Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Andrew Lewis and the Care Inquiry

“We find that Andrew Lewis lied to the States Assembly about the Metropolitan Police Service report, stating that he had had sight of it when he had not.”

The Jersey Care Inquiry has now finished, and has delivered all it set out to do.

I will be looking at other aspects of it later, but making waves at the moment is the inquiry’s criticism of Andrew Lewis.

Since the publication of the report, Deputy Andrew Lewis has rapidly denied claims that he lied to the States. In the report's summary, the panel says: "We find that Andrew Lewis lied to the States Assembly about the Metropolitan Police Service report, stating that he had had sight of it when he had not."

Deputy Lewis, who is a former Home Affairs Minister, responded to the report, saying although he "welcomes" it, he did not agree with the finding that he lied.

“The inquiry refers to an answer that I gave to the assembly when being questioned at length, during which I unintentionally described a communication from the Deputy Police Chief as a report. This error I have endeavoured to correct on many occasions, including at the inquiry itself. I am therefore concerned that the inquiry team have failed to acknowledge this. I am disappointed that this has been characterised as a lie rather than the honest mistake that it was. I look forward to reading the report in more detail I would hope that attention is placed on the very important issues of abuse in our care system rather than an attempt to discredit the government and officers of the day.”

The details on which he was questioned formed part of an “in camera” or secret debate, in which what was said was not available to the general public. After a debate took place whether or not to release it, it was leaked onto the internet, and can now be read, as the States finally agreed to open up the files to the inquiry.

The full transcript can be read here:

Until it was released, it would have been a breach of privilege for a States member to report what had been said in a secret session, and hence it was impossible to question what he had said in that debate, and compare it to what he had said outside of the debate, to the Napier report, for example.

It is worth noting that in the normal course of events, it is impossible to tell whether States members make misleading remarks in these debates, of which Jersey had many during the tenures of Frank Walker and Terry Le Sueur as Chief Ministers.

Quite how that squares with transparent democracy where the decision making of the States is open to public scrutiny is another matter. Guernsey has only had a handful of such debates, and the UK, only in time of war!

If we are to move on with better provision for childcare, and better governance of the Island in general, the culture which found secret debates acceptable has to go.

Extracts from the Transcript

Q: Let's have a look at this. Coming to this as a complete neutral and leaving aside entirely what was said in later years by people who supported your decision, just look at that: “... an investigation has been carried out by the Metropolitan Police and I was presented with a preliminary report on the basis of that investigation." As an ordinary reader wouldn't you assume that that was a preliminary report from the Metropolitan Police?

A. But ma'am, you're not an ordinary reader. I was talking to the States Assembly and on the floor of an assembly, a parliament, you don't express yourself in precise terms like perhaps a lawyer would, that's why you have parliamentary privilege.

Q. What, so that you're exempt from the consequences of misleading the States?

And later...

Q. So "If the preliminary report is that damning, Lord knows what the main report will reveal", any listener is going to assume that the preliminary report and the main report are to come from the same source, wouldn't they?

A. This was one point in the debate that I could have taken the opportunity to clarify it. I didn't. I have no particular regret about that.

He maintains that he was speaking all the time not about the Met preliminary report but a letter from David Warcup about that... and never mentions the letter once in the debate, which the inquiry team pick up on.

And later...

Q: “I am perfectly satisfied that the Code has been followed appropriately. I have taken advice from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary; they feel that such action is wholly appropriate in the circumstances. I have read an alarming report from the Metropolitan Police which led me to this decision in the first place." Now, you were stating clearly there, weren't you, that you had seen the Met's report?

A. I have read a report from David Warcup and that is what I should have put in there and I have told you this -- I don't know how many times I need to say it again: I'm on the floor of the Assembly, I'm under a barrage of questions from members and yes, in a perfect world I could have said at that point that I'm referring to a letter from David Warcup. Far too much has been made of this, ma'am.

Q: What I'm asking you now is what you told the States. To tell them "I have read an alarming report from the Metropolitan Police" is misleading, isn't it?

A. I don't believe it is misleading because I'm referring back to subsequent debates where members were asked the same question and none of them, apart from those that wanted to believe this, believed it was misleading.

Q. When you say to the States "I have read an alarming report from the Metropolitan Police", that can be interpreted only to mean you have seen the report from the Metropolitan Police, can't it?

A. For those that wish to surmise that, that's fine.

Q. What else could it mean?

A. Ma'am, I'm tempted to --

Q. Mr Lewis, what else could it mean?

A. You can make it mean whatever you wish, ma'am.

Q. You tell me.

A. Well, you have read it.

Q. What else could it mean?

A. I'm sorry, I'm not prepared to answer any more questions on this subject. I'm very clear, I made my statement in the House, I'm very clear as to the reasons why.

There is nothing to be learned from this whatsoever other than an attempt to discredit at the time a minister who wasn't even there to defend himself at a later date when this continued to be a subject of great interest to certain politicians..... I would challenge you, ma'am, become a politician one day, go into an assembly, take barrages of questions and ensure that everything you say is absolutely bang on the language of a lawyer. You will not be able to achieve it. If you do you will have a very stuttered speech.

Q. Dr Napier did not know what you had said to the States at an in camera hearing, did he?

A. I would assume not, unless he had had those transcripts released, no.

Q. So you weren't putting the record straight in terms of saying "I once told the States that I had seen the report of the Metropolitan Police and I now should clarify this: I did not do so"?

A. I had no need to put the record straight because members were not misled.

Q. Mr Lewis, you have now been through the transcript. Looking at it as objectively as you can, do you accept that you gave the impression to the States that you had read the Metropolitan Police interim report?

A. No, I don't.

Q. Despite the fact you used the words "I have read the Metropolitan Police report"?

Q. How do you think anybody reading the transcript would have deduced that you had read a letter from David Warcup when you didn't say that anywhere?

A. Those that wish to seek mischief from this would want to interpret it how they would. One can take many documents around the world, the Bible being one example, and interpret through it whatever you wish.

Q. How else would you interpret the words "I have read the Metropolitan Police report"?

A. I have already explained my case on this, ma'am. I have nothing more to add.

And the closing remarks:

” Mr Lewis, the Inquiry has received in this phase of 18 the Inquiry a very large number of witness statements from people involved in these decisions and other political policing prosecution decisions. Your statement contains more personal attacks on other individuals than I think any other statement we have received in this phase.”

The Inquiry – Chapter 7 of Final Report

The detailed paragraph in the inquiry comments

In his evidence to this Inquiry, Mr Lewis said that he had made an error in referring to the Metropolitan Police report when he meant to refer to David Warcup’s report. He did not accept that anyone had been misled. He said that it was “very clear” that he had been referring to Mr Warcup’s report, and had not been suggesting that he had seen the Metropolitan Police report. He said that those present on the day clearly understood that, and pointed to people who had said subsequently that that was their understanding.

He was given the opportunity to identify passages in the Hansard report that would have led anyone present at, or reading the report of, the debate to understand that he was referring to Mr Warcup’s letter. He was unable to do so. The Hansard report appears to contain no references to the letter.


Póló said...

Thanks for that very useful compendium.

You will recall that the Bailiff tried to stop Lewis going down that road in the States in camera debate.

Daniel said...

Well yes.

Thanks Tony, for documenting this. I think any "man or woman on the Clapham omnibus" would reckon that Lewis had read the Metropolitan Police repot or interim report.

By the way, please make clear in your post which transcript you are talking about - things are confusing enough as it is!