Wednesday, November 27, 2013
What is the image above? That will become clear at the end of this post.
We'll start by setting the scene on the island of Jersey, one of the Channel Islands off the coast of France.
Despite its proximity to the French coast it is British, a British Crown Dependency. It is sort of independent and originally answered directly to the British Monarch who was responsible for its good governance. The monarch has since delegated this function to her UK Justice Minister.
The island has been marketed to English speaking tourists as a bit of France without the language problem, and so it is. If you dig down a bit you will find a French dialect, Jèrriais, which is still spoken by a few people none of whom are monoglots. When I lived there, those English speakers who were aware of its existence, referred to it as patois (a slightly condescending term meaning local dialect).
All in all, a romantic little spot.
Until you hit the dark side.
This is the story of a vulnerable lady abused by a churchwarden who had somehow managed to escape his leash. The case was not generally known until it surfaced when her cause was taken up by Jersey's only independent media, the bloggers. It has now become a cause célèbre which threatens not only the island's administration and its relationship with the UK, but also the position of the Jersey branch of the Church of England, which is a sort of established church of its own on the island.
The lady in question is mildly autistic but very articulate and self-aware. She had a very difficult family upbringing on the mainland and was at least twice abused, including by an officer of the Church of England. She came to this "idyllic" island and all was going well until she ran into the churchwarden, who, unknown to her, was supposed to be always chaperoned when in the company of women due to his previous abusive behaviour.
When she tried to complain about his abusing her, she was not listened to. After all, the man was a churchwarden and the brother of one of the most important figures on the island. So she made more and more of a fuss and the Church decided that she would be better off in police custody where she would be "looked after".
So, early one Sunday morning, acting on the basis of a complaint from the Dean of Jersey, the island's senior churchman, the police arrived at her accommodation and took her down to the station. She was eventually brought before a magistrate and remanded in custody, which was to last for two weeks, until they saw fit to bring her to court.
It appears the court effectively offered her a choice of returning to prison or leaving the island. In fact they seem to have contrived to get her lawyer to make the "voluntary deportation" suggestion in the first place.
Don't forget that her autism combined with her earlier experiences made it difficult for her to relate to people or to trust them, so the prospect of returning to the horrors of her prison confinement was just not on.
There is absolutely no reason why she should have been kept in the prison for two weeks other than to soften her up for the "deportation" deal. She had a job and accommodation and could have been bound over to keep the peace and remained on the island. It was claimed that her landlady would not have her back on the premises after her arrest, but, when subsequently contacted, the landlady said this would not have been a problem had she been told what was going on.
In any event, the lady was flown to Southampton on the mainland in the night attire she was in when arrested and, to all intents and purposes, simply abandoned there, forbidden to attempt to come back to the island for three years.
That was all three years ago and she has been living outdoors for most of the time ever since.
When the case broke a while ago, the island establishment launched into a disgusting spin campaign.
Oh, she was known to have made complaints about the church on the mainland before she ever came to Jersey. So a victim's complaining about abuse was somehow a reflection on them. An awkward troublemaker perhaps? Jaysus.
The poor woman was mentally ill. She had mild autism and suffered from post traumatic stress but that did not make her mentally ill. She might justifiably have been angry after what was done to her. She might have been a bit withdrawn due to her autism. But mentally ill she was not and she has the reports to prove it.
However, the island's establishment (church/state) was now in a panic after the failure of their first attempt to brush her under the carpet and they were now making a second attempt. And these guys are good at this.
You have to remember here that there is a huge child abuse problem rumbling away under the covers in Jersey. Decades of institutional abuse have been systematically covered up. One false move and the whole edifice could come tumbling down. And this was before all the Savile and related stuff broke.
As I said, good at it. They had dismissed the Health Minister when he started poking around the delicate area of child abuse and refused to go along with the prevailing wisdom that everything in the garden was rosey. They sacked the Chief of Police when he wouldn't go along with getting involved in the sacking of the Health Minister. There were other reasons too for that but that's another story in itself. They systematically smeared the policeman who was in charge of the investigation into the abuses. The former Health Minister, turned blogger, is currently in prison for revealing abuses on his blog and two members of the island's parliament are in the course of being bankrupted in order to take them out of play. In the view of the oligarchy that runs the place, these people are "shafting Jersey". A rational outsider might think that the "shafting" was in the condoning and covering up of child abuse rather than in its revealing and attempting to hold those responsible to account.
As I said, these guys mean business, big business. The reputational damage which would result from full revelation of earlier abuses and the ongoing coverup could undermine Jersey's current status as a tax haven and a safe place to keep your money out of the hands of the relevant revenue authorities. Were it to become clear that there is no more respect for the law in Jersey than in some hicksville in the Wild West in days gone by, the island's financial standing and resulting income would be in some serious difficulty.
So all the stops are pulled out to keep the show on the road.
Even the Bishop of Winchester, in whose diocese Jersey sort of is, has had his knuckles rapped by the islands oligarchs.
When the lady's treatment at the hands of the authorities, and in particular the church in the person of the Dean, were revealed to a wider audience, the Bishop suspended the Dean, who had by then been severely criticised in a report commissioned by the Diocese. But the Bishop got his comeuppance when it was pointed out to him that the Dean held his office under letters patent from the Monarch, who is also head of the Church of England. And the Dean has an ex officio seat in the island's parliament. So really the Bishop could not sack or suspend or do anything else to him.
So the Dean was reinstated, after apologising for some understandable lapses, and the Bishop commissioned another report to look into how the young lady had been dealt with. A neat piece of footwork ensured that this was undertaken by a friend of the oligarchy and although it has not yet been published, the Bishop has said that there will be no question of any disciplinary action being taken against anyone. Then, to cap it all, someone has made a legal complaint against the publication of the as yet unseen report and the Bishop cannot publish it. The oligarchy has steam coming out its ears at the non publication of this carefully orchestrated report, which did not even interview the lady at the centre of it. And all hell is breaking loose.
This is a personal, political, religious and constitutional mess which has implications right up to the Monarchy which in the past has steadfastly refused to face up to its responsibilities to ensure good governance on the island. As I have said elsewhere, there is no separation of powers and the legislature, government and judiciary are just one big maw. No checks and balances, everyone scratching everyone else's back and no one minded to shout stop, except those few who have subsequently been discredited, and a handful of bloggers who are chipping away at this awful edifice.
So, back to the picture at the top of the blog. This is the default avatar in Twitter and I have chosen it as a tribute to the lady in question and as an indication of her tenacity in fighting all comers even in the face of her own adversity. She has kept her dignity in the face of vicious verbal and physical onslaughts and a life mainly lived outdoors on the streets. She has been bounced, or fled, from one location to the next, but she is fighting back. She has a lot going for her. She is articulate and determined. She is beginning to blossom in the social media world of blogs and tweets. She is forgiving, which is more than I would be in her place, and she just wants to be left alone to hack out some sort of a life for herself.
But she has now become a pawn in a bigger game. The clash of the Titans, the crash of the tectonic plates between Jersey and the mainland. The mad scramble to keep the cover-up under wraps. The lowering of the portcullis and the pulling up of the drawbridge.
However, this castle is built on sand and the sand is starting to shift.
Someday soon she will hopefully get the justice she deserves.
And as for serenity, well she's working on that herself.
If you want some more background or want to stay in touch with developments in this area in Jersey, you won't get the stories in the island's mainstream media. The links below may be of some help.
I have done a backgrounder and an evocation of the Nazi occupation on this blog.
Below are some of the Jersey bloggers that I follow. If you read their blogposts, and the (generally informed) comments that go with them, you should be able to stay up to date with what's happening on the island in this contentious area.
Stuart Syvret Neil McMurray Rico Sorda Trevor Pitman Bob Hill
Stuart's blogposts and comments stop on 4 November 2013 when he was arrested and thrown in prison. However, he has posted some very important material over the last few years and you should find this both informative and entertaining. [Following Google taking down Stuart's blog, he is now blogging from a new site and I have amended the above link accordingly. Ed. 26/3/2014]
Neil's blog is very incisive and he has specialised in doing very high quality video interviews with various players in the Jersey tragedy.
Rico is an independent investigator who has gained the trust of honest people to the extent that they are now leaking him documents which he publishes, and comments on, on his blog.
Trevor is a member of the island's parliament, but, if the oligarchy manage to declare him bankrupt over the next while, he will be chucked out of the parliament and his blog's future may be in doubt.[Trevor is now out of the States (parliament) and has been declared bankrupt which means he cannot go up for election in October 2014. His blog is still there but not very active. Ed. 22/7/2014]
Bob is a former policeman and a former member of the island's parliament. His blog covers a wide span of issues but in recent times he has come to champion the cause of the lady in the above blogpost.
And, having spoken today to the Lady concerned, she has graciously allowed me to link to her Tweets and Blog Posts. Good on ya girl.
You might also like to listen to recent (27/11/2013) interviews by Peoples Voice TV with Lenny Harper (the policeman in charge of the abuse investigation), Trevor and Shona Pitman (who are being bankrupted by the oligarchy) and John Hemming the UK MP who has been supportive of those who have spoken out in Jersey and who has an Early Day Motion tabled in the UK House of Commons calling for a proper enquiry into governance in Jersey. Sound quality is not great and the interviewer is a bit over the top, but the content is well worth a listen.
And if you think all this is getting too much for you, you might like the distraction of a few relevant cartoons.