Saturday, December 05, 2015
In 2000 Graham Power was recruited from the Scottish Police to take over as Jersey’s Chief of Police. This was against a background where the Jersey administration knew there was a problem both within the police force and in policing on the Island.
Jersey is a small tight community ruled by a few families and there can be a general resentment of people or ideas imported from other jurisdictions. Scotland, however, has its own legal system distinct from that of England and Wales and this was a factor in Power’s favour. It was expected that he would be adaptable and sensitive to the local environment, at least up to a point.
When Power felt he needed a strong Deputy, in 2002, he recruited Lenny Harper, who was then with the Scottish Force, but who had served in the London Met and the Northern Ireland RUC.
The pair were in the process of cleaning up the Jersey scene when the child abuse scandal broke in 2007. At first the police operation (Rectangle) was covert. The rationale was to get it established without political interference and then launch it in public with such a high profile that it would have its own momentum and in this way not be subject to political interference. The fear of political interference came from Jersey being a small community where the concept of the rule of law was tempered by kinship and proximity. There was also a fear, in this case, that many prominent people could ultimately be found wanting in the area of child protection.
To cut a long story short, the island administration finally came to the conclusion that the high profile investigation, accompanied by some riveting, if not entirely evidence based publicity, was shafting the island’s reputation internationally. This was a serious problem as Jersey was highly reliant on its financial sector, effectively a tax haven.
Within a fairly short space of time, the Health Minister who had responsibility for child protection and who was not only supportive of the police investigation but had carried out his own investigation, was dumped. The Home Affairs Minister, also supportive of the police, resigned under pressure, to be replaced by more pliant successors. The Deputy Police Chief (Harper) retired in the normal course but was subject to a concerted campaign of maligning by the administration. And finally the Police Chief (Power) was himself suspended from duty in a rushed, botched and illegal operation by the administration. Following all this, the police operation was shut down and life appeared to have returned to normal.
But the thing just won’t go away. Following pressure from a variety of sources within Jersey, and particularly a few parliamentarians and a group of bloggers who just wouldn’t let go, a public inquiry into child abuse by State run institutions was eventually set up.
Effectively, this was to determine (i) the extent of child abuse that occurred since the end of WWII (ii) who had been responsible (iii) if the State’s response had been adequate, and free from political interference and coverup and (iv) what should be done next.
In its first phase the inquiry, apart from scoping its work, heard from survivors of child sex abuse. In its present phase it is examining the role of those on the State side with responsibility for this area. And that is where the former Police Chief comes in. He has just given his oral testimony, over a day and a half, and this, along with some 1,200 pages of background documentation which he submitted to the inquiry, is now online.
I have just finished reading that material and I am setting out below some of the points that struck me as particularly interesting.
For those who may wish to go directly to the source, documentation it is available online as follows: documentation submitted by Power (PDF 67MB); day one transcript (PDF 580KB); day two transcript (PDF 643KB).
Power’s submission consists of
(i) a personal statement on oath. This is 181 pages long and is a serious indictment of the administration.
(ii) a further 1,026 pages of backup documents, some of which are particularly revealing:
- Decision by Complaints Board on request for dates of suspension letters.
This may sound trivial but it shows the lengths to which the régime will go in an attempt to protect its own wrong doings. It contains blatantly ridiculous reasons for refusing access to the information sought. It may, however, have attained one of its goals, ie obstructive delay. I have looked at this in more detail under the suspension heading further down this post.
- Report of the Wiltshire Constabulary on the conduct of the child abuse operation (Operation Rectangle).
This report was commissioned by the Jersey administration to provide the basis for disciplinary action against Power. It is a flawed report which judges Power (and Harper) against criteria which apply to the police in England and Wales, but not in Scotland, and particularly not in Jersey. It is therefore very critical of both CO Power and DCO/SIO Harper. Power is seen as weak and not properly supervising Harper. Harper is seen as headstrong and resisting appropriate oversight and customary checks and balances. The report accuses them of a lack of strategy for dealing with the evolving inquiry, sloppy paperwork, and their risking jeopardising upcoming court cases by leaving the States of Jersey Police open to accusations of abuse of process, where their “sensationalist” publicity could preclude a fair trial.Presentation of the report faced the authorities with a dilemma. If they chose to act on it and further discipline Power, they were admitting that English standards and procedures were all applicable in Jersey. If they chose not to act on it they were exposing its flawed terms of reference and the waste of £1m on a useless report. So with a customary Jersey sleight of hand, they just published a slightly redacted version and simply indicted Power in the court of public opinion.This is now the first time that the unredacted version is published. You can get an idea of the original redactions here. I should clarify that I am only talking here about the one 383 page summary report, a redacted version of which was published by the Jersey authorities, and the unredacted version of the same report included in Graham Power’s documentation publishd by the Inquiry. I understand that the full documentation of the Wiltshire Report would fill the boot of a family car and that the extent to which the summary report reflects the voluminous evidence is hotly contested.
- Power’s interim statement to the Inquiry by the Wiltshire Constabulary
When the authorities refused Power legal representation for what was expected to be a week long interview with Wiltshire, he chose, as was his right, to confine himself to a long written statement in which he contests points being put to him arising from the statements of other witnesses. While this statement preceded the drafting of the final report it is effectively a critique of the report itself. A further and more pointed critique is contained in an interview with Power by the Voice for Children blog. Power’s statement to Wiltshire was published on Stuart Syvret’s blog and leaked to the BBC in Jersey. However, the broadcaster has not referred to it to this day.
- Transcripts of phone calls
These were only made available to Power on his way into the Inquiry and he was then quizzed on them. These are very confusing and even the Inquiry’s lawyer seemed at a loss in trying to interpret them.
To follow the story it is important to clearly distinguish between two things.
The first is Power’s suspension from duty. This is a basis for criticising the régime and Power is the victim here.
The second is the conduct of Operation Rectangle itself, which shows up shortcomings by the state administration but has also led to criticism of the roles of Power and Harper.
These are dealt with separately below, insofar as it is possible to separate them, and all this is in the context of Power’s appearance before the Inquiry.
On 12 November 2008, Power was called into his office by his Minister (Andrew Lewis) and in the presence of the Chief Executive (Bill Ogley – head of the Civil Service) served with (draft) letters of suspension and told he had an hour to “consider his position”. He was informed of a letter written to the Minister by Power’s deputy (David Warcup) which, largely on the basis of a review report from the London Met, said he had mishandled Operation Rectangle.
Power took it that he was being given an opportunity to go quietly but he refused and objected to what was being done and the way it was being done. This seemed to have surprised those present and they were ill-prepared to deal with this turn of events. In the event Power was suspended (on full pay) on the spot.
When Power joined the Jersey police he was accountable to the Home Affairs Committee, under the committee system which was the form of government then in operation in Jersey. This was subsequently replaced by Ministerial government and he was now accountable to a single person, the Minister for Home Affairs. And there was no appeal mechanism against the Minister’s decision. The administration were careful to suspend him on full pay as otherwise it would be construed as a dismissal and would have to be got through the Jersey parliament.
Despite the fact that proper procedure had not been observed on the day, Power felt there was even more to this kangaroo court than appeared and he subsequently asked for a load of information, including the dates on which the various letters which had been produced at the meeting had first been drafted. The point here was that the grounds for his suspension were a letter from Power’s deputy which the Minister had received only the previous evening and which the Minister claimed was the sole factor leading to the suspension. Power eventually succeeded in determining that two of the three letters had actually been drafted three days earlier. And the London Met report was subsequently withdrawn as it was confidential to the force and specified not to be used for any disciplinary purpose. The Met subsequently confirmed that it had not criticised Power or Harper in the report.
So, all in all a very serious abuse of process. This abuse was subsequently compounded by the Minister for Home Affairs when he scuttled Powers Judicial Review of the original decision by a masterful sleight of hand which should not have been allowed. He confirmed the suspension, but this time surrounded by minimal legal hocus pocus, and this made the original (illegal) suspension decision obsolete and not subject to judicial review. At every turn the administration dragged out its dealings with Power in the hope of keeping him at bay until his official retirement in 2010. It succeeded in this.
So what has all this to do with child abuse and why is Power testifying to the Inquiry? Well, for one thing, the whole suspension process shows very clearly the lengths the administration will go to in order to cover its tracks when it makes a mistake or does something illegal.
This is really well illustrated in the attempt by the administration not to reveal the dates of the original drafts of the letters mentioned above. I suppose that this aspect appealed to me because it was a saga in an attempt to get access to information. I have operated Freedom of Information legislation within the Irish administration and the antics of the Jersey administration in this one were really something to behold. Jersey did not have FOI legislation at this time but there was a code for access to information which more or less amounted to the same thing.
After going unsuccessfully through a number of hoops Power ended up at the States of Jersey Complaints Board (on administrative decisions) which, to give them their due, found resoundingly in his favour. But what really caught my fancy was the Minister’s varied and ridiculous reasons advanced for refusing access.
In the first place he claimed that the information was not information in the sense covered by the code because it was on a computer. Then, to give it to Power it would have to be transcribed and that would then be different from the original, something newly created, and which would not be covered by the code. And if that failed the Minister was claiming that it was legally privileged. And remember this was effectively metadata relating to documents in Power’s possession and it was also germane to his (original) judicial review. When the Complaints Board had some difficulty understanding the legal privilege objection, the Minister explained that the the time intervals involved could possibly have allowed Power to figure whether legal advice had been obtained or not. Now Power was only looking for three specific dates, and nothing more. As I said he got them in the end and they were devastatingly significant.
The Jersey administration had tied itself up in legal knots along the way, with the Minister even abusing the concept of corporation sole to avoid overturning the original suspension decision, but that is sort of another story.
The reason I’m labouring the above story is that it is such a clear example of the lengths the administration went to to cover up its wrong doing. If it does it for this what will it not do it for?
While the Complaints Board’s report is included in the documentation submitted by Power it was not specifically referred to at the oral hearing. I thought that a pity as its message is so clear.
Operation Rectangle must have scared the living daylights out of a lot of people in the upper echelons of the administration. They had succeeded in sacking the Health Minister because he was critical of the level of child protection on the island and now they were faced with a full blown police investigation into child abuse which was attracting international attention.
Their instincts would have been to close down the inquiry as quickly as possible, but they were now hoisted on their own pétard. They had brought in two policemen from the “mainland” to clean up the place and they were now faced with the same two policemen who were determined to see this investigation through no matter whose boat was rocked.
This led to serious tension between the police and the rest of the administration, particularly the AG and the lawyers. Power was the Chief of Police and Harper the Senior Investigating Officer for Operation Retangle. They divided their tasks with Power fending off political and other interference and Harper ploughing away at the investigation.
Harper was seen by some in the administration as indulging in unnecessarily sensationalist publicity involving possible human remains and homicides. Harper felt he needed to keep the investigation in the public eye to reassure survivors who were coming forward. He felt he was also attempting to pre-empt leaks to the press. The whole situation was very murky and at times it seemed the operation was spinning out of control.
In the heel of the hunt Harper retired in the normal course and Power was illegally suspended. Their replacements, who had not distinguished themselves, scarpered when the going subsequently got rough, and by then the operation had been quietly closed down.
The current Inquiry is probably the last chance of vindication for Power and Harper but the chances of another police operation are slim, and there are even doubts about the bona fides of the current inquiry which has been sloppy and unprofessional in many respects. It may turn out that its only long term benefit will be the publication of documentation and the hearing of witnesses, not in itself a small matter, but way short of many people’s expectations of closure for the survivors and justice for the perpetrators.
In any event, at this stage of the proceedings Power’s sworn statement (pages 1-181 of his 67MB submission) is well worth reading in full.
Power at the Inquiry
I have only read a few of the statements submitted to the inquiry, but having read them and then followed the related transcripts, I am struck by the lack of focus in the oral hearings. I know that the oral hearing is not a cross examination strictly speaking. The Inquiry lawyer is supposed to be helping the witness present relevant material from their statements and endeavouring to test this for consistency.
But my strong impression in the cases of Bob Hill and Graham Power is that the lawyers “interrogation” of the witness simply serves to dilute their contribution. In Hill’s case he was quizzed on documents he hadn’t seen and the lawyer was jumping all over the place. In Power’s case, as I mentioned, there was no following up on the access to information angle which would have encapsulated the stance of the administration and seriously undermined their overall credibility. And Power was also quizzed on confusing documentation which he had not had a chance to consider in advance.
Equally a major revelation about missing files in the statement from Trevor Pitman was not followed up. There is also an impression that witnesses are being rushed through and boxes being ticked.
None of this bodes well for a good result from this inquiry.
Some revelations in passing
There have been some further interesting points arising out of Power’s submission.
As Minister for Home Affairs and Power’s political boss, so to speak, Wendy Kinnard had been very supportive of Operation Rectangle. Power reveals, however, that she was being bullied by her male ministerial colleagues, and at one point she relinquished her responsibility for Operation Rectangle to her more pliant deputy Andrew Lewis. This was followed sometime later by her resignation as Minister and Lewis taking over just as Power was about to be suspended.
The unredacted version of Wiltshire in Power’s documentation suggests that she relinquished control of the operation because she had a personal interest in the case. While this is revealing it poses more questions than it answers. No doubt it will provoke speculation over the next while and we may learn a little more in response to this. It was generally felt that her ultimate resignation resulted from a refusal to become involved in Power’s illegal suspension but other more mundane reasons have been speculated on. She has so far refused to comment on any of this.
The inquiry has redacted some of the submitted statements before publication. They have done this in an unbelievably clumsy and incompetent fashion. I have seen this in the case of both Hill’s and Power’s statements.
The most tantalising and amusing redaction has been of the identity of person 737 in Power’s statement. This person was suspected of sexual assaults on adult females but, as far as is known, was not arrested or charged. The extracts below, reproduced from the statement, do not leave anyone with a knowledge of Jersey in any doubt about the identity of the person in question. Now if the island had more than one newspaper, it might be a different matter entirely.
I am very heartened to think that the Inquiry is reading my blog. They need all the help they can get.
You will see, above, that I pointed out significant deficiencies in their original redactions of material relating to Person 737, but I stopped short of naming him myself.
Well, the Inquiry have revisited this material and, inter alia, redacted the reference to the newspaper which had been a dead giveaway.
The final paragraph of the above extracts had not been redacted previously and it is simply Graham Power’s guess at who might have been behind the political campaign against him. It is not solely linked to the activities of Person 737. Nevertheless, the Inquiry have made an unnecessary redaction by overstamping John Averty’s name with their 737 stamp, thus definitively letting the cat out of the bag. Headless chickens.
The latest additional redactions, in the current Inquiry online documentation, are highlighted in the above extracts.
I expect, however, that the additional damage attributable purely to the overstamping itself may be mitigated by Advocate Sinel’s naming of John Averty at a conference on offshore financial centres on the mainland last year.
While I’m at it I should draw attention to something else I noticed in the course of my update.
Graham Power’s hearing was on 5 November 2015 (Day 107) and the online documentation is filed under that day. His statement appeared online on 26/27 November 2015 some three weeks later, which is par for the course. The current online index (extract below) suggests that the latest redaction was on 9 December 2015, but internal document evidence says that the current document was created/modified on 18 February 2016.
This suggests that the indicator in the index is updated manually and not by the system so it cannot be trusted at all. This is just another example of the sloppiness of this abysmal website.
End of Update
Brian Moore, Chief Constable, Wiltshire
The Wiltshire report, referred to above, has played a big role in demonising Power and Harper, so I thought you might like to see Power’s own view of this flawed report. It is not contained in his statement or oral contribution to the Inquiry. It is taken from an interview with Power by the Voice for Children blog and dates from June 2012.
Moore was an “absentee investigator” if there ever was one. He never met with me and he even planned to have the disciplinary interviews conducted by subordinates. He did not get the basics right at the beginning. He accepted terms of reference which invited him to assess my conduct against the rules which apply in England and Wales (which were incorrectly described as the “UK”). At an early stage I pointed out that these rules did not even apply to Scotland, let alone Jersey, and that I had a clear political mandate to disregard any UK guidelines which were not consistent with local practice. I also drew attention to the fact that the political mandate not to apply UK guidelines in Jersey had been re-enforced by the advice of the Attorney General of the time (now the Deputy Bailiff William Bailhache) who would be called as a defence witness should the matter ever come to a hearing. But Moore carried on regardless without ever resolving that contradiction. In the end he could only do his report and ask an English Lawyer what disciplinary offences would apply to an English Chief operating under English rules. He then said that it was up to the Jersey authorities to decide whether to apply the same reasoning locally. This was an awkward problem for the Jersey Authorities. If they decided that English Guidelines did not apply in Jersey then the whole case collapsed. However, if they decided that English guidelines did apply then those guidelines would then become the “bible” for policing the Island and 800 years of policing tradition would go out of the window. This dilemma presented quite a problem. In the end Ministers dealt with this in the time honored way. They put off making a decision until it was too late anyway. That is after all “the Jersey Way”. What a waste. An enquiry built on sand. No matter how much work is done, if the foundations are not sound then the whole thing falls over. Having accepted wide ranging terms of reference Moore compounded his error by authorizing “fishing expeditions” which involved trawling through every email I had sent and every document I had created. Interviews were conducted with people I worked with 20 years ago, asking them to remember something, anything, that could stick. By any standard this was foolish, wasteful, but also contemptible. A more professional approach would have involved a tight “ring fenced” enquiry focusing on specific relevant issues and bound by clear timescales and budgets. This was never done, and in consequence the investigation took on a life of its own, perpetuating one line of enquiry after another until the original purpose became lost in the mass of data. He also failed to get a grip of the timescales and the spending behavior of his own staff whose apparent determination to leave no expense unclaimed provided a welcome boost to the local hotel and hospitality industry, but did nothing for law enforcement. Perhaps he could not believe his luck that so much Jersey money was being siphoned off into his Force accounts. In all probability he will have made good use of it for the benefit of the citizens of Wiltshire. The benefit to the citizens of Jersey is less apparent. I expect that he will have his excuses but the result speaks for itself. Over £1m and nearly two years spent on an enquiry with no result. And he was the Investigating Officer. Not “overseeing” the enquiry, not the person with executive responsibility, he was the named person in charge. Nobody with their name on the failed Wiltshire enquiry should have the nerve to criticise anyone else’s conduct of any enquiry ever. They have forfeited their right to criticise anyone else. They have allowed themselves to be drawn into a political vendetta, they have wasted over a million pounds, and they have produced a flawed report when they knew it was too late to do anything with it.