Friday, 17 July 2015

Looking at the Local News

Heritage and Case Law

Having considered his options, Deputy Steve Luce has accepted the decision of the States and is not going to pursue his appeal in the Royal Court. But he is going to review the heritage aspects of the Island plan, no doubt to make sure this does not happen again. It is important that the Court ruling be taken into account.

The States makes the laws, but if taken to the Courts, that teases out any ambiguity, and settles on part of the meaning.

When most people talk about "the law," they tend to think only of statutes. But when disputes arise over the meaning of statutes, judges must interpret the statutes. Judges' interpretations of those statutes -- called "opinions," "decisions," or "cases" -- are as important to understanding what the law is as the words of the statutes itself. To “clarify” (the Minister’s favourite term in this regard) must not mean to contradict that which has already been made clear by judges.

Any changes which abrogated those judgements would be a substantial change in the Island plan, and should be brought back to the States for approval as amendments, not passed as Ministerial decisions.

Judicial Timing

A Ministerial decision by the Treasury Minister on 6th July stated that:

“The Minister for Treasury & Resources determined that the remuneration for Court of Appeal Judges and Royal Court Commissioners should increase from £839 per day to £848 per day with effect from 1st April 2015.”

“The remuneration paid to both Court of Appeal Judges and Commissioners is, and always has been, in line with the remuneration paid to a Deputy High Court Judge in England and Wales. It was brought to the Minister’s attention by the Bailiff that, with effect from 1st April 2015, the remuneration for a Deputy High Court Judge will increase from £839 to £848 per day (an increase of 1%).”

This is not in statute, it is simply the custom of the day. It is interesting to note that the Bailiff brought it to the Minister’s attention – it was not an initiative within the Department. In these days of cut-back, cuts to public expenditure, and public sector pay freezes, is it right that the judiciary should be an exception to the Medium Term Financial Plan?

It is certainly notable that the timing of this was judiciously before the Medium Term Plan was revealed!

Alienating the Elderly

In the movie ET, the alien tries to ring home, but cannot. Pensioners may feel a similar alienation as the cost of calls is set to increase. A subsidy that allowed retired people to get a cheaper home phone line is being stopped for new customers. JT used to offer a PrimeTalk line for pensioners giving them line rental at £1.90 per month. This will end. There will also be an increase in call costs as PrimeTalk customers paid 7p for half an hour, the new charge will be 2p/minute.

So costs for pensioners will increase, and I am sure when the accounts get published for this year, we will see directors remuneration and bonuses also on the increase at JT.

Action, not Verbiage

"What I've been able to do is get those specialist services actually working much better together looking at the holistic needs of an individual rather than just within a specific areas of service"

That’s what the Head of Jersey's adult services Chris Dunn said about the dead man who lay undiscovered for up to seven months. This is not English; it is some kind of management jargon masquerading as English. It is the kind of language which Orwell described in the following terms: "When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink."

Richard Dix, 62, had a long history of alcoholism and had refused help on a number of occasions. Clearly no one flagged up just keeping an eye on him, making contact, even if help was refused, on a regular basis. But surely there must have been some unpaid bills – electricity, water, rent – which gave warning notices.

In Essex Square, Harnham, last year, a blind man’s body lay undiscovered four month months. His family questioned why council officials who hand-delivered eviction warning notices over unpaid rent never raised the alarm.

One wonders if such alarms were failed to be followed up in Jersey over unpaid bills. If disconnections were made, should the utility companies have a duty of care to report to social services. Cases in England have highlighted that this is an area where Data Protection should not be interpreted as a reason to fail to pass on information, as has tragically happened in the past

In 2003, George Bates, 89, and his 86-year old wife Gertrude were found in a decomposed state in October in the south London house they had shared for 64 years. British Gas said the Data Protection Act prohibited them from passing information on the situation to social services. The Data Protection Commissioner noted that: “"It is ridiculous that organisations should hide behind data protection as a smokescreen for practices which no reasonable person would ever find acceptable.”

In the UK case last year, Wiltshire Council’s ethical governance officer Roger Wiltshire said: “There are lessons to be learnt from Terry’s case including ensuring the recording of tenants’ needs and encouraging staff to see the tenant’s whole picture, age, needs, etc to help pick up cases where a tenant may be vulnerable.”

That says much the same as Chris Dunn, but in ordinary language.

Checking up on his doorstep on a weekly basis, even if house calls are rejected, would have also helped. Knowing about someone is one thing; doing something about it is another. A case file is no good if it is left in the filing cabinet, however complete and comprehensive it may be.

No comments: