Thursday, July 7, 2011


Our Accredited Press and Police

Whilst the sudden closure of the “News of the World” is the latest and most dramatic chapter in the unfolding tale of corruption in high and low places - the trial of eight former South Wales’ police officers has also just commenced. It has been described as the UK’s biggest ever police corruption case.
A former Chief-Superintendent, a Chief Inspector and five Detectives are accused of framing five innocent men for the murder of Lynette White in Cardiff, fifteen years ago.

If they are found guilty there could be huge implications for the hundreds of other cases that these officers have been involved with over the years. When the corrupt West Midlands Serious Crime Squad was exposed in the 1980s, there was an enormous task in reviewing their previous caseload. Over 30 serious crime convictions were quashed on appeal but no officers faced serious charges, although many resigned.
“Operation Countryman” in the 1970s had over 100 potentially corrupted officers in its sights but was pulled by a frightened government.
During Sir Robert Mark’s brief reign as London’s Police Commissioner, nearly 500 officers left the force before they were sacked.
There have been many more police corruption scandals over the years so it is unlikely that the current trial of eight South Wales’ officers is truly “the biggest” - but it demonstrates that the problem has not gone away.

Now in London, the “News of the World” phone hacking scandal is shaking out yet more corrupt police officers. Not only for providing information to reporters for money but also because of an historic failure to investigate properly, or at all, previous complaints.

Corruption among police officers, or collusion with criminals and the press is nothing new – but it is clearly very deep rooted within the system and the latest scandal looks likely to have far-reaching ramifications. But will anything really change? And how might it affect us in Jersey?

Jersey has its own ongoing police/press scandal – with a localised twist.

The Jersey government has made all sorts of claims about the incompetence of the two former most senior officers in the States of Jersey force as a result of the Haut de la Garenne cases and related abuse cases. These officers are no longer in office. But a succession of other very senior UK trained police officers have been appointed to replace them – only to resign very soon afterwards.
There has been a barrage of acrimonious criticism between senior officers, politicians and officers and allegations of corruption at the highest level in government and the administration of justice made by former Senator Stuart Syvret and others.

Unusually, the two officers - Graham Power and Lenny Harper - accused of incompetence by the Jersey Government and other senior officers - are stoutly defended by a strong lobby of bloggers, several back-bench politicians (including Deputy Bob Hill, a former MET police  officer for many years), abuse victims and members of the public. It is an unusual pro-ex-police alliance.
On the other hand, the so called accredited media in Jersey, namely Jersey Evening Post, Channel TV and BBC Jersey (Radio 103 being primarily an entertainment outlet) have taken a uniformly predictable pro-government stance which in this instance is pro-current police (a new Chief having been recruited from the City of London force) but hostile to the retired former Chief Mr. Power and his retired assistant Mr. Harper.

At the recent Scrutiny Panel hearing (looking at the related BDO report where Lenny Harper was questioned via an audio-link), I asked him about the surprising number of highly trained officers from the UK who were falling out among themselves in Jersey. I asked how this reflected upon the standards of policing throughout the UK.
His response was to defend the calibre and competence of UK trained police officers.

In the currently evolving police/press scandal in London, it is becoming ever more obvious that neither of these “professions” can be trusted to regulate themselves. The sudden closure of the “News of the World” indicates the gravity of the developing scandal but where else it might lead is anybody’s guess.
Corruption and presumably incompetence within a police force cannot be adequately investigated by other police officers. The same applies to the media. Bodies such as the Press Complaints Authority and the BBC Trust are wholly unsatisfactory and ineffective bodies. Only a media mogul such as Murdoch can make such a dramatic and arbitrary decision as to close a profitable newspaper.

The police have already undertaken several investigations of Mr Power and Mr Harper and the outcome has been wholly unsatisfactory. The behaviour of the Jersey police in the case of “drug smuggler” Curtis Warren and others is currently being investigated by yet more police.

The role of the “press” in Jersey is already a contentious matter since the closeness of the relationship with government discourages investigative journalism. There are no locally organised “complaints” procedures and the public must apply to UK bodies, such as those already referred to, with any grievances. If there is corruption in the Jersey media it is unlikely to involve payments for information since the local lazy journalists are only too happy to publish whatever the government or big business press releases say.
The battle for recognition of “bloggers” in Jersey is yet another issue that needs to be resolved and has wider, national and free expression, dimensions.

In brief, it is inevitable that the regulation and supervision of both police and press will be reconsidered as a result of the “News of the World” scandal. Any reforms will inevitably apply to Jersey.
We should stimulate our own critical and investigative examination ASAP. 


  1. Fabulous and accurate posting Tom, Oh what I could tell you about our police corruption!

  2. I agree Ian a great post Tom.

  3. Absolutely 100% spot on Tom. An excellent posting.

  4. The role of the “press” in Jersey is already a contentious matter since the closeness of the relationship with government discourages investigative journalism.

    The realistic answer is that in a small community there are always going to be cases where - for example - a senior government minister turns out also to own the island's only daily newspaper (as was indeed the case with Frank Walker).

    This is in itself a great argument for citizen media - bloggers like you who are not in that position. It also requires that the public record is taken a great deal more seriously than Jersey takes it. That would cost money, but would provide one of the foundation stones of civilised society that is currently lacking.

    And while "citizen investigators" into the activities of the police might sound all sorts of alarm bells, the availability of information on what is going on would give citizens the right to make their own minds up on who to trust - something that is particularly difficult in Jersey.

  5. Tom Gruchy agrees.
    The problem is even more acute in a community that depends upon just one coal mine to support it. Criticism of the mine owner is always difficult.
    When I visited the Isle of Man many years ago I found to my amazement that they enjoyed an official archive, registry and library service that put Jersey's to shame. It can be done - even for a smaller population than Jersey's.
    I campaugned then for an archive in Jersey and am pleased to say that the current facility was built soon afterwards though the cause had been taken up by a few names with Knighthoods by then - so not my doing.

    Sadly the whole information/archives service in Jersey is now in a very sad state because it is simply not funded adequately. The off-loading of so much to the CAB is another worrying aspect. Of course, it suits this government to keep the public ill-informed and in the dark but I am ever hopeful because some irritating bugs thrive in such conditions and eventually bite back.

  6. A perceptive and useful analysis of the balance of forces - the alignment is ironic indeed.

    The local "official" media is very much a government organ, regurgitating press releases from the BUNKER, interspersed with trivia and 80's musack. Their primary funtion is to communicate government opinion to the population; with a background of reassurance,. This echos the Ozouf "postive politics for Jersey" line i.e. whistle in the dark.

  7. what do your readers think of Jersey's Pace law...the one introduced to raid Stuart Syvrets home...are you still all O.K with it...that any cop can come and search your place,papers computer without a warrant.....and the guy presiding over this stuff wants now to be a Senator....this is basic human rights stuff who will be our champion....?