Thursday, September 20, 2012



A professional person has been struck off a professional register for “bringing the profession into disrepute” – but just what does this mean?

One might think that this matter is somehow related to the £1.2 Millions of laundered drugs money that was brought back to Jersey this week by the Americans.  That “reward” has been much trumpeted by the Crown Officers through the JEP but appears to be money that should never have been admitted to Jersey in the first place (back in 2004).

What would you do with it if you had this £1.2 million was BBC Radio gaga’s theme for a more or less mindless hour of “phone-in” chat. But what have we really learned about the many £millions of illegal loot that have obviously been moving around the world from one haven to another for decades on behalf of an “unnamed Colombian cartel”?

The relevant Jersey branch of BBVA (the Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria) “used to be based in Mulcaster Street but have not had a presence in Jersey for several years.”
Was it one of our famous “Top 100” of international banks that can do no wrong – did it go bust  in the world banking crisis – if so what happened to the staff and any assets or debts? Shall depositors be making any claims on the Jersey Treasury for lost savings….

More importantly in this context, might any professionals such as bankers, accountants or lawyers be “struck off” as a result of this latest grubby activity? Who should initiate any enquiries about the professional ethics of those involved – perhaps the JFSC? Or shall it fall to some professional body in Bilbao, Panama, Timbuktu, or London?

On the evidence of the famous BBC Panorama covert camera investigation at Lloyds Bank in Jersey a few years ago – nothing will happen. No further action will be taken here in Jersey – at least not in public.

According to ethical standards that are supposed to apply, “A finding of bringing the profession into disrepute signifies that the practitioner has acted in such an infamous or disgraceful way that the public’s trust in the profession might reasonably be undermined, or might reasonably be undermined if they were accurately informed about all the circumstances of the case.”

Well, of course the public in Jersey is never going to be accurately informed about such matters because there is simply no source of accurate information.
In some places the media, or at least the specialist press, would dig out the details but there is no such investigative journalism here. And of course, the whole “profession” of journalism has been under-going its own ethical trauma this year in London and elsewhere.

George Bernard Shaw had it right – “All Professions are a conspiracy against the laity”- but what if the profession has no “reputation” that might be harmed?

Presumably somebody respects Jersey lawyers, bankers, accountants, architects, engineers, doctors, vets and even estate agents – but how an earth might the  “whole profession” be brought into disrepute by the actions of just one renegade practitioner?
Is this, in fact, the kernel of Shaw’s conspiracy theory – that the whole thing is built upon a myth?
Is the notion of “professional reputation” just a lie?

Ironically, the professionals are supposed to set higher standards for their own conduct. In other words, what is NOT considered to be disgraceful to an ordinary person may be considered to be disgraceful to a professional person.

Tough luck on society then if “professional reputation” actually means nothing!

And there’s the rub. Since all professions are rewarded with extra powers of self-regulation and stewardship of training standards and qualifications etc., because they are supposed to police themselves on OUR behalf.

In Jersey, our 250 or so local lawyers have extraordinary powers of self regulation and self protection. Unlike other professionals, complaints cannot be taken to an outside (UK) tribunal for adjudication and much of local proceedings take place in private.

In this most recent example, a children’s nurse was struck off by the NMC – the UK Nursing and Midwifery Council – which declared that this was the only way to protect the public. She had been working for the Jersey Health Department in 2009 when the relevant incident arose and the decision that she should be struck off was made on 18 September this year.

That there are unresolved issues with regard to several other disciplinary and suspension matters in Jersey is beyond the scope of this posting.
But that there have been several high level disputes in recent years does raise questions about the competence of any locally constituted tribunals to deal with these matters.

P.S. So far no Jersey lawyer has volunteered to be interviewed in response to my earlier video blog with Alan Collins, the UK solicitor advocate, who is acting for 50 plus people under the Jersey Abuse Compensation Scheme.

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