Justice must be seen to be done

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From Senator Stuart Syvret.

IN her letter of 18 August, Ruth Nelson seeks enlightenment concerning the UK’s role in the administration of justice in Jersey.

Mrs Nelson assumes our Island to be a democracy; it is – but only in the very loosest of senses. But that is by-the-by. The fundamental mistake she makes is in assuming that democracy and the good administration of justice are one and the same thing. They are not.

Mrs Nelson then goes on to assert that I have no mandate to be speaking with UK MPs. Wrong again, I’m afraid. I have a very unambiguous mandate to represent my constituents. In this context, the constituents I am representing happen to be abuse survivors, whose age-range runs from teenagers to people in their 70s.

When one has – as I have – had people who are grandmothers telephoning me in tears at having gone through the trauma of revisiting the abuses they suffered in order to give police statements – only to see justice being obstructed by Jersey’s ‘old boys’ network’ – both the mandate and the need to represent such people becomes very clear; very clear indeed.

Mrs Nelson also makes the mistake of relying on the Jersey Evening Post for her information. Austin Mitchell, MP, is not a party to the legal action which has been initiated. The action is, in fact, being taken by the Liberal-Democrat MP, John Hemming, and I.

To get to the heart of the matter, what a majority of States Members may think concerning justice for abuse survivors is, frankly, a complete irrelevancy.

Politicians operate in the political sphere and justice is administered in the realm of the courts. And as history has proven, there is a very good reason why the partisan world of politics has to be separated from the objective, fact-based administration of justice. Most respectable democracies recognised the need for ‘checks and balances’ a very long time ago, and embraced the concept of a separation of powers.

We in Jersey have no such separation, a state of affairs which would be dubious at the best of times. But when we are dealing with something as grave as decades of largely concealed child abuse, it is catastrophic. Our judiciary is led by the Bailiff – a man who has shown himself to be biased by his claim that ‘the real scandal’ was the bad publicity for Jersey. And our prosecution service is led by his brother, the Attorney General, a man who advises the Council of Ministers on such matters as minimising insurance claims against the States, and who has had papers from the police which seek the extradition of suspects sat on his desk for nearly four months.

There is a fundamental foundation stone of the good administration of justice – which is that justice must not only be done, it must also be seen to be done. No respectable or credible judicial processes can admit even the merest suspicion of bias or of a conflict of interest.

The test that all respectable judicial proceedings must pass is ‘the appearance of objectivity test’. For the reasons described above, neither our judiciary nor our prosecution service, under the leadership of these two individuals, can remotely hope to meet that test.

That is certainly how things appear to those survivors who have discussed the matter with me. So, sadly, when faced with an inflexible determination on the part of our authorities to fly in the face of all established jurisprudence, I am forced to seek objective justice on behalf of my constituents via London.

Some people also, perhaps, need to be reminded that our Law Officers are Crown appointees – and that the administration of justice in Jersey is carried out under the good name of the Crown. For as long as our judicial apparatus wears that cloak, it must meet the requisite standards.

Mrs Nelson objects to the ‘legal costs’ involved in the legal action. So do I, as it happens; I would far prefer that the survivors had access to the objective administration of justice, rather than having to battle for it. But the point is irrelevant so far as I am concerned. When I hear people complaining about the financial cost of achieving the catharsis this community so desperately needs, I see yet further evidence of how Jersey was able to incubate these atrocities for so long.

Moans about the cost of achieving justice are every bit as revealing and damning as those attacks on Esther Rantzen that the JEP has seen fit to print.

Esther Rantzen has done more for the safety and welfare of children than every politician in Britain combined. Her achievements are recognised and honoured nationally and internationally. She is a great human being – with more compassion and wisdom in her little finger than six decades worth of States Members could muster between them.

Mrs Nelson and others who share her views really need to begin reflecting upon how their attitude makes Jersey appear to the civilised world.

6 Raleigh Court, Raleigh Avenue,

St Helier.

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