Saturday, November 20, 2010


Who do we really remember on Remembrance Day each year – and why?
It’s all very well recognising those people who have fallen in past wars but they must have died for some purpose. We surely have a duty to remember them through our own actions - all the year round - not just for a few days in November?

This year, alongside the poppy “celebrations” it was announced that the Jersey Royal Court had found in favour of a USA based “distressed debt fund” (a so called, “vulture fund”) against the Democratic Republic of Congo (or DRC, formerly Zaire), for a mammoth $100 millions claim.

The picture attached to this posting is of a Congolese child who could well use even the smallest part of that money. It is an image we associate with so much of Africa - of the desperately poor people who live there and of their corrupt governments.

We have a responsibility for so much that happens in far away places but the practical basis of our International Finance sector is usually hidden from view or scrutiny. This extraordinary decision in favour of the US debt fund has briefly lifted the security curtain, once again, on the more dubious side of our economy. We should ask if we wear poppies and celebrate our gallant fallen in ignorance of such scandals or whether we just don’t care?
Did our “heroes” really die in order that we might exploit others and their misfortunes – all over the world?

In recent years, over 50 similar judgements have been made in various courts around the world, so Jersey’s involvement is by no means unique. The UK Government has passed temporary rules so that such debts cannot be pursued in courts there (UK Debt Relief – Developing Countries- Act) and it is becoming ever more difficult for the vulture fund managers to find any sympathetic jurisdictions prepared to hear them.
That Jersey still allows such a use of the
Royal Court
has attracted a great deal of international attention and criticism already and more is likely to follow. But it is just business so far as Jersey’s Finance leaders are concerned, and they seem to have no critical conscience in such matters. Shall any Jersey Ministers be offering a comment?
Why should this activity take place under a “Royal” banner?

Of course, it is impossible to extract the good guys from the bad ones where such huge sums of money are concerned. This case falls within the category of “dispute resolution” or “mediation” and is seen as a potentially lucrative branch of the international lawyers’ portfolio of services. It is the sort of business that Jersey seeks in the name of “diversification.”

Gillian Robertson is quoted on a  web-site of Jersey law firm “Applebys” referring to previous Jersey proceedings in this case in 2005, when the DRC government was resisting enforcement, following a Brussels court judgment. Her comments then referred to “Jersey’s legal system as a global best for a small jurisdiction.”

In Jersey, the law firm of Ogiers has acted for the New York based vulture fund “FG Hemisphere Associates LLC” for some years and has presumably submitted a substantial fee-note or two, for its efforts.

The case has been trawling around the world for decades in various forms – so others must have taken substantial sums in fees and charges too.
Originally, this debt arose in 1980 when Yugoslav company “Energoinvest” contracted to build a huge hydro-electric dam and electricity distribution system, but the Congolese government defaulted on re-payments.
In 2004 the matter went to arbitration in Switzerland and the debt of $24millions plus interest was assigned (sold) to the New York fund as a speculative venture.
In 2008, the fund tried to achieve settlement through the South African courts but failed, even though the court had halted the sale of electricity from Congo to South Africa in an attempt to secure payment to the US vulture.

By the time the case reached Hong Kong, the debt had grown to over $100 millions and the “signing bonus” from a deal between the DRC’s $66 billions minerals industry with China was the attraction. The China Railway Group – a Chinese State owned business – had agreed to invest in the DRC but the Hong Kong court was reluctant to rule and its law was unclear. The DRC government claimed “sovereign immunity” but the fund received a favourable judgment against the Chinese company which could not be enforced - so the case next appeared in Jersey.

The aim of the vulture fund is to make a claim on assets or funds arising from businesses with DRC government connections. In Jersey it was a deal connected with the largest unexploited gold-field in Africa that was identified as the potential source of a financial settlement. But the
Royal Court
initially declined to interfere in case it ruined that deal.
Then in June this year, the
Jersey Court
ordered that assets of $57 millions should be frozen whilst the vulture pursued the case in the USA, because a subsidiary of OM Group Inc. – the largest producer of cobalt in the world and one of the parties involved - is based in Ohio.

At this point in the proceedings, the case had appeared on the public list of cases being heard in the Jersey court system but enquiries over many weeks at the Judicial Greffe revealed nothing. Nobody would offer any assistance or information regarding this case. Now that the matter has reached a judgement, the Greffe has helpfully released a 46 page photo-copy, which is both very interesting, and complex.
The English Judge for the 27 October hearing was (Commissioner) Howard Page Q.C. assisted by Jurats Tibbo (a former Bank manager and member of the Jersey Financial Services Commission and Bob Kerley (the former Jersey Registrar of births etc).
Page is an experienced UK commercial lawyer and judge who sits in the Jersey court quite regularly but does not live in the Island. However, he is a great fan of the Jersey system of law and its administration. He recently wrote in glowing terms supporting the contentious Jersey Crown Officers, as part of the inquiry set up to examine their roles
(chaired by another UK Judge – Lord Carswell).

The recent judgment found for the New York vulture fund and allows the  $100 millions plus debt to be collected through “Gecamines,” a Jersey registered entity that is “an organ of the State of the DRC” which must “send all its future payments” to the New York based fund. It is this decision that has shocked the decent-minded world.
Now, an appeal has been lodged and all payments, up to the value of the debt, are to be deposited with the Jersey court, pending the outcome of the appeal, but details are sparse.

In fact, this $100 millions dispute is only a tiny part of Congolese debt problems. The DRC agreed a deal to “wipe out” $8 billions of international debts in July which have been accumulated since it achieved independent, self governing status from Belgium, fifty years ago. The true extent of the debts and the related corruption can only be guessed at but it has been suggested that former President Mobuto alone stole between $4 and $10 billions before he was deposed in 1997 and fled to Morocco.

Are his billions salted away in Jersey? Does anybody give a damn if they are?

The Belgian colonial government left a legacy of debt when it departed from the Congo. The USA and many other countries, under the cover of the World Bank, IMF and suchlike, have pumped in further huge sums over the years. Not only is the country awash with potential minerals, gold, diamond, timber and oil resources but “western” governments devoted billions in propping-up Mobuto and other  friendly despots in an attempt to keep the territory non-communist or “on-side.”

Inevitably, there have been several wars too, both within the territory and with bordering ones so that the 58 million population has endured a legacy of poverty, cruelty and exploitation. The Congolese will hardly notice the latest indignity dreamed up in Jersey – but we should protest, on their behalf.

In February this year, Floribert Chebaya, the leading Human Rights campaigner in the DRC and prominent member of the “Voice for the Voiceless” group was murdered in Kinshasa. The involvement of the government or very senior officials and police is not disputed and eight policemen have been charged with his murder. Five have now been put on trial and three are still at large, but the outcome will hardly change anything for the better.

Sadly, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is not at all unusual in a corrupt commercial world. The neighbouring Republic of Congo has similar problems with debt fraud and huge sums of money vanishing into the usual complex of obscure companies or “special purpose vehicles” in the Channel Islands, the Caymans, BVI, and Anguilla, Bahamas etc.

Campaigning groups such as “Global Witness” research and publish information on the INTERNET regarding the similar debt problems of countries  including Ethiopia, Guyana, Nicaragua, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Zambia, Cameroons, Angola, Burkina Faso, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon etc

The Global Witness evidence to the UK Treasury Select Committee on Offshore Financial Centres (2008 – reported in Feb 2009 on the UK Gov website) is especially worth studying. has posted some interested internet articles on this Jersey case, in spite of difficulties in obtaining information from Jersey’s secretive administration.

The Channel Islands governments rubber-stamped the “Democratic Republic of Congo (UN) Sanctions (CI) Order 2005” which makes it an offence to release certain funds or financial assets - but whether it is, or is supposed to apply in such a case as this, is not obvious.

The New York “vulture fund” FG Hemisphere, was represented at this October hearing by Jersey lawyer Kerry Lawrence of Ogiers – the Jersey-based, international law firm with “locations” in Bahrain, the BVI, the Caymans, Hong Kong, Ireland, London and Tokyo besides Guernsey and Jersey.
Kerry Lawrence is described in glowing PR terms as “a superb litigator who focuses on trusts and commercial litigation” and is “incredibly bright”…giving….”very clear explanations of complex legal issues.” She is head of commercial litigation in the Jersey office and specialises in insolvency and tracing assets according to the Legal 500 and other web-sites’ blurb which also boasts of Ogiers’ role in pursuing this $100 millions debt from the DRC.

The Congolese government was not represented at the October Jersey hearing but Jersey Lawyer Justin Harvey-Hills of Mourant-Ozannes appeared for “La Generale des Carrieres et des Mines” (“Gecamines”), the second Respondent, and Jersey lawyer Anthony Robinson of Bedell and Cristin for “the Party Cited” – namely “Groupement pour le Traitment du Terril de Lubumbashi Ltd. (otherwise “GTL”).”

These law firms too have extensive international networks and their lawyers are described in glowing terms on several web-sites.

All this legal activity is just good business for the law firms involved. Places like Jersey are no longer just simple tax havens. Today, finance centres span the entire world through complex networks and the little domestic law firms that used to advise on purely local, island matters, a few decades ago, are now multi-millions, international businesses.

Of course, nobody seems to represent the best interests of the desperately poor child depicted on the image for this blog. Questions on the role of finance centres like Jersey are being asked ever more around the world and governments are looking at ways to curtail their activities. But who in the Jersey finance “industry” will defend the ethical standards that apply in such cases as this or will argue how such activities benefit the world?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Two centuries late - Jersey Reform Day remembered...

On 28 September 2010 the people of Jersey finally remembered the heroes  of the Jersey reformers in 1769.

Geraint Jennings gave a brief speech and many were amazed that such things could have happened in Jersey.
We hope for a permanent memorial to the brave political protesters and that 28 September might become Jersey's very own and official "REFORM DAY" with a public holiday.
Thanks to Constable Crowcroft for his support and  asking questions in the States assembly on the very day.
Inevitably, Terry Le Sueur said no holiday - no way!!!!

Monday, September 6, 2010

PROPOSITION 100 Another Jersey stitch-up in the Mathieu Alexandre tradition.

September 2010 Tom Gruchy writes :

1 Proposition 100 lodged by the Privileges and Procedures Committee is the latest spiteful and personalized attack on the rights of just a few people who operate under the “Team Voice” banner.

2 Team Voice are “bloggers,” “citizen’s media,” unpaid reporters, campaigners or lobbyists who have published three political sites for a couple of years as :

3 These three “blog” sites include written texts, recorded camcorder interviews, still pictures and cartoons and comments from the general public.
They follow in an ancient and historic tradition for political journalism using the latest available technology and daring to challenge authoritarian, smug, undemocratic or just plain silly governments.

4 These sites uniquely offer in-depth recorded interviews with politicians or others on a wide range of subjects.
Occasionally, interviews have been recorded within the States building and a few minutes of recordings from Scrutiny Panel meetings have been published. These have always been produced wholly within the existing guidelines as laid down, with the full permission of the participants and without interference through editing.

5 Team Voice has never contravened any of the rules or protocols laid down with regard to making recordings within the States Building.
Team Voice has never recorded within the States Chamber itself.

6 No other bloggers, so far as is known, have ever sought to record any interviews within the States building or to make or publish any recordings of Scrutiny Panel proceedings.

Therefore, this legislation, where it refers to “bloggers” making recordings within the States building or its environs, is based solely upon misleading information about the activities of Team Voice and is intended to discredit the reputation of Team Voice members.

7 Why the Committee should want to present such derogatory and misleading information to the States about a few Jersey citizens is not at all evident. Yet, this is just the latest attempt by a few States members, over the past eighteen months or so, to curtail Team Voice reporting activities, by any means.

8 The Committee’s motivation is all the more odd since Senator Ben Shenton, one of the most active of the Team Voice critics, has been more than happy to be interviewed on several occasions and has never complained about the published results.
Ironically, he has been exposed as a secret recorder of telephone conversations.

9 The Committee seeks to suppress the freedom of expression of Team Voice members by resorting to extraordinary, discriminatory and heavy-handed legislation thereby imposing profound and disturbing restrictions on the free speech and freedom of expression of others, for years ahead.

10 As we so often hear in other contexts – if there is no problem, why try to fix it?

11 There are thousands of bloggers on the Internet, just as there are thousands of published newspapers, journals and other media sources. No rational observer would condemn the “Times” for the content of the “Daily Sport.” Yet, for some reason the Committee seeks to tar all bloggers by the same brush and all must apparently be condemned and legislated against, because of the few strays. However, this legislation will do nothing to address any perceived problems with those bloggers who publish false information or critical comments that offend the Committee members because these rules and codes do not apply to them. They do not operate within the States building.

12 On the other hand, this legislation will not exclude any disreputable newspaper reporters, camera operators or others who happen to satisfy the “accredited media” criteria either. Thus, those BBC, Channel TV, 103, JEP, News of the World, Daily Sport, Washington Post or Timbuktu Times journalists who want to record within the States building will be welcomed, provided they claim some credibility from any outside “authority.”

That they or their parent media operation might engage in phone-tapping, concealed sound and visual recording, bribery, misreporting or any other unethical practices is not important – just so long as they can produce a scrap of paper that says “accredited.”

13 This attempt to suppress “dissident” journalism is nothing new.
A Free Press, freedom of speech and expression or imparting views to others have not been gained by journalists passively submitting to the whims of oppressive government or to those with power. Throughout history these rights have had to be fought for and the petty rules of government censorship or bureaucracy, challenged.

14 Many have given their lives or suffered imprisonment or other punishments and hardships. The likes of John Wilkes and Tom Paine are among the many thousands who resisted the oppressive rules of their day against publishing the details or engaging in discussions that governments wanted to hide or suppress. Their battles laid the very foundation for the international Human Rights obligations that have been set down and are supposed to secure these freedoms across the world today – even in Jersey.

15 It is especially significant that Jersey’s first newspaper editor and printer – Mathieu Alexandre – was prosecuted in the 1780’s by the Island’s oppressive governing, Lempriere dominated, Royal Court.
Alexandre had engaged in critical campaigning against them and was almost ruined by their subsequent criminal libel action. It was the typical retaliation of a spiteful and all-powerful government in a small community and is remarkably similar to the reaction of the Committee towards Team Voice now.

16 Alexandre’s persecution was not unique.
John Shebbeare published pamphlets and books at about the same time against the same Royal Court tyranny and he had already been imprisoned in England for his political writing and had stood in the pillory.

The Jersey dissenters of 28 September 1769 had also challenged the same Lempriere dynasty and were threatened with execution or transportation for their various activities that included the publication of pamphlets and petitions calling for major reforms of the corrupt governmental and judicial system.

John Bailhache was another Jerseyman who held Republican views that did not fit in with those of the entrenched Jersey Royalist establishment. He trained as a printer but emigrated to America in 1810, becoming a major newspaper editor, publisher and owner.
Unlike his Jersey relations and descendants he never lost any enthusiasm for a “free press” as “the only true guardian of the people’s rights and liberties.”

Abraham Le Cras was yet another great publisher and editor of reforming newspapers out of his print-shop in Hope Street, St. Helier for several decades in the nineteenth century. He too was pursued by the ultra-conservative Jersey government in the courts in an effort to silence him and he was assaulted in the street several times.

17 Le Cras, Bailhache and Alexandre, were in the historic tradition of those brave journalists prepared to lobby and campaign against the excesses of corrupt governments and to provide a forum for critical debate.

18 The expulsion of Victor Hugo from Jersey for publishing critical comments about Queen Victoria in the mid-nineteenth century probably represented the low-point of censorship in Jersey prior to the German Occupation, nearly a century later.

19 More recently, even the JEP has been known to wake occasionally from its great journalistic sleep on occasions to challenge secretive Jersey institutions. Thus, journalist Anthony Lewis bravely led a successful resistance against the Jersey Royal Court’s attempt to conceal the case of the “Qatar Slush Fund” in 2002. The sordid case revealed corruption at the highest levels of the international arms trade and was a great embarrassment to the governments of Qatar, the UK and Jersey. The public right to know was victorious and the JEP published details of the hearings but it was a rare occurrence from this newspaper though not from Jersey’s oppressive administration.

20 Two decades earlier the outcome for John Rothwell, then a young journalist with Channel TV, was not so good after he revealed details of illegal military exports via Jersey to embargoed South Africa. He was sacked.

21 The Committee’s attempt to suppress Team Voice whilst giving preferential treatment to the so called “accredited media” has to be viewed in the context of an Island where the Freedom of Information Law has been dropped from the agenda once again.

22 Proposition 100, serves as a sop to the lazy “accredited” journalists who have a too cosy, undemanding relationship with Jersey government and institutions.
With the Internet challenging the traditional media on a world-wide basis, especially where advertising income is concerned, this legislation is intended to help defend a press monopoly which is ultimately doomed to collapse.

23 The official silence of so many “accredited journalists” in Jersey regarding Proposition 100 is indicative of a failed press corps that is afraid to rock the boat or to engage in discussions that might impinge on self-interests.

24 The need for the Jersey government to retain a sympathetic and compliant “accredited media” is especially important during these cost cutting times where they serve as the government’s semi-official PR and publicity department.

25 With so many States publications, such as “Scrutiny Matters” or departmental freebies under threat of termination, the need to keep the private media “on side” was never more important to Jersey government. At the same time, the impoverished “accredited media” was never more reliant upon government support, advertising revenue and ready-prepared press handouts.

26 Although the Jersey government is desperately trying to embrace electronic technology as a cheap alternative to printed information, it is, at the same time seeking to retain control over any independent voices that might emerge to challenge the cosy status quo.
In a global context, the Jersey government has learned nothing since King Cnut’s time about the inevitability of the tide. Proposition 100 is just the latest press the panic button response to the unknown and feared possibility that the public might actually gain access to knowledge.

27 Google and friends have simply blown apart the old restraints on access to information – government secrecy is being challenged all over the world. The Jersey government’s response is predictably inadequate and ill-conceived and should be rejected. There is no point in attempting to amend or make more acceptable the proposals that are manifestly ill-founded.

28 That all people, whether within the States building or elsewhere should behave with respect towards one another is so obvious that it hardly requires further legislation to confirm it. This attempt to conceal censoring intentions against a few bloggers, under a thin veil of discriminatory codes, is a disgraceful abuse of power and waste of governmental time.

29 Quite how the Jersey administration proposes to delegate the media accreditation power to outside agencies in any other jurisdictions except Jersey is an extraordinary constitutional step – especially at a time when the Island is supposed to be developing its own “international profile” and independence.
If any of the delegated agencies decide to give accreditation to bloggers in the near future, shall they be struck from the approved accreditation list?

30 There are many such questions that need to be asked with regard to the practicalities of such a silly legislative proposal but it is built upon such absurd notions that it hardly seems to warrant further critical attention.

Who in their right mind could conclude, in this day and age, that “accredited journalists” are committed to accuracy and truth, fairness, balance, impartiality, ethical conduct etc or do not act as lobbyists or are professionally trained ?

If the Committee members really do believe such nonsense, then they have failed dismally to carry out the research that their task required and the States has been very ill-served. Where is the locally researched evidence? Is there even a register of locally based “accredited journalists?”

31 The suggestion that there are existing, effective complaints procedures against “accredited journalists” through the likes of the NUJ, Ofcom, the BBC Trust or the Press Complaints Commission also needs to be supported by locally based data. Has the Committee spoken to any Jersey residents who have actually submitted complaints and what percentage was successful?

32 As with accreditation, the delegation of the complaints process to agencies totally outside the control of Jersey government is an extraordinary one.
Why has the Committee not proposed a complaints procedure for ALL journalists and bloggers that is wholly controlled within Jersey?

33 The Privileges and Procedures Committee Media Working Party members, namely, Senator Ben Shenton, Constable J. Gallichan (Trinity) and Deputy Angela Jeune (St Brelade) have dressed up their proposals under a cloak of respectability.
Proposition 100 is padded out with attention diverting suggestions of better States information services and audio streaming of Scrutiny proceedings, but it is really just the latest attempt to suppress free expression and promote discrimination.

Such proposals are only possible in a community that has such scant regard for human rights obligations or aspirations and it is especially significant that the Committee does not even refer to any international obligations that should be considered such as those included in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or the European Convention of Human Rights.

What would Mathieu Alexandre say?

The States are due to debate Proposition 100 on 28 September – ironically, the date of the Jersey Revolution in 1769 which led to the creation of a more democratic government!!!!

Friday, August 27, 2010


REVOLUTION was in the air in the1760s.
All the Western Empires were creaking following the latest European war and old values were being tested. Religion, politics, scientific knowledge and the social order were all being subjected to examination and reform.

Even in little Jersey, there were brave people prepared to put their lives at risk in order to challenge the established order. Then, all economic, social, political and religious life in Jersey was dominated by the all - powerful Royal Court. This was a wholly corrupted body dominated by the Bailiff, and a dozen each of Jurats, Parish Constables and Rectors.
The same few privileged families controlled almost everything and the island was divided up into hundreds of feudal fiefs which had to pay rentes to the seigniorial overlords. Most of the Island’s 22,000 or so population lived in precarious poverty.

Then, as now, the Crown Appointed Officers, reigned supreme. The office of Bailiff had degenerated into a hereditary sinecure of the UK based De Carteret family, who hardly ever even visited Jersey. In their place, over three centuries, substitute Lieutenant Bailiffs were appointed.
During much of the 18th century, it was the Lempriere family and their cronies who dominated the Royal Court, the government and so much of Jersey economic and social life. It was against this group that the poorer people of Jersey rose up and rebelled on 28 September 1769 – but there is no memorial built to their memory.
Officially, these brave people did not exist. The record of their rebellion was even erased from the contemporary Royal Court ledger. Then as now, dissent against the “Crown Officers” was treated as some sort of treason or sedition. The oppressive Lemprieres dismissed the dissenters as “some factions of jealous persons of a spirit of disrespect in some of the lower classes towards their superiors.”
The Lemprieres planned to hang as many as possible or to deport even more of the rebels, appealing to the King in London to send over troops together with authority to suppress the troublemakers.

In fact, the London government did not give the Lemprieres the authority sought and nobody was hanged or deported. Instead, the brave Island rebels drew up petitions expressing their many grievances and these were sent to London.

As was so often the case, the London government protected the inhabitants of Jersey against the worst oppressions of the local tyrants. It was the ancient responsibility of the London Parliament for the good government of Jersey – even though there were no elected representatives from Jersey in Parliament.

The immediate outcome was that some of the abusive powers were taken away from the Royal Court and more authority was confirmed for the States of Jersey.
It was the start of a more democratic government in Jersey although very short of what the dissenters actually wanted.
In addition, a “Code of Laws “ was agreed and published by authority of the Privy Council in 1771 which was an attempt at providing a clear statement of the laws that applied in Jersey.

The Code was totally inadequate (to this day, clear commentaries on the obscure laws of Jersey are still needed), but it was very significant in the 18th century.

Following this mini- revolution, Philip Lempriere H.M. Attorney “resigned” and left the Island. A new H.M. Lieutenant-Governor was appointed following representations in London against the local oppressors.

The suggestion that Jersey people have enjoyed a democratic paradise since 1204 is just nonsense.
The true history of Jersey has not been recorded or written.
Islanders and the outside-world audience have been fed an official Pro-Royalist ( PR) diet of misinformation for centuries. The current Inquiry (under Lord Carswell’s chairmanship) into the Roles of The Crown Officers has brought out the queues of apologists for an official version of history and preservation of the status quo.
A legion of lawyers, Jurats, Honorary Parish officers, politicians past and present (and even H.M. Dean) has presented a parrot-like recitation of wonderment in support of seven centuries of supposedly enlightened government, administrative excellence and judicial brilliance. Historically supported fact or evidence is noticeably absent from their written or oral contributions to the Inquiry Panel of five persons (unimaginatively composed of three lawyers, a Jersey lawyer’s wife and a nurse).

Most of all, it has been the Crown Officers themselves, the Bailiffs, Deputy Bailiffs, Attorneys and Solicitors General who have felt the greatest need to sing their own praises, protect their own interests and resist any notions of reform or change.
Thus, the same 18th century style of Crown Officers’ resistance against reform continues to this day.
Deputy Bob Hill’s successful call for an examination of the Role of the Crown Officers is just a continuation of the same call for reform that inspired the events of 28 September 1769. It is the voice of the people against oppressive or undemocratic institutions.

Now in 2010, it has been all hands to the pump trying to maintain the Crown Officers’ ship afloat. Even the Crown Officers from Guernsey have been encouraged to give support in an effort to keep the progressive standards of the twenty-first century, at bay.

There seems to be a desperate but concerted attempt to hang on to perverse powers that their Channel Islands ancestors enjoyed over past centuries.

Jersey’s 1769 mini-revolution pre-dated the American 1775 break with Britain. Yet, when the American colonists’ French allies mounted an expedition against Jersey’s “nest of pirates” on 6 January 1781, Charles Lempriere, the outrageous Lieutenant-Bailiff, was finally forced to resign from office. His slightly less unpleasant son was appointed in his place and H.M. Lieutenant-Governor Corbett (Charles Lempriere’s father-in-law) was court-martialled and dismissed, for failing to adequately defend the colonial outpost.

As always, such disciplinary decisions were made in London because the Island never had an adequate administration, or the powers, to deal with such matters.

It was the Channel Islands’ role as bases for smugglers, privateers and pirates that attracted so much critical attention in the 18th century - as does the finance centre business today.

Then, the likes of Philip and Clement Bailhache were the Island commanders of tiny vessels such as the “Resolution” and “Enterprise” which were sent out (in their hundreds), under Royal authorities and licences.
Officially commissioned to harass hostile shipping, such craft were more often than not engaged in trading or smuggling with the enemy or in piracy against allies.
They were remarkably like the Somali pirates of today, often carrying heavily armed crews of just a dozen or fifteen men but bringing great wealth to their amateurs and much annoyance, distress or suffering to others.

Inevitably, the Island based smuggling, privateering and “piracy” activities were defended as being beneficial to the British Imperial interest.
The business was a great training ground for navy recruits and many national and local heroes served on the vessels but they also incurred the wrath of others.
Invasions, such as that of 1781, were constantly threatened by foreign powers and so too were the calls on the British Government to curtail the abuses by imposing English Customs or other regulations.

Similar threats and pressures continue to this day from Britain the EU, the OECD, the IMF, the UN the USA and elsewhere. Now, the Crown Officers continue to defend their own privileged and anachronistic positions within a system of government and administration which must surely be condemned before an international tribunal soon.
The Crown Officers also continue to defend the finance industry - the 21st century equivalent of the nefarious smuggling and privateering – and seek to give credence to the myth of 800 years of democratic government and benign administration under their own or ancestors’ authority.

During the 18th century there were just six Jersey advocates (appointed by authority of the Bailiff of course). Now, there are over 250 (mostly within huge international partnerships) – yet, just a couple have dared to express any dissenting views before Lord Carswell’s Inquiry on the Roles of the Crown Officers. Jersey lawyers are the central and essential professional core of the whole Island based finance business and predictably, the Crown Officers are recruited exclusively from among them.

It is no great surprise therefore, that former Bailiff Sir Philip Bailhache is such a pivotal figure in the “campaign” to promote Jersey self-government or to resist any perceived encroachments on the powers of Jersey lawyers, the obscure legal system or the Crown Officers.

He has, over recent years been a constant, dripping promoter of Jersey’s own flags, an anthem, an art gallery, the use of French language, the Island’s “International Personality” and the creation of Jersey offices in Brussels, China and the Middle East and the expansion of the vast, international Finance business.

Although, conflicted as both Chief Judge in the Jersey Court system and “President” and “Speaker” of the States Assembly, he was never visibly restrained from making overtly political public speeches or encouraging the greater “independence” of Jersey’s government and administration from that of the UK or EU.

It is significant that Philip Bailhache (now retired as Bailiff but still a Judge) should on 17 September 2010 be a principal participant in the “Dependency or Sovereignty – Time to Take Stock” conference at Jersey’s Hotel De France. Here along with 16 “experts” such as Lord Falconer, Lord Hoffman, Prince Nikolais of Lichtenstein and Sir David Simmons “ex chief Justice of Barbados” the “constitutional position and future options” for the Channel Islands will be discussed.

The delegates to this conference are not of course the invited general public of Jersey but are drawn from those exclusively accepted and able to pay over £250 to attend.

As in 1769, this is the latest manifestation of the great divide in Jersey between the general population and the non-elected elite who still retain such a stranglehold as lawyers and Crown Officers over Island life.

The conference is the latest attempt to defend the old feudal-based order, to maintain the dominance of the Crown Officers and plan to resist any future reforms or restraints that might flow from the UK or elsewhere.
It is a call to be prepared for political “independence” but wholly within the control of the finance industry and its servants.

On Thursday 2 September 2010, at 7.30p.m., Lord Carswell’s lawyer dominated Inquiry will assemble (at St. Paul’s Centre) to hear any members of the general public who have not yet submitted evidence or views on the Roles of the Crown Officers. Admission is Free.
This is your final opportunity. Take it if you can.

Tom Gruchy