Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Bloggers and citizens meet Justice Select Committee MP's to press urgent UK assistance in development of island democracy

The need for more active intervention and scrutiny by the Ministry of Justice in effecting the implementation of democracy in Jersey was a point made forcefully by islanders and bloggers at a press conference yesterday, held by the Justice Select Committee enquiring into the relationship between Jersey and the UK following its earlier Report “Crown Dependencies: developments since 2010”.

The event was significant in that this was the first time that citizens and bloggers had been afforded the opportunity to meet with the Committee, represented by a visiting delegation of MP’s Sir Alan Beith (Liberal Democrat) (Chair), Elfyn Llywd (Plaid Cymru) and Nick du Bois (Conservative).

The Committee has been receiving written evidence from the public, however the feeling is that meeting only government officials in the Crown Dependencies provides them with a very select view of what actually goes on in the islands. One example suffices; as part of their short visit the three MP’s had been wined and dined the previous evening at the exclusive Atlantic Hotel by the Chief Minister Ian Gorst. We can surely assume  the small talk was one of reassurance of ever improving bureaucratic relations between island government and Ministry of Justice.

That morning the Chief Minister was interviewed on BBC Radio Jersey regarding the visit, but no reference was made to the submissions by islanders to the enquiry. The governments of the three islands have all made submissions and my own can be read here. It is enlightening to read the submissions from residents in the Isle of Man complaining about the absence of “good” government and failures in the judicial system; all issues with which those living in Jersey share and can readily understand. Submissions already made can be read on the Committee web site and more will, we are told, be added soon; scroll down to the page bottom and open "Written evidence".

"Banjo" Press Conference

The press conference was arranged for 2.30pm in Banjo restaurant, the recently refurbished Victoria Club in Beresford Street. The other island media had also been afforded 15 minutes to interview the MP’s and we followed them last. The event was carefully controlled by officials from the Jersey government and Committee staff. Deputy Montfort Tadier, Mike Dun and I arrived, waited in a cubby hole beneath the stairs, before being ushered up to a room on the first floor by civil servants, who dutifully flickered the lights on the chandelier to indicate the allotted time had passed. Our presence before the Committee was met with tolerance if not enthusiasm. At least it was an important beginning and we are not alone as others in the British islands demand reforms.

 Justice Select Committee MP’s Sir Alan Beith, Elfyn Llywd and Nick du Bois in discussion with Jersey Bloggers Deputy Montfort Tadier, Mike Dun and Nick Le Cornu

Following the press conference the MP’s traveled by taxi from Banjo the La Société Jersiaise Member’s room, where they met with around 17 States Members for a further 45 minutes of questions and answers.

A longing for democratic reforms and overdue modernisation

The point that comes out of the meeting is the deep reluctance of the UK government to intervene directly and the high threshold for doing so.  As the Committee notes in their Report:

...independence and powers of self determination... [are] only to be set aside… in the most serious circumstances, such as a fundamental breakdown in public order or the rule of law, endemic corruption in the government or judiciary or other extreme circumstances.”
subject to the caveat,

… in very small jurisdictions, it is possible for the existence of very significant economic, legal or political power to skew the operation of democratic government…[and] the Ministry of Justice should remain vigilant.”
this is because they consider,

"the Crown Dependencies are democratic, self governing communities with free media and open debate"

The "Sark Model" of democratic reform

All the Crown Dependencies have recently been under pressure to accept the requirements imposed by the British government from the USA in the form of FATCA and the UK’s own “child of FATCA”, as well as changes to financial reporting following the G8 meeting in Northern Ireland, so they are most certainly told what to do, albeit with a polite public request to maintain the forms of etiquette.

The “Sark model” is clearly one of active intervention by the UK government to force the pace of democratic change in the face of stony reaction. It follows that such active engagement to break the reluctance of “feudal” elites and restructuring allows democracy the change to establish and grow. The frustrations of those seeking democratic change in Jersey is apparent, especially in a system that lacks political parties and structured political debate. We are not alone however, as the evidence submitted by islanders in the other UK Dependencies clearly show.

With the States of Jersey due to debate next month the legislation embodying Option B in the April Referendum, that vigilence of the Ministry of Justice to which the Select Committee refers, will be essential were the "Great Gerrymander" ever to be passed and presented for Privy Council approval, by reminding local elites that democratic principles embodied in the Venice Commission are not mere niceties to be ignored.


  1. Interesting video, and indeed the fact that you were granted an audience.

    Could it be however that they felt safe to politely 'take on board' your concerns because they were already familiar with submissions and appeals made by others to the UK government where spurious claims about the 'breakdown of law' and 'endemic corruption' have been made ?

    Perhaps they knew what was coming (albeit presented in a more cogent form), and that, because those previous concerns had been exaggerated, they also know it is not within their remit to have to take any action ?

    Essentially a 'boy who cried wolf' situation ? (albeit a different 'boy')

    1. My essential and final point to the Committee was that the elites are reluctant to carry out their duty and democratise the electoral system in particular and institutions in general. They fear a loss of control.

      The Committee may seek to hide behind the self limiting remit but how will they justify no comment if the Ministry of Justice and Privy Council pass Option B ("the Great Gerrymander")and allows malaportionment of constituencies and a reformed States that under-represents the urban interest and St Helier in particular, in the face of the Venice Commission guidelines?

      Whether certain individuals are or are not "crying wolf" is beside the point, the need for long overdue democratic reforms of the constitution remain. The Clothier and Carswell reports have to date been ignored by the States and by the elites, frightened as they are of any change, the outcomes of which are unpredictable.

      We need coordinated action, a collective voice for change, rather than lone wolves howling in the night of despair. That would be a lot more credible.

  2. Your submission starts with "There was an 84% (eight four per cent) voter abstention in the 2013 referendum. 26% (twenty six per cent) voted"

    Is that right?

    1. There was a 74% voter abstention islandwide in the April Referendum. St Helier had a 16.71% turnout and District 1 had 14.63%.

      So, around 84% of St Helier did not vote. Yet of those that did, by two to one they voted for Option A.

      The social interests in St Helier recognise they would be grosssly under represented if Option B were to be implimented.

  3. “...independence and powers of self determination... [are] only to be set aside… in the most serious circumstances"
    Is the fact that their is a fudemental breakdown in the Rule of Law, endemic corruption within the government and endemic corruption within the Judiciary of the Jersey states, serious circumstances !!

    What hope does one have when the Ministry of Justice just ignores complaints from Jersey (British) citizens and the Justice Select Committee will not hear from the people that is affected by such violations

  4. 'Endemic corruption'? Check....

  5. Brilliant. But will they listen? ? ? The UK Select Committee, purely cosmetic IMO- they couldnt care two hoots.

  6. St Helier Resident26 June 2013 at 11:45

    Give it up Nick, you will never be elected...

    1. Leadership is about going first and setting an example for others.

  7. Ever get the feeling a certain ex-politician has lead a lot of people up the garden path with his verbose promises of mythical London Court cases and visits to the ECHR ? It would seem that judicial forces in the UK are quite aware of the veracity of the man's claims.

    Is this why he was not invited to participate in your meeting with m'learned friends ?

    1. The man in the mask? You have missed the point. Better listen again as to the main concerns raised.

  8. I was someone confused by one of the panel members when he appeared to dismiss the word "perception", as though that was of no importance, surely this person should we well acquainted with the significance of "perception".

    One question they were not asked:-

    If the importance of having the Bailiff as Speaker for the States is not significant (ie: what difference would it make), surely for the sake of removing any "perception" of conflicts of interest and with the benefit of saving on large fees, why do they insist that the Bailiff stays? I guess I am trying to use the reverse point put across by one of the panel, although he sounded as if he was defending the status quo.

  9. Breakdown in rule of law? .....check.

    Anon@15.18 - Of course they know about the ex-politician. Their ears would have informed the UK Select team. And just to be sure, the local elite will have primed them before they came, and reminded them again on arrival. A nice meal, a few funny handshakes here and there- a bit of cash to keep them sweet- all paid for by the tax payer or from the confiscation fund. Tick box- everything is rosy in Jersey. Job done.

  10. Jersey will feature in the Sunday Express newspaper tomorrow. Be sure to buy a copy.

  11. On institutionalised corruption; can someone do a 'link' for this please :


    "AS another storm swirled around Scotland Yard last week, sucking in officers over alleged secret smear operations against Stephen Lawrence’s family, three MPs boarded a plane for the Channel Island haven of Jersey."

    Continues into a good article but is quite short and limited and does not even mention the constructive dismissal of the corruption and child abuse fighting Police Chief Graham Power and his replacement with another plastic pet-copper on a leash.
    "Sniff here, No- don't dig there, Wee here, GOOD BOY! have a biscuit."

    There is a comments section for the Sunday Express story if people wish to register on the site. It might be worth submitting links to some of the good blog postings from the past that will fill in some of the blanks that the article did not have time for.

  12. Well the meeting with the men from England was a waste of time. Should have given real examples of just how the courts are corrupt like with the Pitman's case. Should have highlighted the case of G.Power etc to show just how the island is run by a few crooks and give examples of cover ups that they just did not want to investigate and still put obstacles in the way when ever they can. Tell it as it is!

  13. Mike Dun writes for the historic record...
    This meeting took place because the MPs had written (to Mike Dun) that they were to hold a Press Conference in Jersey.
    I responded with a request that Bloggers should be allowed to attend and the further answer was that I was invited as a Blogger to meet the MPs for 15 minutes after the Press Conference.
    Nick then wrote for an invitation as a Blogger and Deputy Tadier also was allowed to attend as a Blogger. I had assumed that the meting would be conducted as a briefing by the MPs and that they would do most of the talking and explain their purposes etc. In fact, as the video shows
    we the Bloggers had to show the initiative and the MPs said very little. If we had known about the format beforehand we would have prepared accordingly...