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Saturday, 26 December 2015

That Other Speech


Trevor Pitman


Having reposted Stuart Syvret's 2007 speech to the Jersey Parliament (States) which he was not allowed to deliver, my attention has been drawn, in a comment on that post, to a more recent landmark speech by the then Deputy Trevor Pitman, indicting the perverse Jersey justice system.

This is also a fine speech, delivered in full to the Parliament, and heard without interruption. It is a passionate speech, delivered, I understand, without notes. While it might be best listened to rather than read, given the passion put into it, the available recording, presumably from the Parliament itself, is a lazy piece of work, with auto volume control making it very difficult to hear properly.

The speech was published in both text and audio on 28/9/2013 on Voice for Children's blog.

I have included relevant links at the end of this post.

As the speech was made in the context of a particular debate in the States and as it contains many references to events and persons in Jersey, I think it is necessary, for those readers not fully up to speed on the Jersey situation, to set the speech in context.

Deputy Trevor Pitman and his wife Shona, then also a Deputy, have been in the forefront of the fight for justice in Jersey. He is one of a small number of parliamentarians and bloggers who have been attempting to expose the grossly deficient and corrupt justice system on the island.

Along with former Minister and Senator Stuart Syvret he has been hounded out of parliament. Trevor and his wife have literally been bankrupted, which has effectively excluded them from the parliament.

While it is a saga in itself the story of the Pitmans' fatal run in with the powers that be in Jersey is as follows.


That cartoon

Deputies Trevor and Shona Pitman claimed that they were defamed by a cartoon commissioned by Broadlands estates agency for an advertisement published in the JEP on Christmas Eve 2008. The relevant part of the cartoon is shown above. The Pitmans claimed it accused them of entering politics purely for the money and was defamatory. The Pitmans lost their case and were ultimately bankrupted over the costs and consequently excluded from parliament. The fairness of the whole procedure is for another day but I personally think that Trevor was set up and the way in which the judgement was implemented saw the State gleefully, and perversely, claiming its pound of flesh.

Anyway, to the speech itself.

It arose in the context of the following proposition

The States are asked to decide whether they are of opinion that, within the Executive branch of Government, the Chief Minister is responsible for justice policy and resources, as clarified in the accompanying report.

It seems that, while the Minister for Home Affairs is responsible for the implementation of justice, the whole question of justice policy and ministerial accountability for it was a bit up in the air to say the least. What the proposition is effectively saying is that, in the absence of a separate justice ministry - something proposed earlier by Senator Farnham - this overarching responsibility should reside with the Chief Minister (Senator Gorst). It was apparently envisaged that this would not in any way affect the current responsibilities of the Home Affairs Minister in this area; it would simply close a gap that had appeared in the transition from the earlier form of committee government to a ministerial one.

As to the broader "constitutional" structure of the island. It is a crown dependency which means that the island's government is directly the responsibility of the Queen. She keeps an eye on them through her Lieutenant Governor. She appoints the chief officers such as the Bailiff (chief honcho, chief judge, and speaker of the States). She is responsible for good governance on the island, which function she has delegated to her UK Justice Minister (though Jersey is not part of the UK) and final appeal from the Jersey courts is to her Privy Council (though, as a matter of course, they redirect all complaints/appeals back to the Jersey authorities for decision).

The Greffier is the clerk and record keeper of the States Assembly, effectively the head of the administration of the parliament. It was he, in the absence of the Bailiff/Speaker, who chaired the session below.

The reference to data protection is to its misuse in an attempt to silence Stuart Syvret and have his blog taken down. The Data Commissioner virtually invited people to come forward with complaints and then financed them out of public funds to have a go at Syvret in the courts. Four out of five invitees went along with this, and a motlier bunch you would not find.

Reference to the Deputy from Grouville is to Stuart Syvret's former partner Carolyn Labey, who says in the debate that she has no problem with the present proposition.

I hope the above is enough to set the context for the speech.

Hansard reproduces it as a single paragraph, but that is quite a difficult format to absorb in a blog post, so I have attempted to paragraph it purely for ease of reading.




SPEECH
by Deputy Trevor Pitman
in States of Jersey (Parliament)
on 25 September 2013



2.1.11 Deputy T.M. Pitman:

It is ironic, after allowing a lot of people to be betrayed yet again, as we did earlier, here we are talking about justice and yet it is all going to be done and dusted in about 10 minutes.

The fact is, in my opinion and in a growing number of the victims of the Jersey justice system, there is zero accountability to those at the top of the justice system in Jersey. It is a very scary, frightening fact. I do not know if the Chief Minister kids himself, but he is not in control here. The political power in this Island lies with the law office; it is an absolute fact, certainly as far as enforcement of its will. As has been said, and I never used to believe this, but it is all too often a tool of oppression.

It is a great example here today of how we could be saving money and how we do not need the Bailiff; the Greffier and his Assistant are proving that admirably. We do not need any individual in a red cloak. I will be quite honest, the reason I did not come to the special sitting last week, I find it highly offensive to see a judge, any judge - and this is not a personal thing - as our first citizen in the 21st century. It is absolutely ludicrous.

I supported Senator Farnham’s idea for a Minister for Justice, but this is one of those watered-down fudges, and I think he is putting a brave face on and trying to be nice about perhaps convincing himself, wishing to convince himself that this is all going to move in a positive direction. I think he is mistaken in that.

Senator Gorst, well, I told him yesterday I was not going to support this because I voted for him, as he knows, and I have been appalled that I did vote for him. He is, in my view - I have to say that or I will get into trouble - utterly too weak to ensure justice in this Island. If Members ask themselves when do you hear the Chief Minister talk about justice, speak out about it and upholding it? Practically never.

You cannot go against the rule of the Bailiff. It is one of the most striking things when you come into this Assembly: the ridiculous and quite offensive deference that is given to someone just because he is a judge. Let us put it quite clearly: the Bailiff deserves no such deference, any Bailiff. He is just a judge, and yet he can interfere, he can block what elected representatives to this Assembly say and ask.

As we saw yesterday in a quite embarrassing display, the justice system in this Island is so appalling that when the Bailiff fails appallingly, you can only go and take those failings to the Bailiff. It is a bit like déjà vu when I remember back years ago when Senator Syvret was forced out of the States for 6 months, in 1996 I think it was. Who could he ultimately appeal to about that? Probably the same man who many would say was instrumental in him being removed from that Assembly.

This cannot be trusted to the Chief Minister’s Department because the Chief Minister just does not appear to have the will, the determination and the courage to do the job. He is too weak. That might upset some people, but I have to speak the truth, that is what we are meant to do here, are we not?

Where is the judicial accountability now? There is none whatsoever. We have a U.K. Minister for Justice who is meant to intervene when he should but he does nothing, and you cannot go through an appeal system.

We heard a really brilliant example of how the Jersey justice system is dysfunctional when we had to hear the desperation ... if you do not get what you think you should have, you can go to the Privy Council or then to Strasbourg, like those poor victims up there today. It is a bit late by then because you cannot challenge failings properly. People have had their lives ruined by then.

Is the Chief Minister going to put that right? No, because he is one of those who I believe strongly is absolutely frightened to death of the aura of the Bailiff and all that it suggests. The Bailiff has only got that deference from people because of the dual role. We talk about in this report from the Chief Minister that you have got to have that independence between Judiciary and politics.

Does he not ever look at the individual and what that represents sitting in that chair every session, the hypocrisy and absolute comical farce of what he is saying? I cannot remember who said it, it might have been Deputy Tadier, it might have been Deputy S. Pitman, but you would have a Minister still being controlled on issues of justice by an unelected judge.

There is no place for this in the 21st century. I am sorry the Deputy of Grouville cannot see the problem with it; just about any other right-thinking person can see the problem with it: it is a person wearing 2 hats at one time, it is an unelected judge being involved where he has absolutely no right.

It might have been okay in the 17th century when we were all meant to tug our forelock to our betters, but it is not okay now. Well, I could not tug my forelock, but there we go; I may doff my cap. I cannot afford a cap, but there we go.

It makes me so frustrated to say we will happily sit here and discuss ourselves for weeks on end, we will discuss dog mess for hours or days, and justice ... hardly anyone speaks.

Let us spell out the facts again: there are only about 5 of us in here who ever stand up for justice, and we are made out to be some kind of radicals, we are out to destroy known civilisation. No, for those of us who talk about justice, it is because we care about our Island.

The rest, and I am sorry, that is 95 per cent of the States Assembly, fall into 2 categories: people who just keep their head down, they are too scared; to protect the status quo they will say nothing. Or, it has to be said, people who perhaps do not care about justice at all, which is even worse.

Some of those people who we were debating earlier said to me yesterday: “For too many people, it is only when an injustice happens to them that they realise what is going on in this Island.” That is because in the mainstream media they do not report on the true facts.

Again, they have got a huge responsibility, they have more power than we have but they do not talk about the real issues: “Let us just keep attacking the 4 or 5 loony lefties who keep going on about child abuse and the dual role.”

If I am to support this, Chief Minister, what are you going to do about all that? What are you going to do about all these issues? As we heard, the Chief Minister cannot go against the word of the Bailiff, so how is this being under his sway, how is his control going to differ?

I was at that meeting the Deputy referred to; he acknowledged there were huge areas that needed to be changed, but would he do them? We have Jurats elected by lawyers; that is crazy, it does not even happen in Guernsey, and some people are always mocking Guernsey for what they do. How can you have lawyers choosing people they are then going to be pitching to win their case to later?

It is absolutely bonkers. The Jurat Law; what stops you being a Jurat? If you have received assistance from the 1948 Poor Law, it does not matter if you are Jimmy Savile, you are in, you are a pillar of society. That is what it comes down to, in essence: no convictions against Mr. Savile so he probably would have been welcomed as a pillar of the community.

Sorry if some of this is uncomfortable, but it is true. I have got so many cases now on justice, I admit - and I will use this to apologise to some people I have not even been able to get back to, because I am being overwhelmed and I know Deputy Higgins has got a huge number - they are diverse and they are shocking.

What is being done about it? What have successive Chief Ministers done about the injustice in this Island? Nothing, absolutely nothing.

Justice in Jersey is made up as we go ... a phenomenon which some people may not be aware of: judge-made law. It is a great example of what happens in Jersey: rulings, decisions given by judges that have absolutely no visible link to the laws that were passed by Assemblies such as ours.

Who challenges it? Is the Chief Minister going to challenge it? No, because he is not strong enough, and I put my trust in him, and this is not a personal thing either. I put my trust in him when he was making his pitch to be Chief Minister and on the key issues, justice, like for the abuse victims, he has really done nothing.

He expressed his satisfaction, his contentment with the case against former Senator Syvret. I do not agree with a lot of what Mr. Syvret has done, but I will stand with him on justice issues.

Regularly, there is a gentleman who sits up there who can show you his many consistent statements made to the police about, as a child, being pinned down and having blood trickling down his legs after he had been abused.

The person who he alleges, and more than a dozen others allege is an abuser, is still employed by the States of Jersey, has still got access to children.

How is the Chief Minister and his legal team, who are meant to be doing redress, treating that man? Well, he is accused of never being at Haut de la Garenne. It is only other people who were at Haut de la Garenne who would remember him there. Has he had sympathy? Has he had compassion? No. I will tell you what has happened to him: he has been threatened by the legal team that if he did not drop his allegations, he would be prosecuted and could end up in prison.

Justice in Jersey? Utter farce. Yet we are satisfied for the secret court case against Mr. Syvret. Of course, one of those people given such huge financial assistance is the very man that so many people have accused. That same case -if we are talking justice, Chief Minister - why is it that there is a letter in existence pitching for individuals to come in and put the case together and decide how they would get Mr. Syvret? Five people invited; one of them refused. Proxies; are those what they were?

I happened to believe that some of them, certainly a couple, have got cases for what has been done to them. They may have cases to answer on the accusations against them. The best way to have done that would be before a court. As I have said before, then Mr. Syvret could have been taken to account if what he said was completely wrong and those people could have earned justice.

But no, what do we do? Justice in Jersey, Chief Minister, we have secret court cases. I do hope he is going to do the decent thing and resign when we get the true figures about how much this has all cost, because the question is already in for next session. He wants to control justice.

Why is it that data protection and this access ... and it is all very well for him to chuckle over there, perhaps it is how he usually takes justice. Why is it that data protection ... this assistance is not available to all?

One of the individuals who was given money - Members might not know - is the scourge of innocent people in this Island. He has been intercepted by the police threatening ex-partners; does not get charged. He sends out posters to decent, ordinary people about threats to women; does not get charged. He puts hate sites up on the internet which emails stolen from one of our own Members end up on. Does not get charged.

When I went and made a complaint about him, the senior police officer went and looked and he was shocked at the amount of complaints against this individual, so he could see it was just not me. Put the case to the Attorney General’s office; no case to answer.

Perhaps that explains, for all his faults, why Mr. Syvret went down the route he did, because it all comes back down to this image, hardly anyone wants to risk challenging Jersey’s fluffy image as a shining beacon of democracy, as I think former Senator Perchard said.

The way you improve your image is by confronting the things that are wrong, and that is what me, and those few other Members who stand up and talk about justice, do. Of course, we get pilloried by the Jersey Evening Post, pilloried by other Members, former judges.

There is a wonderful little clip if Members get bored: go and look at YouTube and they will see a wonderful little clip of a former chief judge in Jersey and he is giving a talk to, I assume, the Law Society or a collection of lawyers, and he laughs and he gets a huge, great ripple of applause: “When I was a judge and the law was silent, I did what everyone did, I made it up because that is what everyone else did”; is that justice? People laugh.

A chief judge, or a former chief judge ... I must not get into trouble, I must go down the magistrate route of today, confusing individuals. It is funny, just on the news today the former assistant magistrate is out of prison already, laughing all the way to the bank, while those people we have sent away with their tails between their legs are going home. One of them is on to income support as a result, she was telling me.

This makes me furious, these tick-box propositions that come back pretending to do something when the proof of the pudding is that this Chief Minister never stands up for justice ever, even when it is wrong. He is controlled by the law office, in my view. He does not have the courage to challenge things that are wrong.

Why am I not going to support this? It is not because I do not support Senator Farnham’s original idea, I do, though I ask the question, how many in this Assembly could do that job, 4 or 5, because most - and I mean that as no offence to any particular Member - have not got the courage and the conviction to stand up, as I do, so often.

But this is just a fob, it is a fudge. It is another one of the Chief Minister’s cop-outs. Why did we have a Minister for External Relations when we have not even got a Minister for Children? Far more important. Why have we not got a Minister for Justice? Far more important than giving someone a title to do a job that, let us be honest, Senator Ozouf has been doing a pretty good job before we even had this Assistant External Affairs Minister.

I say to Members, do not support this, force the Chief Minister to come back with something that is fit for the 21st century. Make him come back with something which will provide justice for all.

I think it was Deputy Le Fondré who today said when would justice purely relate to how much money people have got? Well, that happens all the time in Jersey. Many of us in St. Helier see constituents. If they cannot afford to pay for lawyers and they get legal aid, they really may as well give up, because you will get a lawyer who is generally completely not interested or they are so young and inexperienced, it will probably do more harm to your case. If you are in the middle, you are even worse.

Some people would say the Jersey system is bent. I do not say it is bent, because if you imply that, then you think it could be put back into shape.

The Jersey justice system needs a full Turks and Caicos style intervention by the U.K.

We need the U.K. Minister for Justice to fulfil his mandate.

We need the Lieutenant Governor to fulfil the powers that he has got - and I like this Lieutenant Governor, I have had some lengthy conversations with him - but if he does not step in when he should, then what are we paying a great deal of money for?

We need a Minister for Justice, but I think it should be appointed from the U.K. because it is entrenched here, it is so entwined, political power with judicial power, that it cannot be done safely otherwise.

Now I think I will sit down and let our former Chief Judge attack me, as he does so often.



Links

Voice for Children blog has reported the speech, including audio, here.

The comments on that blog post are well worth a read

The full debate in the States is also worth a read.

You can listen to the speech on Youtube, and it will give you an idea of its passion, but it is an irritating recording, and so it is probably best read.

You can get an extended summary of the court case here.




The original post is here where you can leave a comment.