Time for serious questions to be asked of the police

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The first two are the women who, having undergone what to most of us is unimaginable suffering and torment as children, were forced to relive their ordeals in the Royal Court – one last month and the other last week.

I say forced to relive their ordeals because had Claude James Donnelly had the basic decency to admit the rapes and indecent assaults that he committed on these women when they were children, they and those around them would have been spared the pain and distress that must inevitably accompany giving evidence and being cross-examined in such circumstances.

The fact that Donnelly chose not to spare them tells me all I want to know about the man. The fact that these two women chose to relive their pain and suffering by having the courage to give evidence in the Royal Court speaks volumes about them and they deserve our thanks as much as their assailant merits our contempt.

As far as he is concerned, throwing the key away wouldn’t be anywhere near enough punishment.

The third person to whom thanks are due is Ian Le Marquand, a man who is perhaps so slight in stature that sticking out in a crowd is not a term usually associated with the poll-topping Senator who is now Home Affairs Minister.

I wonder how many of that lot in the Big House would have done what he did and made public the fact that the States police had launched what was code named Operation Blast which involved keeping dossiers on all 53 elected States Members?

I’d hazard a guess that while he might not have been the only one, he would certainly have been in a minority. Indeed, if you look at what’s been swept under the carpet over the years, I reckon that the majority would have said something along the lines of ‘There’ll be hell to pay if this gets out’ or words to that effect.

Of course, all that does absolutely nothing in terms of the public (and probably all our elected representatives) not only not having a clue that these dossiers existed, but not knowing either who authorised them and, perhaps most important, for what purpose they have been kept.

Reading Senator Le Marquand’s statement last week, I was reminded of Anthony Summers’ quite extraordinary biography of J Edgar Hoover, the first and most (in)famous director of the FBI, who abused his office to such an extent by using its staff to gather information on influential American politicians that almost every US president under whom Hoover served was afraid to sack him, despite many of them declaring their intention to do so.

Incidentally, and perhaps not surprisingly, reference to Hoover has been made in the online comments on this story, with one comment stating that Hoover ordered his files to be shredded on his retirement. Actually, Hoover died while still in office – no one could sack him, it seemed – so the shredding on retirement could not have happened.

Quite where keeping secret dossiers on politicians fits in with the function of policing in Jersey – the maintenance of the Queen’s Peace, the prevention of crime and the detection of offenders and that’s it – is a puzzle, but that makes the public inquiry which has already been called for even more urgent.

That inquiry must be held, not only to establish who authorised the creation of Operation Blast and whether there was any non-police involvement in it, but also to allay the very real fears which have been expressed by a lot of people for some time that we have (or have had) a police force which was out of control.

Senator Le Marquand hinted at that when responding to questions after his statement last week when he said that he was not aware of any political authority setting up the creation of the dossiers but added that even if there was, he would consider it improper.

Indeed, the more one reads what was said in the Big House last Tuesday, the more one tends to believe that this smacks of a fishing expedition that got badly out of hand.

Quite frankly, I am not as interested in what information the boys and girls in blue have gathered about our elected representatives as I am about why they actually gathered it. That is why a full States committee of inquiry must be agreed.

If my memory of others that have been held is correct, the hearings are in public, witnesses can be forced to attend and answer questions, documents demanded, and failure to comply or co-operate can lead to some pretty severe punishments.

While they are about it, the inquiry could also ask why the Crown Officers Department, who became aware of the dossiers on 4 April, took almost four weeks to tell the Home Affairs Minister, the man with political responsibility for the States police.

Additionally, why did it take until the first week in June for formal written confirmation about the dossiers’ existence to come from the States police, and why did it take a further fortnight for all that to be put into the public domain?

As my old granny used to say when my sister and I were in trouble, someone’s got some explaining to do.

AND finally … To the Guernseyman who took my comments of last week seriously about us wanting their mineral rights in exchange for some coloured glass and a few beads – I was only joking. We know you’ve got nothing worth having over there, so we’ll have the sea bed in the Great Russell for tidal power instead.

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