taking the law outside of the realm that it was intended to cover, when there was not the explosion in social media that there is now. Case law has been setting precedents, both in Jersey and the UK, for this kind of action, but it does seem rather like a tax loophole, co-opting and abusing legislation for purposes for which it was not intended.

The judgement in the Court Case against Mr Syvret had an ominous paragraph:

"I understand that in the present case the Data Protection Commissioner has indicated that she considers it to be likely that similar cases to the present may arise in future and that guidance from the Court as to the approach to be adopted would be welcome."

If we see any further cases against other well known bloggers (such as Rico Sorda or Mike Dun or Neil MacMurray, or even myself), we will have cause to be uneasy about the way in which freedom of speech is being eroded in Jersey.


I hear on the grapevine that an attempt is being made by some Jersey Churchgoers to revise history by having the Korris report removed from the Winchester Diocese website, and presumably hidden away under a bushel.