Thursday, 22 October 2015

Evidence and Corroboration

Evidence and Corroboration

Former police officer Anton Cornelissen has been giving quite a lot of interesting evidence from 1996 when he was seconded to the Child Protection Team, and the police were investigating the case of Jervis-Dykes, a teacher at Victoria College accused of sexually abusing pupils in his care.

An index file went missing, and later was found hidden in the locker of a senior officer, Roger Pryke. Roger Pryke had left the force because of ill health, which is why his locker was being cleared out. He is now deceased, and cannot be questioned as to his motives.

One question remains: if he wanted to really hamper the investigation, why did he not remove the records and destroy them? One reason might be that he originally intended to return it, once it had been purged of any records he thought were dangerously close to the mark.

Mr Cornelissen mentioned how three officers, John De La Haye, Trevor Garrett and Roger Pryke, had all indicated they did not want the case to be investigated. He claimed that many of his colleagues were ex-Victoria College and felt he "was dragging their school through the mud."

There was also the case of the St Helier Yacht Club at South Pier where it was alleged that Mr Dykes had taken pupils to socialise, teach them navigation, and supply them with alcohol. However, when Mr Cornelissen went there with Chief Inspector John De La Haye.

He said that Mr De La Haye had gone inside, as a member, reviewed the club log book, and given the dates that Dykes had been there – but told him that he was alone – “I was not allowed to attend at the Club without his presence, or to view the log book.”

Thanks to the good offices of the Club Secretary and Chairman, who could not understand reasons why he should be prevented from viewing the log book, he was able to see the book, and saw that Dykes had been there, and signed in others, although no names were given. However it was clearly a plausible assumption they had been pupils of the school, although it should be noted that the log does not tell that, and it must be supplemented by the testimony of pupils.

This contradicted what he had been told by Mr De La Haye, and he also discovered that that a group of senior officers, among whom were numbered Mr De La Haye, frequently attended at the Yacht Club together, and were apparently sailed together.

This does not necessarily mean a conspiracy in the sense of an organised plan to cover up over Jervis-Dykes, and Stephen Sharp found no evidence for that. But it does indicate a culture in which the ties of school loomed large, in which there would be a certain resistance from individuals against looking into matters, and informal conversations which led to the same result.

In this respect, it could have simply been enough to share an assumption that the good name of the school should be protected, and the cliché about not washing line in public upheld. That would have been enough to account for all the mischief which occurred.

Referring to his statement, Mr Cornelissen said he had authored an email in 2007 setting out some of the difficulties he had experienced investigating Victoria College at the request of Mr Harper, never believing for a second that it would subsequently be made available for public consumption because he disclosed it to former Senator Stuart Syvret who published it on his blog.  He said this was an example of Mr Harper’s lack of integrity. This has been extensively reported on the BBC.

However, as reported on Rico Sorda’s blog, Lenny Harper - contacted by "Team Voice" replied and actually denies leaking the document: “It was not I who leaked the email. Mr Syvret has received many, many, States documents from whistle blowers, some of them from anonymous sources.”

And in the same email, Lenny Harper says:

“However, Jersey famously (or infamously) leaks like the proverbial sieve, and any number of people could have leaked that email to Mr Syvret, including Mr Cornelissen himself.  He had more to gain than I from the leak.  What benefit was it to me?”

It should be noted that the contents of the email evidently got to Stuart Syvret who published in a blog posting called “Letter from Exile 11” in 2010, but that this was also long after Mr Harper’s retirement in Autumn 2008.

It is certainly possible that it found its way to Stuart Syvret via other route. And the late publication suggests it was not something he had immediately in 2008.

However it found its way to Stuart Syvret, it remained under wraps until 2010, when, from his self-imposed exile, Stuart Syvret decided to share more of the material he had available to him. Syvret tells of meeting Mr Cornelissen in 2011 and being thanked for the publication of the email. A careful reading of his notes, and those on his original blog, show that what he doesn’t tell is the source of the leak.

While Mr Cornelissen is to be praised for being so frank about the hampering of the investigation, his surmise that it was Lenny Harper who leaked the email should not go unchallenged, and the media reports should have made it clear that this was unsubstantiated either by Mr Harper or Stuart Syvret. It is a matter of evidence and corroboration.

There’s a similar hiatus in the reporting of the evidence by Brian Carter who worked as a Civilian Investigator on Operation Rectangle.

He noted that there were also difficulties getting cases to court because of the need for corroboration. This has been reported on the news. However, what has not been emphasised so much is that he stated that many of the older cases they came across would make it to a courtroom today.

In this respect it is worth noting Wendy Kinnard, as Home Affairs Minister, tried to get the law changed regarding the "corroboration rules"

That law, on which Frank Walker's Council of Ministers refused to budge, and which Wendy Kinnard decided to resign on a matter of principle, gave the situation in which a warning must be given to a jury over uncorroborated evidence from certain types of witnesses - children, sexual assault victims and other defendants.

It was only altered by the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) (No. 3) (Jersey) Law, which was lodged in 18 October 2011. Hence a number of cases which may have been dropped on the grounds that they would certainly fail might conceivably have proceeded to prosecution. The change in the law must surely change the position on "more likely than not".

The change in the law was voted on 17 January 2012, and became law in March 2012. It passed by 41 votes, with no abstentions, but some absences from the sitting.

Deputy Roy Le Hérissier asked if more convictions had come about as a result of the changed law in the UK and elsewhere, and Sir Philip Bailhache, acting as rapporteur for this order, replied that: "I am not sure that I can give Deputy Le Hérissier any specific information about the number of cases which have led to convictions in other jurisdictions as a result of the changes in the corroboration rules, but logic would suggest that the absence of the requirement for corroboration has made it easier to bring guilty men to justice and I cannot, I am afraid, say more than that."

More on this can be read here:

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