Wednesday, March 28, 2012


There were a couple of hundred parrots in Royal Court No 2 today. Not actually flying around the room and talking their heads off – but they might as well have been.

Many of them have been on the endangered list for decades - but not so long as the Jersey legal system has been facing extinction. Today, their futures must have looked dismal before dawn – a bad parrot day as they were saying in court - but it’s amazing how the darkest hour brightened up once the lawyers’ cash registers started to ring up a few hours of fees.

Back in October 2009 Martin Fernando was complaining that a helicopter was buzzing his collection of rare species in St John and that several birds died from shock. He blamed his wealthy neighbours then. Presumably they were from the de Zille 11K family – though not named at the time in the JEP – but identified now in Court because the Minister for Health – Deputy Pryke – had been persuaded to invoke her abatement powers under the Jersey Nuisance Law against the noisy parrots.

What was a nuisance? Was it the English meaning that applied in Jersey for these exotic creatures and how about Article 8 Rights under the ECHR for “respect for private and family life”? Everything was very confusing – even the wording of the Jersey Statute defied interpretation.

It was Deputy Bailiff Bailhache (the presiding judge) who raised that rights-issue though he stressed it was Mr Fernando’s rights he had in mind – not the parrots and - and towards the end of this very tiring day he did suggest that strangling the wearisome oiseaux might have been one way of removing the nuisance at little cost.
But the legal argument was very complex on what should have been so simple really.
Does Jersey have its own Jersey law and legal system or not?
It’s a question that has been heard thousands of times since the glorious day (for lawyers) in 1204 when King John lost Normandy and the Channel Islands finished up in a legal no-man’s land.

Since then it has never been clear which law actually applies on so many basic things.
Even with the offence of fraud - as they reminded themselves today - do we follow English interpretations and statutes or rely on obscure Jersey “common law”.

After all, this was vitally important in the finance industry - but some of us had heard it all before in the case of the unfortunate Peter Marriot many years ago. We remembered too how fraud was interpreted then as English on Mondays and Wednesdays but anybody’s guess on market days.

As it turned out, today being Wednesday, it was probably English Statute Law that prevailed but the written judgment has not yet been delivered so we do not know for sure.
Tomorrow it could be Norman law, or “Jersey common law” or Amazon parrot law for all that it matters to Mr Average Joe - now or ever.

Of course, for big Ian and Cyril of the “common law” fan club today’s proceedings would have sounded like the return of the true messiah and “Voisinage” was being bandied about as the true Jersey common law solution – just as it had  been applied to the unfortunate recyclers in the “Reg’s Skips” case of blessed and sacred memory!

Why hadn’t the aggrieved neighbours initiated an action under this bit of Jersey law themselves and why was the Minister becoming a party on the “public’s behalf”?

For the parrots, their best chances for a future seemed to be bound up in yet another international treaty namely CITES but its relevance here today was not clear (Although they do have their own FACEBOOK campaign page.).
Today though, logic was being swamped under endless discussion of yet more international standards on “noise nuisance.” According to WHO (the World Health Organisation of the UN) the range of 45 to 55 decibels was considered relevant. The lack lustre Solicitor General and some Health Department staff reports based upon countless site visits used these standards too but the judge wondered if the parrots were really worse than native crows…

It was a great pity that the parrots could not be allowed to speak for themselves especially since their homes had apparently been bulldozed this very morning in an effort to satisfy the vague abatement notice demands. But it was not even certain if there was any requirement for Mr Fernando to do anything within the 91 days prescribed or whether the 21 days allowed for the appeal stayed any penal sanction being applied. The Solicitor General assured the court that he would not seek any Draconian punishment if the decision went against the appellant, which was nice…especially since it was not clear whether there was a nuisance at all.

In any case, as it was revealed, the affected neighbours had already bought another house in another Parish (Trinity – but not too near the Zoo we in the public seats hoped) and it was only some parts of their garden that was affected. The parrots could not be heard at all from within the house.

Proximity was another issue and the Judge wondered if CrabbĂ© shooting range might be shut if anybody complained to the Health Minister because it interferes with the peaceful enjoyment of their land…and how about moto-cross…?

Jersey would become a very quiet place if this judge’s thoughts prevailed it seemed.

At the end of this day, the latest saviour of our civil rights and the parrot’s protection rested with the Human Rights lawyers’ favourite concept - namely “proportionality.” Was the Ministers decision to issue an abatement notice proportionate?
She was not in court and so did not hear the learned Judge deliver his decision FOR Mr Fernando and the parrots with costs. The full reasoning will follow and the costs are to be discussed but nearby, in de Gruchy’s shop window at the moment is displayed one of only a few surviving skeletons of the extinct  Dodo.
When and where might we similarly display the corpse of Jersey’s law and legal system?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Planning for the future - living in the past....

Deputy Bob Duhamel appeared before the Environment Scrutiny Panel today.

As this was a "hearing" yours truly was admitted to observe only - provided  I made no noises, ate food or drank. Every day there is something new - now we "the public" must wait until the witnesses are comfortably seated before we are allowed into the room - and outside a new notice has appeared;
"Members of the Public"
"Please be aware that public hearings may be filmed by the accredited media"
which is a variation on the protocol previously published.

We the public are also to keep mum until we have left the room after the hearing has finished - so it affords little opportunity to set up an interview such as this with any of the participants.

It's all part of the "them and us" syndrome which seems to affct so many people who become part of this little Island government as does the policy that the identification of scrutiny particpants is only done for the purposes of the electronic recording machine. It is not to assist any members of the public to know who all these people doing the talking actually are!

Scrutiny still has a long way to go in the engagement with the public stakes and so it is especially sad when an enthusiastic chap like Deputy Duhamel mumbles so quietly when responding to the scrutineers. There is no sound system to improve amplification for the public and of course, we are not allowed to speak to complain.

Nevertheless Deputies Young and Luce with Constable Rondel made a reasonable job of interviewing Minister Bob and his team of two - although their probing did not elicit a squeak from one of the senior civil servants beyond his (inaudible) name at the outset. It must be quite a feat of dedication to remain so silent for 2 hours and 35 minutes but clearly Deputy Young has a keen interest in the business of planning since he was a former Chief Officer at South Hill .
Whether familiarity is a good thing was not clear but Deputy Young does know the subject matter well enough - but those of us who dealt with him when he was in the comfy planning executive chair would hardly say he was a notable reformer....

Here Bob Duhamel answers my questions for 15 minutes and the transctipt of the hearing will be on the website in due course for anybody interested.
On today's showing - the public is not interested since their seats were empty. Pity really because Bob outlined some new thinking and proposed changes which will probably mean that he is dumped by the savings obsessed Council of Ministers at the first opportunity...
he will also need to speak up and be more authoritative if he wants to impress the Chief Minister and his bean counting team....ironically it was the very same CM who appeared after luncheon before the Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel and bean counting was at the centre of their population and immigration controlling agenda...
frightening is not an adequate word so it's no wonder that Deputy Bob wants to claw back some powers to his Planning Department....not a chance alas...what on earth can we do?

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Call me Deputy Sean Murphy…

Yesterday the very heavily controlled Scrutiny Hearings were concerned with the current Population and Migration controlling policies of the States.
It being the day before St Patrick’s Day there was a large degree of Irish tinking in the air and Deputy Sean actually was so carried away that, following Constable Murphy of Gr’Oville, he introduced himself as Deputy Sean Murphy. It was the highlight of some dismal proceedings.

Total control is planned and as is so usual, it was the immigrant element supporting the latest oppressions against outsiders with the greatest vigour – although in one unsteady moment Constable Murphy did express concerns for Human Rights! He was probably a bit battle weary by then and confided later that he was, as always, in his Jersey way, just concerned for the underdog.

In fact, Sean’s little slip of the tongue revealed just how pathetically frail the whole new controlling plan of the States could be. It’s all built around an absurd POPULATION REGISTER which will be in force from 31 December this year – and this will have ALL the names and address and places of work of everybody in the Island on it besides much much more information to be gleaned from the latest Census, Police, GPs, Social Security, Housing, Treasury (aka Income Tax), Health, Education, Planning, Parish, Utilities departments etc.

Of course, we will ALL have to carry a card  - an ID card by any other name - just as people did during those dark years in the 1940s O’ccupation. Even then though they didn’t have a control system like that now being prepared – O’pressive! – you ain’t seen nothing like this since feudalism!!!

Strangely though, although then it was the Prussians with strange names seeking to control things then – now WE are seeking to control people with funny names from all over the world - but especially the old Soviet bloc countries (remember them?)- and we all know what impossibly funny names they tend to have. All consonants and no vowels Carole – and impossible to pronounce – or enter into a computer DATA file accurately.

Now there’s the rub. ACCURACY – never mind Murphy’s Law on the underdog for the moment.

Let me digress slightly. Back in the days of  Bailiff Sir Frank EREAUT (now there’s a name to conjure with, spell or pronounce) yours truly was waiting in the Friday afternoon court to present my Representation against the then Housing Committee President HENDRICK  VANDERVLIET (no comment necessary) about the oppressive nature of the Housing Law and Regulations.
Sir Frank soon threw me out as can be imagined but whilst I was waiting for my 30 seconds of fame, an unfortunate Portuguese man appeared to answer to living illegally, without qualifications in a flat. Yet his extraordinary defence was that the Housing Department had actually issued him with a permission to occupy – having mistaken him for somebody with a similar name….you are probably catching my drift….but there’s more as the Irish comedian with the green wellies used to say….because Sir Frank ruled that since he had been granted the permit, he was in legal and proper occupation and could not be removed or prosecuted.

Well, just imagine, if all the names of dwellings and their occupiers, or employers and their workers are to be accurately entered into some immense DATA file by mere human beings and the very right to breathe the air of this Bailiwick depends upon the information being correct and up to date…

Doesn’t bear thinking about does it – especially since every government department will be using the DATA to discover people not paying tax, or social security or creating and letting a spare bedroom without permission or sleeping on somebody’s floor, or sharing a bed with somebody else’s wife or husband…so many people will have reasons for not wanting to be on the Register at all…

The star of yesterday’s hearing was Duncan Gib’O. He is the numbers man. He is a scientist producing the arithmetical scenario that induces governments to take draconian actions just such as this whole farce. It does not really matter whether counting potatoes or people because he is entirely independent and in love with stats. Names and address and places of work are not important in his growing department – he is not a peoples’ person but exudes a sort of Prussian air of technical superiority which sends the likes of Senator Ferguson into a swoon….

So that is enough for now. Next time perhaps we will consider in more detail just why these people are wasting their time in trying to control Jersey’s population whereas they only really want yet more ECONOMIC GROWTH and in this capitalist Island that demands more and more people….

In the meantime, consider the traditional Irish role as an exporter of people and the currently collapsed Irish home economy and how all such small Islands are so vulnerable…and try to enjoy St Patrick’s Day.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


Jersey has Senator Sir Philip Bailhache whizzing around the world to raise Jersey international profile but he won't be promoting the ratification of human rights treaties here.
Similarly, the unequal representation of women in Jersey's government or the heights of the administration (when did Jersey ever have a woman Bailiff?) is hardly a priority of his Chairmanship of the Electoral Commission.
But what about our other 50 elected representatives?

Today is International Women's Day yet Jersey along with Somalia and Iran is one of very few places that have not ratified the UN Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
186 countries have already ratified.

This blogspace today is left vacant so that our 51 Elected Reps can explain their views on this extraordinary international and Island neglect and so that they might tell us - the electorate- just what they propose to do about it......